In the autumn of 2004, I arrived at a shelter and noticed a very sad looking white female German Shepherd laying at the back of a run, underweight with the fur above her hips shaved off and some of her bones showing through. The sign on the kennel door said “Not for Adoption.” At the time not knowing much about how shelters worked, I assumed someone had either come to adopt her or the owner had claimed her and would be arriving shortly. While waiting, I struck up a conversation with one of the shelter workers and I was saddened to find out the reason the she was, “Not for Adoption.”
The dog was found roaming the streets six days earlier and had been picked up by the police. She was limping and her fur had been shaved off the back so they assumed that a car hit her. Shelters in New Jersey are required by the state to hold stray dogs for seven days, after which they can be put down. The shelter was full to capacity and since she was obviously an older dog with little hope of being rescued, they were going to euthanize her the next day. Unfortunately, that is the fate of many older dogs. Dogs that have spent their best days faithfully being a companion, a friend, a protector; to sadly be abandoned or dropped off to spend their last days alone in an unfamiliar and unsettling environment.
Having had a white German Shepherd as a child, I felt a bond to this dog. I told the shelter that my wife and I would return the next day to adopt her, with the expectation that we would bring her to our vet, with the hopes that at least we could figure out if she could have a good six months with us. The vet found no evidence of an accident, just fleas, arthritis, and the beginnings of degenerative myoleopthy. I originally wanted to name her “Phoenix”, the whole “rise from the ashes” motif, but the name “Sedona” matched her personality so much better. Sedona defied all expectations, living with us for another 2 years and 7 months. Sedona was a gentle dog, with a determined spirit who never gave up. Sedona is the inspiration for our mission.
We all love puppies; they are cute and give us the opportunity to spend their whole life with us. But unfortunately, shelters and rescues are rarely filled with puppies. They are filled with adult dogs that for many reasons have been surrendered or left to run the streets by their “family”. And these older dogs, while they may be with us for a shorter length of time, provide us with incredible blessing. They will bond to their owners quickly and they inherently know they are getting a second chance. There is no greater joy in rescue than being able to pull an older dog and find them a forever home. They teach us compassion, they teach us hope, and saving them helps us to believe to never give up. Next time you or someone you know is looking for companion, think of Sedona and all the wonderful adult and “senior” dogs that still have a lot of life and love to give. These dogs are ever faithful, waiting for us.