Tuesday, July 5, 2011

One of the many faces of redemption

I firmly believe there are many faces of redemption. This redemption story is about the redemption of a good ol' houndog who deserved so much more than he had already experienced in life. I promise not to get theological, but I really want to share this story to give people a glimpse of just how rewarding animal rescue can be. Too often we hear about the hoarder who had too many animals and the poor condition they were in, or the dog who was abandoned at the shelter only to be rescued in the nick of time. What happens AFTER they are rescued? If you're an inquiring mind and want to know, keep reading. If not, I promise the next post will be full of baby child antics. ;-)

February 2010 brought a harsh winter to the Mid-Atlantic region. This is an especially dangerous time for stray, domesticated animals who can't successfully forage for food. I got a call about one such soul who had the good fortune to be rescued from the woods. He was likely abadoned by a hunter when he didn't return with the pack. He had no way of knowing that this was going to be the best thing that had ever happened to him.

Alvin at the shelter

This is Alvin. He was named for the 'A' that had been bleached on both sides of his body. When HART agreed to rescue him, he was about 15 lbs underweight, in serious need of dental work and not neutered. His first night with us was uneventful, but you only had to look into his eyes to see how broken he was and why, despite his beauty, he had been overlooked time and time again. At the time, I told my friend "All in all, a couple more days with us and I'm sure he'll settle in. Maybe not to the point that he's sleeping on the sofa, but enough so he's not pacing waiting for his next beating."

It was clear that Alvin had never lived in a home before and everything that went on in our house (cats, toddler, dogs) was a serious overload for him. He loved our daughter and trusted her implicitly, but he wouldn't come near us. He would spend hours in the backyard if we let him, no matter the temperature. To get him to come in, we'd have to go into the backyard and turn our backs to him so he would think he was sneaking back into the house to avoid us. It was in the backyard that we got to see glimpses of normal doggy behavior, almost to the point of puppyness. He'd bash another dog in the face trying to get them to play with him while everyone, including the dog, looked at him stunned. :)

In May of that same year, a family looking for a companion for their dog saw him and decided they wanted to meet him. When they came over, he reacted very well to their calm demeanor and settled in liked I'd never seen before. In a rare stroke of brilliance, I had them feed him raw hamburger meat. He wouldn't respond to treats and had to be crated in order to eat, so it was sort of a last ditch effort. Alvin, of course, loved it and loved them. The day the family said they wanted to adopt him was a joyous, but bittersweet day for us. Alvin was better than he was when we got him, but still so damaged that it shot right through your heart. Phase 2 of his new life was about to start and boy was he in store for some lovin'!

Alvin on the way to his new home

Not only was Alvin blessed with a wonderful family, but I was blessed as well. I inquire every so often about him, and his gracious mom always responds with more than a cursory "he's great, thanks." I'll share with you her latest update, more than a year after Alvin was adopted: "Alvin is doing great. We love him and while he's still pretty skittish in general, he has warmed to us well... His best times are in the morning (or in the middle of the night - he gets up once a night most nights to go out to pee) - he is very playful right after he wakes up and we enjoy the little show he puts on then. He even tries to draw us in sometimes bumping us with his nose - it's very cute... He is just the sweetest dog. It is so hard to imagine how anyone could mistreat any animal much less one as sweet as he is...
Sudden movements and loud sounds still really do a number on him. The doorbell sets him off still as well...He likes affection but doesn't really seek it out. On occasion he'll come over to me in my office and sit down so I can pet him. Whenever he's lying down, though, and anyone goes to pet him he always looks at us longingly when we stop - he likes to be petted...We are so glad we found him - or that we found each other. We know we're giving him a good life now and he deserves that after whatever he went through before being saved by HART."

Alvin Now

If Alvin's updated picture isn't the picture of redemption, I don't know what is. This is what every dog deserves: a soft bed, a warm sunbeam, regular meals and a wonderful, loving family. We are so grateful to have been a part of Alvin's redemption and wanted to share a story of what happens after the rescue. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go find a soft bed, a warm sunbeam and get in some quality animal snuggle time. ;-) Until next time, as always, hug your loved ones tight, especially if they are of the furry kind.

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