Happy Tail: Sacrificing to save an abused, overlooked pit bull
Today is January 20, 2009, inauguration day for Barack Obama. While a great deal of lucky folks are witnessing history in DC, I am inspired to write to you with the days events unfolding on the TV behind me.
Next to me, lounging on the queen size bed in our guest room, are my two dogs: Brewster and Nola. And although Brewster has his own story to tell, I feel compelled to share Nola’s on this historic day.
In late February of 2007, my husband and I traveled with my nephew’s high school Habitat for Humanity group from Albany, NY, to New Orleans. Before leaving for the long drive, I visited Petfinder to locate animal shelters in the area to visit.
(After adopting Brewster from a shelter, my husband and I now have a tradition where no matter where we are on vacation, we visit a local shelter to walk a dog and share some hugs and smiles — because even though it’s so hard to leave them behind and I know I can not save them all, I can, at least, offer them a moment of fun and hope.)
I found Southern Animal Foundation in New Orleans and looked over their
pet list. There, I found Lola, a Staffordshire Terrier mix whose
eyes were so deep with emotion and whose colors were remarkably like my
I called about Lola to see if she was still there, and told
the director that I was coming into town. We talked at length about
Lola’s circumstances — how she was brought to the shelter/vet facility
10 days after she suffered a broken leg from a baseball bat.
Lola peed on the floor when she was about 10 weeks old, and an abusive
man decided to teach her a lesson with a bat. It took 10 days, probably
lying in her own waste, for the girlfriend of the man to come to the
vet with the dog. Nice, huh?
Anyway, the kind people at the vet
rescued this soul and used foundation money to surgically fix her
injuries and wean her back to health. Folks in the past were interested
in adopting her, but because of the type of dog she was, there was red
tape and financial obstacles, such as home insurance costs, that got in
For six months, Lola saw other dogs and thus “roommates” come
and go from the shelter, getting adopted while she lay behind. As the
vet put it,”always the bridesmaid, never the bride.”
visited New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, I was moved like anyone
else. I’m only one person with two hands, but somehow I felt that
being there, little old me was making a difference: helping to heal.
I was so busy with Habitat and their agenda that I almost missed out
on visiting the shelter. The folks at Southern Animal had taken my
phone number and called me up to see if I was still coming. When they
did, I hadn’t a clue where I was and how far they were from me. Could I
leave the group during a brief period of free time, and make it back
in time? Lo and behold, in all the streets of New Orleans, I was only
a few minutes away. So, thanks to Southern Animal tracking me down, off I went.
I first met Lola, she ran to me with her head down, wagging her tail
wildly, and kept rubbing her body back and forth over my legs. Perhaps
she was taught that jumping wasn’t polite, or instinctively knowing it,
she rubbed and rubbed. Maybe she was hoping to hold onto the scent of
a new nice person that she could take back to her cement-floor home in
The tip of her tail was bleeding and raw, and the nice doctor
was trying to keep the bandage on it, but her incessant wagging kept
flinging it off. That was the reason her tail bled so much in the first
place: Every time someone approached her in the kennel, her tail would
wag so much, it would whack against the cement walls.
took her for a walk, showered her with hugs and kisses, and vowed that
she was not going to be the “forever bridesmaid” anymore. We made
arrangements to fly her home to us the day we returned to New England.
With her, I left behind my shirt, dirty from the day’s work with
Habitat, so that my scent would be a hint that better times were ahead.
I had never owned a “pit bull” breed before, but I was prepared
to take on any challenges that may come my way. When I informed my home
insurance that I had adopted a dog, we were dropped, even though I had
never had a claim against me, or made a late payment. We found new
insurance, but it cost us $900 more in increased premiums.
couldn’t believe that by being a good person, by adopting dogs and
being honest with my insurance company, I was being punished
financially. I also couldn’t believe that inhumane people abused this
precious dog, and that so many people have the wrong idea about pit
There are truly things that are still wrong with the
world, but with a little help from my two hands, the
heart of a vet and the work of our new President, maybe the
past can be forgotten and the future taken care of properly. Maybe
stereotypes can be abolished, nuances embraced, and humanity healed. For after all, victims like Lola can be changed into
treasures like Nola, one smelly work shirt at a time.
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