Late last year, when we adopted our “new” old dog, Sweet Chloe, it was all made possible through the tireless efforts of some remarkably dedicated rescue volunteers. One of them, Steffi Ridgel, with Reach Out Rescue and Resources, shared a few of her remarkable stories with me.
Every week, Steffi gets a list of about 75 dogs in dire need of a rescue’s help. Her group helps animal shelters by taking some of their difficult-to-place animals and fostering them until a new lifetime home can be found. “Their faces are looking out at me,” she says. “Thoughtless people have given them up, and then thought of them no longer.”
There was Old Dog. Steffi, who has fostered more than 40 dogs, fostered Old Dog for the six months prior to his death. “I knew the moment he walked stiffly up to me that his chances [of being adopted] were next to nil …,” Steffi said. “But when he leaned his big head up against my leg and looked up at me with his beautiful eyes, it no longer mattered. I try and take comfort in the fact that I know he was happy in my home. He always stretched out right in front of the stove while I cooked, and I had to cook with my legs straddling him. He couldn’t get up on the bed at night, and I really couldn’t lift him, at nearly 80 pounds, so he snuggled right next to my side of the bed. I often trailed an arm out of bed and felt his thick fur there during the night. For the first weeks after his death, I would reach out in the night and it would hurt all over again not to feel him there.”
And then there was Lily. Steffi fostered a dog who was supposed to be 6 years old, an age at which dogs are often difficult enough to adopt. Upon visiting the vet, it was discovered that the dog was probably 10 years old and that she was deaf and partially blind. Talk about a difficult adoption candidate! Lily was quiet, sweet, and unbelievably soft—about 50 pounds of polka-dotted fur. Nobody in the rescue would even venture to guess how many breeds of dog contributed to Lily’s looks. When someone finally inquired about Lily, Steffi was amazed. She carefully explained to the woman that Lily was a special-needs dog. The woman just as carefully explained to Steffi that her own child was special needs and that she wanted just the right dog for her: one who was quiet, gentle, and loving. While Lily was all of that, this was still a long shot—at best. When the woman and her young daughter got out of their car to meet Lily for the first time, Lily began to pull on her leash. Lily never pulled on her leash, and she was pulling toward the young girl. Lily carefully laid her head against the girl and then looked up into her eyes. The girl wrapped her arms around this old dog and simply said, “Doggie! Love doggie!” The tears of Steffi and the girl’s mother washed away any doubts about this adoption. Steffi keeps in touch with the woman, who says that Lily never, ever leaves the girl’s side, and throughout the long hours of the day and all during the night, Lily’s head rests on the girl’s leg. They look into each other’s eyes and speak their own language—a language they both understand. It’s a love that doesn’t need words.
Do you have a rescue story to share?
Make your time with your friends and family—including your animal companions—even more meaningful.