A few years ago, I was the president of our local Humane Society, a fledgling group that needed a new leader. I stepped forward and said I'd do it. I had lots of ideas and a good work ethic.
The next ten months were filled with hard work, a lot of sleepless nights, my phone ringing off the hook, days full of worry, and people... more people than animals in many cases.
But Sky was worth it.
Sky was a dog who had been adopted by someone from another Society, but found that she didn't match the family's lifestyle. Sky was described as a Husky, but we've since decided that she is part Border Collie and part something else (Shepherd? Lab?). When I first got word that Sky was going to join us, I immediately emailed my HR person, who told me they'd been thinking about getting a new dog for their cattle farm. A couple of months later, they made the decision that they'd take her home for sure.
On a rainy afternoon, I went with another lady who volunteered with me with the Society, and we picked up Sky, who was outside, sitting chained up in the rain. Sky leaped into my car backseat, where we'd placed an old double comforter, and she lounged there asking for belly rubs until we made it to my house. There, we met her new family, and she went home. That was three years ago.
This morning, I got a phone call out of the blue from her new mom. "Adriene," she said, "I just wanted to call you to tell you what a wonderful dog Sky has turned out to be."
I'd been hearing all sorts of stories about Sky from her new family: how she ate a pair of boots and a sandal, how she enjoyed rolling in... stuff... how she loved being around the cows... so this sentence didn't surprise me. But...
"Sky loves the calves," her mom said. "She looks after them and sleeps with them, and the mother cows trust her completely. One of the calves has pneumonia, and the calf's mother trusts Sky to look after the calf while she goes out to pasture. We went out to load the calf to bring it to the vet, and we found Sky lying next to her with the calf's head on her paws. Sky was gently licking the calf's face."
I smiled and cooed and ooohed and ahhed... wonderful things to hear.
"Last night, one of the horses had a colt, and Sky was right there outside the fence, watching carefully and waiting. And this morning, we found Sky right in the same place, and the colt was lying next to her on the other side of the fence while the mother was busy eating. It's like she's the official babysitter."
I heard a few more stories about how carefully Sky looks after her "babies," even chasing off coyotes that ventured too near. I thought back to the day I picked her up... and I was so grateful that we could give her the chance to have a home.
And a chance to be herself.
I won't lie: being president of a Humane Society is emotionally exhausting, and I won't be doing it again anytime soon. It's stories like this, though, that remind me that I made a difference, not just to Sky, but to:
- Bart (now Leo), the horse-chasing border collie that now lives happily with two collie sisters
- Ernest, the stray cat that got to live in a 5000 sq. ft house
- The Bucket Kittens (Leelou, Charlie, Suree and Bug), found abandoned in a bucket but who all have wonderful homes
- Bear, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever that is living his fantasy with his forest ranger dad and his family in the mountains
- Lily, the Tuxedo cat, who has a couple of dogs and a man under her command
- Tubitha, the cat who "wasn't fat, just has an overly small head"
Because we worked hard.
So, if you're slogging away at something that seems heart-wrenching and never-ending, I'm betting that there's going to be a great payback some day. Keep at it. You'll be so glad you did.
I'm glad I did.