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The Story of a Shelter Dog

After working for years in animal shelters and rescue, I have seen things I wish I could forget.  Sometimes, we need to focus on the positive and learn from the negative.  We MUST educate the public and tell the stories of those with no voice to ensure that future generations can make better choices.

This is Shorty's story.

The Laredo sun could be unkind to both human and animal alike. The difference is that the average person can drink as much water as he/she wants as the temperatures reach a stifling 112 degrees, but animals are at the mercy of the humans that are entrusted with their care.

The shelter I ran was an outdoor shelter so, there was no air conditioning and the viruses spread like wild fire.  We did our best to keep the animals comfortable, and kept a very watchful eye for signs of infection or any illness.

The animal control vehicles came into the shelter all day, and sometimes into the evening.  One officer was always on call through the night for emergencies.

As the vehicles poured in to the quarantine area in the rear of the facility I would always get a "heads up" so I could meet the officers as they unloaded.  It was my job to assess all the animals coming in to the shelter to see if any of them had injuries or illnesses that required immediate attention, or if they were too young to be housed in the general population.

On this day, one of the officers waved at me to come over to his truck—he was quite concerned about something.  As I approached, he began to tell me that he had received a call about a dog who had been crying in the brush by the river, and wasn't moving.  When he picked up the dog he knew something terrible had happened to her, but no one in the area wanted to speak up.  He rushed her to our team.

As I peered into the cage, I saw a little brown angel—skinny, frightened beyond belief, and her front paws were covered in blood.  She looked defeated, and my heart broke for her.

I grabbed a large towel and carefully pulled her from the cage trying to reassure her that she was safe.  I rushed her into the building to check her injuries, and give her the care she needed.  The officer who brought her in followed me, and insisted on helping treat the poor pup.

She tried to struggle a bit, and buried her head in the towel—it was obvious that she was in a great deal of pain.  She was dehydrated, emaciated, her paws were raw and bleeding on the pads, and her nails were worn down past the quick and bleeding.  We all cried as we cleaned her wounds and started treatment.  Hearing her soft cries, and feeling her body shake was almost too much to bear.

We named her Shorty.

Shorty looked like a timid, little coyote with big brown eyes and tiny whiskers.  She spent her time recuperating in my office, and was clearly afraid to be touched ... but who could blame her?

We had come to find out after much investigation from the officer that Shorty had been the victim of more than one "low life" in the neighborhood she wandered.  They threw rocks at her, kicked her, set the hose on her. She was finally brutalized by being grabbed off the street and shoved into an underground shelter in someone's backyard where she spent days screaming, and trying to dig her way out.  When she did finally escape she was physically exhausted, and collapsed in pain by the river.

Although we could not find any witness that would come forward to press charges against the animal abusers, we were determined to give Shorty a better life.

We began by letting Shorty stay in my office away from the chaos of the rest of the shelter.  She had a big, cushy bed and was free to wander around and investigate.  I didn't want to push her, and didn't try to touch her, but I did talk to her a lot.  It was funny and quite heartwarming to see her look at me from time to time as if she was actually listening.

After a couple of weeks she began approaching me at my desk and allowed me to pet her ... I felt privileged with that small trust.  Soon, she was approaching those who entered my office, even if it was just to check them out for a second.  Her feet were healing nicely, and she started gaining weight ... I caught myself smiling a lot when she began playing with a few select toys that seemed to make her happy.

As time went on and Shorty was able to start showing her true personality. I knew it was time for her to be put up for adoption.  I decided to put her in the kennel at the very end of the corridor close to the grass so she could see me when I was wandering around the shelter or working with the volunteers.  I made sure her cage was comfortable, and saw her acclimate well to the new environment.

Every morning as I arrived at the shelter I would walk outside and yell, "Shorty!"  My little coyote girl would spin around and bark, and wait patiently for me to enter her cage with my morning coffee to start our day with a morning cuddle.  She was my buddy, my special girl and I couldn't wait for the day she finally found her "forever" home.

It took a while.

Weeks, then months wore on as Shorty waited for the family that would change her life.  People looked past her and saw a plain, skinny brown dog that wasn't quite as pretty as the rest.  They didn't see her heart.  We all knew that someone, somewhere would see the beauty that we saw.  That beautiful heart, that trust she fought so hard for in those sweet brown eyes, that feisty spirit in a body once broken ... every day we held on to hope.

Nine months had passed, and I was being pressured by higher entities to euthanize Shorty for space as we were an open admission shelter.  She was one of our long term residents, and it seemed like our prayers would never be answered.

It was a glorious Saturday afternoon that brought us all a wonderful gift!  It was a sweet older couple with a young daughter who fell in love with our Shorty, and decided that she was the perfect fit for their family!

We all cried, hugged, and jumped for joy as we shared the news with the entire staff.  As we proceeded with the application, doing a background check, and verifying vet records, we were elated to find out that this family were sweet, responsible pet owners... exactly what Shorty needed and deserved.  They would be picking Shorty up on Monday.

Monday morning, I spent my last morning coffee visit with my friend. When her new family came to get her she was so excited and happy... she was ready.

We all stood there as she left... we cried as we saw her little head sticking up from the backseat of the car.  She got her family... she deserved this!

**Shorty started off as a broken, beaten dog—but as she healed, she taught us all a great deal about love, trust, resilience, hope, and faith.

She was much more than just a story... she was my friend.**


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