For four years, I ran an animal rescue. I named it after my dog, D.J. A rescued dog herself, D.J. came to live with me after my first dog, Trapper, died suddenly after ingesting rat poison. She filled an empty place in my heart and was my rock through some difficult times. D.J. was sweet, funny, and gentle, and she loved playing nanny to the newcomers in the house. She suffered from a degenerative disease which affected the discs in her spine, but she never let it slow her down, particularly when it came to providing leadership and guidance to the animals in the house. At one point, she was paralyzed in her front legs for almost 2 weeks, but even that couldn't dim her spirit. Sadly, though, in the end, her spirit was unable to overcome the limitations of her body, and D.J. died very suddenly at the too young age of 11 to kidney failure.
Though I am no longer actively involved in rescue, I still get a lot of emails and postings about animals in shelters who need rescue and about animals who have been rescued and need transportation. Whenever I can, I send some money to help those in the trenches, and I have driven a bunch of dogs up and down the highways. I've even provided overnight accommodations as needed. But, until very recently, the idea of adopting another pet hasn't been on my mind. I have a full house--3 dogs & 2 cats--oh yeah, and an allergic human partner.
I think about D.J. a lot and even have her picture as the background on my laptop, but for about a week starting in the middle of May, she was heavy on my mind. I couldn't stop thinking about her. It wasn't until Tuesday, May 19th, that I figured out why. She was trying to tell me something--to tell me about a dog that she wanted to save. In the midst of those tons of emails and postings, I had found one dog, a young, female, yellow Labrador retriever, who grabbed my heart and wouldn't let it go. She was in a shelter in North Carolina. I am in Connecticut. It was impractical. It made no sense. It would be difficult, but I still wanted to do it. I wanted to rescue and adopt her.
I woke up before 5:00 am and started sending emails. I made phone calls all morning. I called Mitchell and broke down. He kindly reassured me that he would support my decision. When I said, "But, it's so impractical," he responded with a quick, "So what. Nothing about us is practical." Before I knew it, I was trying to arrange for the dog to be saved. The phone at the shelter was busy. I redialed and redialed. Finally, someone answered. I gave him the dog's ID number. He told me that she had already been adopted. My heart sank. I feared that she had actually been killed. I was disappointed that she wouldn't be with me. I considered adopting another dog, but my heart wasn't in it, so I donated some money to the veterinary care of the many who were saved that day.
I went through the rest of the day with an empty feeling. I had already fallen in love with this dog, and now I would never know her. I assumed that that was the end of the story until I got home and found a posting by the group who had rescued "my" dog. Apparently, a group of people who loves Labs had rallied around her and, through their online community, arranged to have her pulled from the shelter, checked by a veterinarian, and fostered until transport could be arranged. Multiple people donated money for her care, and a woman in Maine committed to take her. I posted a comment about how I had attempted to adopt her and was happy to know that she was safe. I sent in some money for her care. Once again, I assumed that was the end of it.
Later that evening, I received a message from the adoption sponsor in Maine. She wanted to know if I was still interested in adopting the dog. What?!?! Of course, I was! She said that there were others interested in adopting her, but that she felt that I might be the right choice. My hopes soared once more. I couldn't sleep that night. I looked at pictures and videos of her posted by her rescuer. I imagined what it would be like to have her join my family. I couldn't focus on much else. I was scheduled to leave in just a day and a half for a week-long trip to Indiana for a friend's wedding and visiting my sister and my friends, but I hadn't even started to pack. Instead of mapping my route and planning my lunch dates with friends, I was trying to figure out how to get the dog from eastern NC, where she was being fostered, to the western part of the state, where Mitchell would be attending his annual business meeting the next week.
After another long day of worrying and wondering, I got the call I had been hoping for. The dog was mine! I was so excited! Right away, my trip to Indiana was canceled, and I started planning how I would get the dog from her foster mom and brainstorming names for my new addition. I eventually settled on "Iko," a name that I had wanted to use for a while, but hadn't yet met the right dog for. And, as luck (or fate) would have it, I was able to coordinate with her foster mom to meet up for her exchange. Our long drive to North Carolina was made a little easier knowing that I would soon be meeting Iko for the first time. The hardest part was waiting out the next day and a half in a hotel room in Wilkesboro, NC, and even the series finale of "Lost" couldn't hold my interest or attention for long.
Iko was rescued from the Robeson County Animal Shelter in St. Pauls, NC on May 19, 2010, and I saw her for the first time in a McDonald's parking lot in Zebulon, NC on May 25, 2010. Since, then she's secured her place in my home, my family, and my heart. She is goofy, smart, loving, playful, and pretty.
But, once again, the story doesn't end there. As much as Iko's adoption came as a bit of a surprise, I have also been pleasantly surprised to have many of the people involved in her rescue become dear friends of mine. Though we've never met in person (except one), I feel as if I've known them forever. They get me in the same way my best friends do, fulfilling my first and most important criteria for friendship. I respect their passion and am in awe of their ability to achieve tasks which would seem impossible to most. I believe that there was something very special about the way that I was led to Iko and the series of events which unfolded to make her adoption possible. I believe that this something special has also brought these new friends into my life. They've reminded me of the need for boundaries and of the value in humor. They love dogs, and they dislike drama. They're "good people," as the old saying goes, and I have no doubt that D.J. would approve!