We have rescued all of our dogs, but thankfully only one was taken from an unlivable situation. I had fallen in love with our close friends Lori and Harry’s Chihuahuas, a breed I had never particularly enjoyed prior to meeting Ruby Ru and Clara Su. Often when we left their home after a visit, I would jokingly hide Clara, the smaller of the two, in my jacket or purse pretending to take her home with me.
One day my husband Bob got a call from Lori alerting him a Chihuahua needed to be rescued. Did we want to take her? Of course, we did! He spoke with the woman who currently had the dog. I was at work and watched each minute pass until I could leave, so I could get home to meet our new baby. Finally, the hour came, and I raced home.
I burst through the door and ran up the steps. Bob had put her inside of a gated area where our other two dogs, Farley and Sasha, would not be able to frighten her with their enthusiasm. I bent to pick up the tiny dog, but Bob warned me. “Be careful, she’s scared and nipping. Her teeth are sharp.”
“It’s okay sweetheart. Come here, little girl,” I said in a soft voice as I looked into her great big eyes. She moved toward me, and I scooped her close to my heart where she has remained for the past seven years.
That little girl, renamed Sadie, was emaciated and abused. She had only a vitamin paste to eat for who knew how long. She had been thrown like a football as part of a twisted game. She had been used for breeding. She was untrained. She was dirty and wearing rags. The place where she had been picked up was filthy and fly infested.
It took years for those memories to fade from her mind. Her distrust of men lingered, and occasionally might still rear its ugly head. Yet, overall, her transformation has been miraculous. Seeing her health improve and her confidence grow made my heart swell. Today she is a little spitfire who is sure she is the size of a Rottie.
Sadie was lucky; she did not die; she was not relegated to a short life in a shelter. This is not the case for many dogs who would become the best friend so many seek if just given the chance. In 100 Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues, the author, Cara Sue Achterberg tells the moving story of her experience with fostering dogs and her trek to find what is causing so many good dogs to become shelter dogs with little hope of finding a forever family.
Achterberg’s book begins with the heartfelt tale of Gala, a foster dog under her care. She expertly conveys the roller coaster of emotions many foster volunteers endure as they accompany their charge through a maze of physical and emotional healing. Along the way, we get to know her human family and realize fostering is not a one-woman job.
One might say, “How can she do it? I couldn’t get that close to a dog, and then give it up.” Achterberg clearly states her reason: she lets one go because there is another waiting. She knows shelters are overcrowded to the point healthy adoptable dogs are euthanized because there is not enough space or resources to keep them alive. After years of fostering, she saw no end in sight.
Operation Paws for Homes
Many of the dogs Operation Paws for Homes, OPH, the rescue organization Achterberg represents, come from the South. She decided to find out why by assembling a team of volunteers to accompany her on a southern shelter tour as part of her book tour for her first book on fostering, Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs. The team collected enough donations for the shelters they would visit to fill a van. On the return trip they would have room to transport some dogs in need of fostering.
During their tour, the volunteers found shelters in need of much more than they could provide run by people who would do all they could to help the dogs living in drastically overcrowded conditions. The situation was much worse than Achterberg’s group could have imagined, but the journey offered glimpses of hope the problem could be fixed.
Achterberg presents truth that is not pretty but is necessary. She provides information to educate readers about a serious problem in a way so personal, they will feel like they have just visited her puppy room and are sitting in her kitchen having coffee. In addition, she offers a wealth of knowledge valuable to any pet parent. 100 Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues is an important read for any dog lover.
It is a book you will remember, and in some way, even a small one, will call you to action.
Thank you for reading! Please share if you advocate animal rescue!