One fish, two fish, long-term fish, new fish

In my last post, I wrote about how people suck sometimes and that makes rescue suck sometimes. That’s all still true, in whatever sense personal experience can have a truth value, but I’m not writing about that this week. This week we hit a high note, and I’m going to hold that note like my name’s Mariah Carey.

Long-term dogs aren’t usually high points. Sure, the internet loves them; nothing will go viral faster than a picture of pitty next to a cardboard sign with the number of days he’s been in the shelter. For rescuers with dogs who don’t go viral, though, nothing will kill your rescue buzz faster than imagining all the perfectly adoptable dogs getting euthanized in overcrowded shelters because you’re not pulling them because you’re holding on to one or two or three less-than-adoptable dogs.

Pumpkin was one such dog. Pumpkin’s issues weren’t really “issues;” she just had a lot of … enthusiasm. Like, a lot. She was adorable, with her pretty peachy patches and happy pitty grin, but she had the energy of a squirrel on coke. It’s not that you couldn’t wear her out, but it took a lot more than a casual game of fetch or a jaunt around the block.

When I joined the rescue, Pumpkin’s foster mom was the rescue president. Our president almost always ends up with the long-term dogs, usually because they’re long-term for a reason; they have issues nobody else wants to (or, sometimes, can) deal with. That means a lot of management to keep everybody safe, which means not every dog can be loose in the house or the yard whenever they want.

When the prez took a much-needed but miniature vacation last year, I offered to watch Pumpkin. I knew she had a lot of energy, but I figured I could survive anything for four days. I hoped that she and Nelson would be best friends, I could have a running buddy, and then maybe we could foster her full-time. Could be great, right?

Matt was away on business the evening I picked her up. When I let her loose in the yard, she didn’t come out of a dead sprint for ten minutes. When she finally did, she trotted around a little and then sprinted some more. As I watched her dash around like the Tasmanian Devil on Red Bull, tongue lolling out, grass kicking up behind her, my only thought was Matt’s going to kill me.

Matt didn’t kill me. In fact, he was so laid-back about the whole thing I wondered if he had gone into some kind of survival mode, except in a really zen, hakuna matata kind of way. Nelson was definitely not a fan of her, but we got into a routine; I took her for a two-mile walk every morning and evening, she had playtime in the yard during the day, and she snuggled with me at night. She mellowed out quite a bit just in those four days, and I still wonder if Nelson would’ve adjusted had I given them some more time. I didn’t, though; she went back to her foster mom and waited for another year.

Until about three weeks ago, when one of our newer volunteers decided to foster her. I’m not going to name names because this awesome human being knows who she is, but she’s been a breath of fresh air since her orientation. Her taking Pumpkin not only gave the president some breathing room, but gave Pumpkin the chance to put her best foot forward. She took her walking, hiking, swimming and driving, she bought her cute little “adopt me,” accessories, and she turned Pumpkin’s once-languishing Facebook page into an adorable diary of her adventures. The likes and shares started to pop up more and more often, and then, finally, an application. A good one. No, two good ones. There’s no twist ending here; Pumpkin, after waiting almost her entire life, got adopted.

I was so happy I got that tight, squeezy feeling in my chest and made a bunch of assorted squeaking noises, so I can only imagine how excited both her former foster moms — or even just the volunteers who were part of the rescue when she was admitted — were. Every adoption is worth celebrating, of course, and I’ve celebrated the adoptions of every one of my actual fosters, but there was so much more relief associated with Pumpkin’s. Any dog can get adopted, in theory, but this took the adoption of a long-term dog out of the realm of possibility and made it solidly attainable. It would happen, if we tried hard enough.

One of the best parts about it, strangely, was that I didn’t have to do a damn thing. I know that makes me sounds like a lazy asshole, but hear me out. I’m solidly type A. Usually, if I want something done a certain way, I do it myself. When I was still in school, I was the person who commandeered group projects if I wanted them to not suck. I think the rest of the active people in the rescue might describe themselves similarly, because I know these women have inhuman workloads and they just get stuff done. At this point, it could be less of a personality thing and more of a necessity thing, but nonetheless I think it knocked us on our asses a little bit (in the best way possible) to see a new volunteer commit to a challenging dog and do whatever it took to get her adopted. When I say I didn’t have to do a damn thing, I mean it; the board members helped out with home visits and miscellaneous adoption items and general support, I did zilch, and Pumpkin’s foster mom took the reins and drove that dog straight to her new family.

Now, maybe this wonderful person would say it wasn’t that hard, or it was fun most of the time anyway, or anyone could do it, but the point is that she did it. She took it off our plates or out of our hands or off our shoulders or wherever it was, and she did the business. If you’re thinking, “Well yeah, Carly, that’s what volunteers do,” try actually volunteering with an organization and then get back to me with your thoughts. You might be surprised to find it’s not quite as simple as that.

The point is, I’m so incredibly grateful for this person. I’m grateful for everyone who’s active in the rescue, but I think the long-time volunteers would agree that sometimes, watching someone new jump in with both feet feels better than scraping through just one more thing yourself. It doesn’t always have to be as big as getting a long-term dog adopted, but damn, I’m certainly not going to complain when it is.

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