by Rita Charleston
We’ll probably never know what brought them to a high-kill shelter in Missouri. But what we do know is, thanks to the work of volunteers at shelters like Home at Last (HAL) Dog Rescue in North Wales, many of these precious animals who have been abandoned, neglected — or worse — will now have a forever home.
Today, again thanks to HAL, I live with Snowball, a pure-bred Maltese who was used as a breeder and then given up when she was no longer of use. But I find many uses for her, for she is a constant source of love, laughter, companionship and much, much more.
I adore dogs. Always have. And for most of my life I’ve lived with them, enjoying all the unconditional love, sweetness, loyalty and joy they bring with them.
But for the most part, my dogs were puppies when they first came into my home, until several years ago when my daughter talked me into adopting Brooke, a pure-bred 10-year-old Maltese, from a local shelter.
Of course, at her age, Brooke was considered an older dog, and her future looked anything but bright. Even some of my friends questioned my judgment in adopting her.
“You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into,” they argued. “What if she gets sick? What happens if you get really attached to her and she doesn’t live that long?”
Too late, I countered. I fell madly in love with her within hours and, believe me, I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. With an older dog, what you see is what you get. Size, temperament, loyalty, ability to get along with children and other pets, and so on.
Years ago, when I was much, much younger, I only wanted a puppy. But today, rather than having to go through that awkward and very time-consuming puppy stage again — housebreaking, losing furniture to teething, soiled carpeting and so on — at my age and because I, too, am older, I believe in adopting older dogs who are already here and desperately in need of a second chance at love.
By adopting an older dog, you will have a companion that can be counted on to do what you want it to do. One that loves riding in your car (my Snowball, between 7 and 8 years old, certainly does), loves all other living beings (like my daughter’s little cat), will let you take it on relaxing walks rather than racing down the street in search of who knows what, and so much more.
According to the Humane Society of the U.S., approximately 4 million cats and dogs — about one every eight seconds — are put down in U.S. shelters each year. Fortunately, my Snowball will not be one of them.
Sometimes, older dogs need a period of adjustment. Dogs who have been abandoned or left in a shelter for various reasons know what sadness and fear is, but with proper nurturing and a loving environment, they can make exceptional companions.
But if you want to adopt or foster a dog from HAL, you will have to go through a rigorous adoption process, according to Barbara Moyer, director of fostering, often requiring references and a home visit.
“We started HAL in May of 2011 and today have about 125 volunteers who work with us. We also have quite a network out there, with two volunteers who pull dogs from various shelters for us, and we receive approximately 100 emails every day hoping we can save their dogs,” Moyer explains.
“We also hold what we call a ‘Meet and Greet’ at the PetValu store in Blue Bell and other sites when the weather gets warmer, where some of our volunteers bring dogs who are up for adoption out to be seen by people who might want to adopt them,” she continues.
Last year alone, Moyer says, HAL placed more than 800 dogs in permanent homes. Moyer’s involvement with HAL began when her own dog died and her daughter begged her to get another one. Heartbroken, Moyer, from a family of dog lovers, thought fostering might give her a chance to “get my fix this way. Today, I continue to do it, even after my daughter moved out.”
I, too, understand the heartbreak of losing a loving dog. After my beautiful Brooke was lost to cancer, I was inconsolable. My doctor, my daughter and most of my friends urged me to get another. But there could never be another Brooke. However, searching online one day, I discovered there could be Snowball.
So today, almost three weeks after she came to live with me, my little 8-pound Snowball has become my constant and very loving companion. In spite of her horrific background, she seems to love everyone — people and animals included.
And believe me, I love her. You know, they say love is lovelier the second time around. Watching my little Snowball prance around my home and lie quietly next to me at night, I hope she feels that way too.
There are many other fine shelters in our area. Just go online to find one.
To reach HAL, simply go to Homeatlastdogrescue.com and see the beautiful and wonderful dogs up for adoption — with more and more coming weekly. I promise you won’t regret it.
Reprinted, with permission, from Montgomery Media … Rita Charleston is a lifelong Philadelphia area resident, graduate of Girls High School and Temple University and long-time freelance writer.