When we rescue shelter animals, they return the favor

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, May 30, 2013

I am a sucker.

I know it. Luckily my husband knows it. He’s a sucker, too.

Last weekend we were visiting friends in Fort Walton Beach and took a run inside a pet supermarket for them to pick up a special shampoo for their little dog, Mason.

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Outside the business there was a table set up with several dogs in kennels waiting to find families who would take them home. I always look, knowing that we likely can’t help any of the pooches ourselves. And we were in Florida, so looking was a safe bet.

I passed by a cage and talked to a dachshund. There was a tiny chihuahua being loved by a potential adopter. A beautiful yellow lab pup smiled up at me and I reached through the kennel bars to pet his nose.

On the end of the row was a little guy munching quietly on his tennis ball. He looked to be a cross between a shepherd and a hound with big floppy, furry ears. I made a clicking sound and his head popped around. By this time, my husband was by my side.

“That’s Max,” said a voice from behind us.

Max, a one-year-old pup, had been rescued from a shelter in South Carolina where he was about two days from being put down. A kind pilot with Pilots N Paws, a group of about 2,000 pilots, flew Max to Florida to a rescue group called My Safe Place.

Max had been with the group’s leader, Cindy, for about three months before we met him.

Cindy reached around and opened Max’s kennel. I was kneeling down and he made a beeline for me. He knew I was a sucker, too.

He pounced on my husband for good measure.

Still, with no intention of adopting, we agreed to walk Max to a grassy spot for a bathroom break. As we rounded the corner, I sighed. My husband said, “He’s coming home with us, isn’t he?”

My Safe Place doesn’t usually do same day adoption, but after providing references and talking about our home and other companion animals, Cindy decided we were a good fit for Max.

And Max has been a great fit for us. We adopted a German shepherd at a Pike Animal Shelter Coalition event almost two years ago. Ajax is about five, from what we know, and has been a fine only dog. But now he’s a proud big brother.

Ajax taught Max to walk down stairs on Sunday. They roll around the living room and jog side by side when we go for walks, even though Max is half the size of his new big brother. Ajax doesn’t even mind sharing his toys and his bed with Max, though Max has his very own.

The cats, Bart and Toby, are adjusting just fine, although Toby thinks Max likes to sniff him a little too much.

Last night, the hubby and I were watching television on the sofa with a cat napping behind each of us and the dogs curled up at our feet on the floor – all four of them rescued.

Shelter animals aren’t broken. They have just as much room in their hearts to love us as we have to love them. I encourage you, if you have made a decision to open your home to an animal, consider finding one through a rescue group or shelter. If you have your mind set on a particular breed, more than 20 percent of all shelter animals are purebred.

Give them a chance. You won’t be sorry.

When I look at our little furry family, I remember how close the boys were to not being with us, and when they want a cuddle on our worst days and bring a toy to play just when the world seems to be too much, it’s easy to see that it’s them that rescue us time and again.