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October 13, 2020

Life in Rescue Dog Advocacy: Springing Charlie: Part 2

I’d like to say that springing Charlie, the three-year old Husky/shepherd mix in a California shelter, went as easily as a trip to my local feed store. Uneventful, smooth and requiring little energy, save for the foresight of planning and precautions for safety and liability.

I’d like to say so. And in reality, the effort to spring Charlie and afford him a second chance in life was as replete with challenges, obstacles, expenses, fear, concern, and stress as anything worth doing requires, and not without exacting its fair share of emotional and psychological turmoil. Far worse was the physical reality that he had been deprived of weeks of critical walks or exercise. His energy was roiling and his situation becoming more dire every hour he sat in wait.

It all began well enough: The shelter’s kennel staff manager, Michael, had been in contact with my friend Tammy. She was going to send her friend Kylie to pick up Charlie in the required crate, deliver him to boarding and a few days later after he’d had time to decompress, he’d be on transport to a Canadian rescue. That was the plan.

I’d seen photos of the rescue in British Columbia: several acres of pristine wooded land bordered by a river. An more exquisite sanctuary for an animal does not exist.

No one had informed Charlie of everyone’s good intentions, however, at least not in the language of dog. Nor could Charlie comprehend his future lying in wait.

The first attempt failed before it even had opportunity to get off the ground: the bottom of the crate literally fell out when employed into service.  Kylie promised to return with a hard-shelled crate and bring Charlie back to her own home later in the day. All the while, Michael stood by patiently, with the hope so cautiously reserved in the heart of a shelter worker witnessing far too many dog stories gone awry.

I waited by my phone to hear anxiously of Charlie’s imminent rescue.

The following day, unfortunately, brought more of the same. Charlie refused to enter the new hard-shelled crate. Growls and snarls, snapping and barking reverberated throughout the wing of the shelter where Charlie called home since July. My friend Tammy worked alongside Michael to coax and encourage, wait and guide, to no avail. She reached me at the end of the day, reporting that she’d return the following day to try again.

The next morning arrived as any other: I was tending to caring for my own pack and herd of rescue cats, tossing peanuts for the Steller’s jays and checking on dogs in need of rescue on my Instagram feed. I was anxious to hear if Tammy’s rescue efforts with Charlie would bring success and relief.

And with each passing hour, I worried for how difficult Charlie’s rescue was becoming. So it came as a surprise when at the end of the afternoon, I received word from Tammy that she and Michael had finally managed to coax Charlie into his new hard-shell crate. This time, she sang out, the bottom didn’t fall out. But, her words cautioned,

He’s too vicious to be boarded…I can’t even get him out of the crate. 

My heart sank, my mind reeled, as my friend continued:

I know this guy is a good one, so I will not give up on him, she shared. I stared hard at the image sent my way, the one at the front of this story. It was not at all what I’d expected.

Are you SURE you’re okay? PLEASE be careful….he looks quite upset.

I could hear the words of my former husband, always concerned with liability and cautious for all things legal: What kind of trouble did you create in asking your friend to take on a dog no one wants to get near?

And yet, I held on to a thread of hope for the magic carpet ride we were envisioning would get this dog to safe haven in Canada, even if in the moment it were rapidly unraveling. It was my friend Tammy, however, who really opened her heart and was willing to hang in there on behalf of this justifiably aggrieved, gorgeous and imperiled dog:

I know he is saddened, that this is where his anger is coming from, she shared further. I’m going to just sit with him next to this crate for now.

I took a deep breath. Dusk arrived and the silhouetted ridge bordering our own valley came into sharp relief. Tammy’s own view in hills of California was taking a new shape:  She now had sole possession of an 87-pound young Husky/shepherd mix who had been as deprived of exercise for fear of aggression of training as he had energy to explode up a mountain and run like the wind. Charlie seemed genuinely, demonstrably, angryOn top of all the risk she’d exposed herself to and the heart to which she’d given to dogs, Tammy has the intensity of human-oriented obligations and demands in the way of a full family of her own to care for, four other dogs and a modest background where such efforts were concerned.

As Tammy sat by Charlie’s crate, listening to snarls and growls on the air-conditioned garage floor, she awaited the assistance of a professional trainer-friend that evening. And I sat by the telephone waiting to hear that all was going to be well, with all the guilt and fear for a rescue gone so terribly, unexpectedly, awry…


Stay tuned for Part 3 of Springing Charlie…

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