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The Shelter Dogs That Changed My Life

If you’ve never known a love so undying and pure, then you’ve never had a dog. If you haven’t been greeted with supreme joyousness and wild tail wagging, then you haven’t adopted a shelter dog. The instant joy and lifelong gratification that comes from saving an animal’s life from a shelter can not be matched.

My dog growing up was a mixed breed. Her name was Jazzy and she tried to be everything I wanted her to be. She tried agility, showmanship, scent tracking, and even sled racing/pulling (which was really just our old Radio Flyer wagon with a leash). Each time, she looked at me with confused eyes, but then tried to do what I asked to the best of her little 20-pound schnauzer/cocker spaniel mix ability.

She was my first dog best friend. She passed away after living a good life of love and luxury, for a dog. She hated anyone or anything that tried to come in (or near) our house. But gosh, she was a good dog and I loved her.

My current rescues are Harvey, a terrier mix, and Laika, a Siberian husky. After many months of asking, I managed to get my husband to step into Petsmart while they were hosting a local dog rescue organization. We were attracted to a cage of small, fuzzy puppies. Two of them were nibbling on the third dog’s legs. We found out they were rescued from the side of the road.

We returned the following Friday with the intention of taking a second look (adopting). The small brown puppy that was being chewed on by his siblings the previous week was the only puppy left of the crew. He was the only dog in the group that was barking and I mean non-stop yapping. We pulled him out of the crate and tried to sit with him on the ground. He promptly bit us and ran away as fast as his tiny little legs would carry him. We pursued. He ended up in the dog food aisle, searching for little ground kibbles.

We fell in love. He was weird and adorable. The adoption lady later informed us that he had been soiled in poop on the way over and desperately needed a bath. Cue Harvey, 9 years later. The smartest dog I’ve ever met. He has a personality of a wise old man and the energy of a spoiled toddler. He still, always, desperately needs a bath.

Laika is the clown. She’s a Siberian husky. I fell in love with huskies when I learned about the Iditarod as a child. My mom’s side of the family is from Alaska, and I knew someday I would have one. I found a husky rescue called Taysia Blue and fell for a cute, smaller sized husky (according to the post), named Noel. This organization is a foster-based group based in Omaha. They told me Noel was special. She was extremely shy and needed a quiet, kid-free home with another dog in the house. She also needed people who would understand her needs and work with her every day. They told me they had plenty of other huskies that had a husky’s typical personality and temperament. But she had the sweetest face and I couldn’t wait to meet her. I knew we would be a good home for her. They drove her down and she cautiously hopped out of the car. Despite Harvey’s extreme objection, we decided to give it a shot.

Laika (Noel) was abused as a puppy. Her paperwork indicates that she refused to move, eat, or look a human in the eyes. She ended up at a shelter and due to her personality, was going to be put to sleep. Dogs that are considered “difficult” are often turned away or put down. Luckily, she was given another chance. Taysia Blue saved her. She bounced around to a few different foster homes and finally, she found us.

It’s been many years now of monumental baby steps: taking a walk without ducking her tail at the site of a trash bag or parked car, making eye contact when you approach her, looking out the front window, coming when called, accepting attention (from us), walking upstairs in our home, jumping on our bed, lying next to us, playing with Harvey and us, and greeting us at the door (sometimes). She’s made huge steps in her time with us. Her personality has burst out of her quiet, reserved shell. She’s loud, silly, and demanding, but always cautious. I wouldn’t trade her, or her massive amounts of hair, for anything. Sometimes all a “difficult” dog needs is a human who is willing to show love and kindness. Who doesn’t want that?

The shelters are so full and they need us. People say that shelters never have the dog they want (breed, size, temperament, etc.) and that just isn’t true. Shelters are inundated with animals every single day. Some had a wonderful family whom at some point decided they no longer had room for their beloved family member. Some were strays who have never known a warm, loving home, and some had a family that didn’t treat them as they deserved and had a hard beginning. The latter are the ones I believe need the most love and care.

They may not be the easiest at first, but might just turn out to be the best. They’ll certainly be the most grateful.

What shelter dogs have changed your life? —Katie

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