Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Meet HOTLR's Scuba!!!

On February 21st, I attended a meet 'n greet at President Margaret Huston's house. Most of you familiar with HOTLR know how a meet 'n greet works. Potential adoptive families are matched with 2 - 3 dogs available for adoption and hopefully find the perfect fit for their family.

We had 8 families meet about 10 different dogs on Sunday. Meet 'n greet's are fun, exhausting and chaotic, but I guarantee if you've ever been to one, you're pretty much smiling and laughing the whole day.

I've done several meet 'n greets as a volunteer. Sometimes I come because my foster is "showing" that day. Sometimes I come just to help out. It's another great way to get to know some of the dogs in the program too.

Everyone laughs at me, because I fall in love with all the dogs in the HOTLR program. Maybe it's because they each have a story to tell that we will never fully know. Maybe it's because I often participate in the shelter checks and I see the dogs in the cages at the shelters, how pitiful, broken and sad they seem. Then after entering the HOTLR program, I get to see how they come out of their shells and begin to trust in humans again, eventually becoming a part of a new wonderful family. Watching this change touches me every time no matter how many doggy success stories I witness.

Right now there is a little dude I can't get out of my mind. It's Scuba, so named because his shelter card said that he loves water. Scuba is probably a classic victim of "Black Dog Syndrome". Black dogs are routinely passed over at shelters and rescue programs in favor of lighter colored dogs. It's a real documented problem. We picked him up about a month ago at the Waco Animal Shelter. He'd been there since early November having been transferred in from another shelter. Who knows how long he'd been at the previous place. They had placed him in a back corner cage where he sort of melted into the shadows of his kennel.

He hardly greeted us and would not make eye contact. He was emaciated, probably the skinniest guy I'd seen. I knew we were his last chance. I knew he didn't have long. He was going to die of malnutrition or the shelter would soon deem him unadoptable because his spirit had been broken. He had quit trusting in humans and wouldn't engage with them even if they did stop by his cage.

We took him out and looked at him anyway. We pulled his tail, looked at his teeth, talked to him, petted him. Ultimately, we felt he would blossom in the right situation and we pulled him and added him to the program. He's at Canine Hilton right now. He's getting some training and he has started eating again. He's beginning to fill out from the neck down but it will take a little more time before he is fully fit. He has a gorgeous head and face. When he fills out, in my opinion he will be a truly beautiful Lab.

Yet, he still has some rough edges. He definitely needs to be potty trained. He's most likely never been in a house before. However, I believe he is a quick learner. As soon as he understands where it's appropriate to go, the problem will be solved. (Neutering will help too.)

He was shown to a large family of 7 on Sunday. He was not intimidated at all. We watched fascinated as he greeted and showed interest in every family member. He stopped in front of each one, sat, sniffed and licked each person, all the while loving the attention. After a few minutes, he moved on to the next family member, exhibiting the same behavior. It seemed he was giving each a chance to get to know him and he them. Later, after they left, he spent a few minutes pacing around the house, then laid his head in my lap for some more attention. Finally he collapsed on the floor next to me, paws crossed, completely relaxed and seemingly at peace with the world. It was a totally normal Lab thing to do. The very thing I'd seen my own dog do thousands of times. It was in that moment that I knew he was going to be okay and just needed a little more time to get things figured out.

Ultimately, the family that visited with Scuba chose another dog better matched to their family. I know it's just a matter of time for Scuba, that he needs to meet the right family, that we did the right thing pulling him from the shelter. It's this feeling, watching the changes that come over the broken souls that we find at the shelters that make me so thankful for this organization. I don't think this feeling will ever get old to me or that stories like Scuba's will ever stop touching me. I can't wait to see the next chapter in Scuba's life.

Right now, he could sure use a foster home. If you'd like to foster Scuba or are interested in adopting him, please visit the HOTLR website at hotlabresue.org.

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