My triad arrived for our three-hour shift the first day of the fair. I walked dogs with my husband while my daughter manned the merchandise booth. That evening we were just the “cat-people” family infiltrating a tent full of seasoned dog rescue advocates.
Each night, the group introduced us to new dogs, freshly saved from the city’s euthanasia list, found wandering the streets homeless and starving, surrendered and abandoned. Our three-hour shifts turned into five-hour shifts when we lost track of time hanging out with the mutts.
Six days at the fair turned into seven days at the fair.
Seven days at the fair turned into eight days at the fair.
By the end of it all, I was recruiting other volunteers to help when we couldn’t be there. I woke up in the mornings thinking about Norman the old Beagle/Basset Hound, who had terrible heartworms, and Doodlebug the Chihuahua, recovering from a badly broken leg. I never realized the extent of care, planning, and service involved in rescuing animals until I offered to walk the dogs and scrape poo from the fairgrounds. More surprisingly, there was something about those little guys that seemed to make me need them.
The first dog I brought home to foster was Philippe, a chunky, Poodle/Bichon Frise with an underbite. I didn’t want the old guy to stay overnight in a boarding facility because he was scared. I held him on my lap a large part of the evening to make him feel more comfortable while fairgoers poked and prodded the crates, trying to decide which dog they wanted to adopt. One of the other volunteers stroked Philippe’s fur and told me, “You know, I think his person died, and some relative must have just dumped him off at animal services.” Philippe was notably depressed. My heart split for all the dogs, but this one really took things to the next level for me. I told the group coordinator I could “cat test” for the night. A-hem.
Remarkably, it only took a couple of days for Philippe’s new family to find him. When I delivered him to the couple, I knew everything was going to be right in that dog’s world, that he would add a new dimension of happiness to his people’s lives and likewise. Suddenly, connecting pooches to new homes wasn’t just about the dogs anymore; it was also about the people. All of the people. Even me, a cat person.
When the last caramel apple was gone and the ferris wheel lights dimmed, I’d received an animal rescue crash course like no other. What was slated to have been only six days at the fair generated more happiness, more tail wagging, more smiles, more wet kisses, more tolerance, more tears, and more joy than I ever knew I needed.
For those of you who haven’t experienced your own “Six Days” yet, here’s an official invitation.
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