I was a police officer for over 31 years. My entire career was spent in the uniformed division because that is where the action was and where you dealt with the people who needed the most help and were in the most need. Instead of reading a report and making phone calls, you were out in the middle of it all, making those split-second decisions and helping people with their problems. Seeing people at their worst and at their best. A large part of what being a cop is all about.
In that 31 years on the street, I can’t tell you the number of dogs I have seen abused, dumped, abandoned, or lost. I can’t count the number of times I pulled dogs from the middle of the street after they had been hit by cars. Many times, when they had a collar, I would put the deceased dog in my trunk and try to locate the owner. I did it because I knew if it were my dog I would want to be able to bury them like any other family member. Sometimes, without a collar, I had no choice but to call animal control to come get them but I would stay on the side of the road until the animal control officer got there and then I would help load them up.
Numerous times, I have thrown an injured dog in the car and flown to the emergency clinic or vet. I have sat in the street and petted a dog that had injuries too severe to survive, and in doing that, I even watched one dog actually shed a tear while I talked to her and felt the life leave her body. My heart has been broken over and over again by some dog I had never seen before and I was the only one there while they went to that rainbow bridge. Most times, I even cried along with them. Quite a sight, the big old tough cop (well, in my younger years) sitting in the middle of the road in tears while he pets some dying dog he doesn’t know.
Fortunately, all the stories aren’t bad. Many times, I was able to catch a dog and get him home, either through a collar tag or a microchip. Sometimes, the only option was the shelter, but at least they were safe. OK, one time I kept one. I did try and locate the owner and even put up signs where I found him, but no one claimed him. He was a great dog and he had a great life for the 15 years he lived with me. So yeah, I have always had a soft spot for dogs.
I had a couple of awesome yellow Labs. They were about 2 years apart in age and even though I was sad when I lost my male, when I lost my female on her thirteenth birthday, I was pretty much devastated. I had calculated their life expectancy and the plan was that she would live until about the time I retired and then I would decide what to do from there. Well, that splenetic tumor that popped up had different ideas. On her birthday, no less, I had to make that decision that no one wants to make. I laid on the floor next to her while the vet gave her that last injection, and he and I both cried together while we petted her. One of those things you just can’t do, but you can’t let them go without you either. I was heartbroken for months, even to the point of thinking I might never have another one, so I wouldn’t have to go through that again. It was the first time in over 30 years that a dog hadn’t lived in my house, and one of the few times in my life that I hadn’t had a dog.
About 8 months later, my buddy and my neighbor both started sending me Facebook posts about urgent animals at some area kill shelters. I just couldn’t do it and even threatened to un-friend them and block them. I never would, of course, but I just hated seeing those posts. My buddy kept calling me, saying he had a friend who worked to get dogs tagged for rescue from one of the high-kill shelters. I finally agreed to foster one, only to learn that she had been killed moments before they tried to pull her.
A couple of weeks later, he sent me a picture of Shiloh, who was #1 on the kill list that was scheduled to start in a few short hours. She was crouching on the tailgate of a pickup, head down so low she looked sad and defeated, scared to death. She had a rescue tag her, so I agreed to give her a place to stay for 3 weeks. After 2 weeks, she was all mine. When I brought her home, she would not move, she just laid on the blanket on the floor. I had to carry her everywhere, including in and out of the house. After a couple of days, I just carried her to the couch and laid her on top of me and petted her. She finally went to sleep. After a few days, she was still unsure, but chasing toys and starting to relax a bit. A few more days, and she had come out of her shell. I couldn’t let her leave and start all over again. I just couldn’t stand the thought of her being that terrified again. So, she decided to stay here.
As we laid on the couch, her scared and shaking, I got to thinking that without that shelter tag, I would probably not have agreed to foster, and her life certainly would have ended that afternoon. Her rescue started a chain reaction and all 13 dogs were saved that day, no one was lost, all thanks to rescues and fosters and adopters. As I got to know some of these “rescue people”, I found that they were some amazing people that could do amazing things. I knew they were people who had big hearts, but I was in awe of how hard they worked and the things they accomplished! It was then I realized that maybe there was something I could do to help these people.
These rescue organizations that save dogs from high-kill areas could do more with their money if they didn’t have to pay for those dogs to be transported to them. So, with retirement right around the corner, I decided to give it a shot. I decided to purchase an RV and Shiloh and I would start driving dogs around the country, from places where their lives would be lost to places where they could find warm, loving, forever homes. Places where people could help them and they could help people. We have just started this journey, and we need a lot of help to do the things we want to do.
But we have to do it. I would like to say we do it for the people, but we don’t. We do it for the dogs. Because not every person knows how to love a dog, but every dog knows how to love a person.