By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Walking past our conference room at the Daily Telegraph last week I was able to witness a noticeable increase in bags of dog food, kitty litter, treats and toys scattered throughout the room.
For one week in December, our conference room is overtaken by generous donations from the community looking to help animals in need across the region. A few treats, a bag of dog food or a box of kitty litter may not seem like it will do much, but those who have been to an animal shelter or rescue know these gifts will go a long way for those animals waiting to find the families that will take them home and love them.
Growing up, I always wanted a dog. I waged a sort of media blitz with my parents, especially my dad, about why we should bring a four-legged friend into our home. Dad wasn’t too keen on animal fur being in his home or the thoughts of an animal on his furniture. It took about 10 years, but when I was 15 Dad finally relented and decided the three of us kids had proven we could handle a dog being brought into our home.
That was how we found ourselves piling into Mom’s minivan and taking the 80-mile drive from our home to Clarksville, Tenn., to meet with an animal rescue volunteer. Two weeks before, a puppy mill in the area had been raided and she had taken in about six or seven dogs from the raid. She told us there had been little food, almost no water and many of the animals were in poor health as the result of being ignored. Starving and alone, they had turned on each other in some cases in battles over what little food was given to them. All the dogs were frightened and shaking when prospective owners arrived to meet them.
There was one dog that caught my eye immediately. His name was Bailey and it was believed that — unlike most of his fellow dogs — he was a purebred Shih Tzu. The puppy mill had been trying to pass off all of the dogs as purebred and Bailey was one of the few who actually was. They kept him around, however this didn’t mean he was well-treated.
He had stitches across his belly on one side from where another dog and literally torn into him in a fight over one of the few food bowls at the puppy mill. Like the other dogs, you could see his ribs poking out from his skin, which had been trimmed back as best as could be done to treat his wound. The dogs were all afraid of the small number of humans in the room. These poor animals were even worried that my 5-year-old sister might be a threat since they had barely any positive human interaction.
While my parents were looking over the other dogs, I approached Bailey. He was probably the best shorn of the bunch and though he had stitches all up his side, there was just something about him. I bent down in front of him and held out my hand for him to sniff. After a few sniffs and a lick of my hand, I slowly reached to scratch behind his ears. Apparently, being petted was a new sensation for him. Within seconds, Bailey had flopped over on his good side so I could give him a belly rub. Slowly, the rest of the family came over and he warmed up to my sister and brother in the same manner. It was pretty obvious then he was coming home with us.
Bailey made the ride home in the back seat of the minivan snuggled between my brother and me. He slept the entire way home. That first belly flop he did was the first of many to come. He loved having his belly scratched as well as cuddling up or playing with our family.
We only had Bailey for about two and a half years. He had developed a liver shunt, which his vet said was the result of the poor medical treatment in the puppy mill or a birth defect. There was nothing more that we could do for him, and though it hurt that we couldn’t make him feel better, my mother always reminded us that we had given Bailey the best years of his life.
About a month after the loss of Bailey, our family again piled into the minivan and headed to Happy Tales Humane in Franklin, Tenn. It was there we found the lighting fast ball of fur that is Dash. The half-daschund, half-Cairn terrier we brought home that day is still hunting for small game in my parents’ backyard, cuddling up with my dad to watch the Steelers and Pirates on TV, and always does a little dance whenever someone has chicken in the kitchen. Dash’s tongue is a bit too long for his mouth and he leaves animals he has dug up out of the yard on the back porch as “gifts,” but we still love him.
Each time I walked past the conference room last week I knew the donations would help someone else’s future furry ball of joy.
The gifts of food, toys, blankets and other items brought in from across the community went a long way to helping out a Dash or a Bailey until they, too, can find their “forever home” with a family like mine.
Kate Coil is a reporter at the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at email@example.com.