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Finding a Treasure

I was shaking my head as Mary Ellen waved to me with her cell phone on Monday afternoon. "I shouldn't show you this one," she quipped. I have a soft spot for black dogs, an imprint on my brain and heart from having shared my childhood with 2 black dogs my neighbor had. Both had been wonderful companions after school and on Saturday treks into the woods. Looking up from my yard work, Mary Ellen flashed a photo of 3 available black pups; the adoption process seemed to be in gear.

Thinking it would be best to start a serious search for a dog in late April in hopes of finding the right one by summer, we had just completed the Rescue, Inc. application the night before. We were not in a hurry but we were met by a very efficient team. Recue, Inc. responded to Mary Ellen's original adoption application within a few hours, as a return email hit her inbox at 9:50 pm of the same Sunday! The very next day we were looking at candidates for a new family member.

Upon sending off an email response late Sunday night, a Monday morning conversation with Danielle ensued. Danielle stayed laser focused, easily multitasking as she gave us clear and logical explanations of the Rescue, Inc. adoption process while also checking in with her children before they left for school. She explained the how and why of Rescue Inc.'s policies, offering openness and transparency, and in turn listened to us discuss our home and history with dogs.

Our new puppy Hawk is on the left

So there I stood, shovel in hand, as Mary Ellen held the iPhone steady. From the screen peered a confident looking little bear of a dog, curious and unafraid of the person taking his photo. Having spent close to 13 years with 2, now 1, insecure, reactive rescues we agreed quickly, Hawk was the dog we were looking for. We loved our dogs very much but they have been a lot of work.

Leaving the house with them was as challenging as having people stop in to see us. In fact, when anyone came over we had to give strict instructions on what not to do. Luna, for example, was triggered when anyone looked her in the eye and God forbid someone bend down to pet her. It was easy to be fooled by the sweet face of a 30 pound Sato, but there was fear just under the surface. Heading out into the world beyond our fenced-in-yard meant seeing other humans as well as other dogs, meaning even more triggers.

That is why, when looking down at the cell phone to take in Hawk's gaze of fearless self-assurance., we agreed that we would try to adopt him. A few hours later, Mary Ellen was giving Danielle a virtual tour of our dog-centric home which was already equipped with 2 crates. Sadly, we were down to one dog, Milo, a sweet flat-coat retriever mix with a shiny, black coat. Milo would not be keen to share his home, having had it all to himself since the passing of our beloved but difficult Luna, last Memorial Day weekend. Adjustments would not be easy, but our instincts told us Hawk would be worth it.

On the way home

After the virtual tour of our place and, Danielle gave us the green light! In less than 24 hours from when Mary Ellen had hit send on the application, we had to ready ourselves for a new arrival. In seeking more information about Hawk, we learned he had been born 12 weeks earlier on a Mississippi plantation-turned dog rescue called Southern Pup. It was encouraging that Hawk had been allowed to be with his mother and siblings through his first 12 weeks because he would benefit from socializing, allowing for positive development.

Illustration by Adrianna Petrus

In Hawk's first few days with us, as he followed me to back edges of the yard, I found myself gazing at my own past. Having enjoyed being alone but not lonely, as a kid I was drawn to the nether region that lay in the middle of the block in my rural Upstate New York town. I would spend whole afternoons lost in the sumac-filled Bermuda Triangle no one seemed to own, finding freedom moving among bulldozed piles of debris shoved from neighboring properties. Downed trees, pieces of old walls, and concrete somethings provided cover for an introvert looking to escape to a fort of solitude at the edges of civilization. First it was Lady, a Doberman mix, and then later Bear, a shepherd mix, that accompanied me as I moved about untethered to the responsibilities of school work and other obligations for a few hours. There was no pressure to be anything or anyone other than me as I looked for treasures in the pushed and folded landscape. You never knew what someone would throw away.

On May 1st, to mark our first week with Hawk, Mary Ellen posted some photos on Rescue, Inc's Facebook group page which we gladly joined. We are very grateful to Danielle and the whole team at Rescue, Inc for all their efforts. They are professionals with a mission accomplished through team work and transparency. No details are left to chance. Southern Pup also deserves recognition for its role in saving K9 souls and giving them a chance they would not otherwise have.

As long as there is a relentless tide of abandoned pups like Hawk from states like Mississippi, there will be a need for groups to shelter them, bring them north and find them homes. Mary Ellen and I are very happy to share our home with Hawk, one of thousands of dogs ignored, treasures pushed to edges of societies in the US and many other countries.

Confident Hawk in our yard

Moving around today, Hawk's third Sunday with us, his presence continues to stir that peace I knew as kid on my weekend adventures. What can feel greater than to be seen, unjudged, needed and protected? Now I finally realize that every time I wandered into those woods as a kid, the treasure I was searching for was walking with me. For your next treasured family member please consider Rescue, Inc. and the folks at Southern Pup!


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