MARNA’S DOG TALES
To Be Published in the Oct/Nov Issue
Saving Elizabeth I
used to think the saddest, loneliest sound of all was a toss up between a train whistle blowing far off in the distance and
the cry of a loon on the lake at sunset. But that was before I met Elizabeth...
Elizabeth crashed into me, literally and figuratively,
at the tail-end of summer. She would be our 83rd beagle saved since Big On Beagles Rescue (BOB)
became official in 2001. But the beagle who started it all, the inspiration behind my life’s work, was Darwin. He was my
introduction to the rescue world. Initiation is probably the better terminology. I was young, naïve and thrilled to foster
anything with 4 legs and a tail. Apparently, the little scallywag had been returned by not one but two foster homes for the
Etobicoke Humane Society and I had anxiously applied to be his next victim.
They say you always keep your first
foster and, despite the fact that Darwin was my first, I did. I adopted the Baddest Beagle in the Universe and loved
him madly until the day he stopped doing bad things when I lost him to cancer at 15 years old. That was about a month before
Elizabeth crashed into me and my inconsolable heart. It’s always rush hour on the internet highway for rescue groups like ours.
Urgent e-blasts of dogs at risk in shelters everywhere light up our computer screens practically on a daily basis. We slam
on the brakes whenever we can. But when it came to Elizabeth, it was more like a head-on collision. Reading the caption below
her picture was the point of impact for me. It was short and not the least bit sweet: 16 yrs old, blind, surrendered by owner
due to move. I shook my head for the billionth time since starting BOB. Of course, no matter how hard I shake the old noggin,
I can never clear up the confusion enough to make sense of things like this. So instead, I try to focus on the saving and
forget about the reason why the saving ever became necessary.
First step – inquire of the sender. One problem - Elizabeth wasn’t exactly a part
of the urgent message I received. She wasn’t on the list of casualties about to happen at this overcrowded, yet heart-filled
animal shelter in New York City. In fact, there were no beagles on the list and rescuing beagles is what we do. So what did
I do for no apparent reason? I searched the shelter’s actual web site for any beagles in dire straits and stumbled across
Elizabeth. Not that we needed any more beagles to save at the time, especially from across the border which obviously is more
challenging than rescuing locally. Our foster homes were full…with one exception. I could squeeze in another at my
own beagle-doused house…if my heart was willing and the situation was truly urgent.
My heart was definitely willing no
matter how much it was hurting. As for Elizabeth’s situation, you bet your beagle’s howl it was urgent! She just
got missed in the e-blast, that’s all. There was no hope in finding an adopter through the shelter for such an ancient
dog. Finding a private rescue to scoop her up and save the day was her only chance. So the next step was deciding whether
saving Elizabeth was the right thing to do – for Elizabeth. Painful as it is for us to admit, we humans are typically much bigger babies
than the average dog when the going gets tough. For instance, a dog can undergo major surgery and wonder why the heck Mom
won’t let him run the marathon the next day. We, on the other hand, will wallow in self-pity post-op while being waited
on hand and foot for weeks.
Still, Elizabeth’s case was different. Accepting a new life in an unfamiliar world, sightless
and sixteen, was a whole lot to expect from her. But there’s one thing we often make an effort at having in common with
dogs and that’s enthusiasm. Humans are enthusiastic about sad stories having happy endings. The average dog is enthusiastic
about, let’s face it, everything. As it turned out, enthusiasm over saving Elizabeth spread far and wide. The shelter staff went
beyond the call of duty to help us achieve her happy ending. She was examined by the shelter’s vet to rule out serious
illness and any physical pain she might be suffering that would make travel unbearable. She was fully vaccinated, heartworm
tested and found negative, de-wormed, and even micro-chipped. Aside from a mouthful of rotting teeth, Elizabeth was in fine
health with no outward signs of discomfort.
But what about her heart, I wondered? Was it as broken as mine since losing
Darwin and, if so, could it be repaired? Its human nature to want to come to the rescue, so I did what came naturally. With the enthusiastic
help of some other rescuers by nature, I saved the damsel from New York City. But this kind of saving is nothing like the
fairytales. There’s no carrying off said damsel into the sunset to live happily ever after. Saving doesn’t happen
in an instant. It’s a process, with happiness being the goal we hope dogs like Elizabeth can eventually achieve, one
tentative pawstep at a time. Elizabeth arrived at my door on the
evening of August 30th, the night I changed my mind about what makes the saddest, loneliest sound in all the world.
Sitting nervously on a bed of blankets in an unseen place far from all she’d ever known, Elizabeth pointed her nose
up to an imaginary moon and cried. Beagles howl. I of all people should know that. It’s music to my ears. This was entirely
different. This was soul-crushing. A week later, I sat down and wrote this article.
I haven’t heard the saddest,
loneliest sound in the world for at least 3 days! Mind you, it’s probably a bit too soon to crack open the champagne
considering Elizabeth’s dental surgery is scheduled the day after tomorrow. But something tells me if the soulful cry
returns, it won’t last long. There are far too many heavenly signs that have me believing Elizabeth and I are headed
in the right direction. She’s kissed me more than once, sending my heart into orbit. She bumps into me all the time, but
it doesn’t startle her anymore.
Best of all, she’s got a growing list of favourite things that currently includes sniffing
expeditions along the boardwalk, dipping her paws into the cool lake when it’s not too wavy, devouring one of the most
expensive foods on the market each day, sleeping on top of no less than three layers of dog beds, and perking her ears to
the sound of my daily singing. Not that she likes my singing. That would be impossible. I know I can’t speak for Elizabeth.
Even if I am convinced she’s being transformed into a storybook princess too happy to ever cry. But I do know one thing
for certain. While going about the business of saving Elizabeth, this 16 year old blind beagle from New York City managed
to save me.
Elizabeth is a 16 year
old beagle headed for happiness at BIG ON BEAGLES RESCUE (B.O.B) (www.bigonbeagles.ca) one cautiously placed paw at a time. Enormous thanks go out to the following fellow saviours of Miss Elizabeth: Vicky Castronovo,
shelter liaison and Bed & Breakfast hostess to our little traveler, the Animal Care & Control of New York City - Brooklyn
Center for saving Elizabeth first, Tara Bruno of Boston Terrier/Pug Rescue in New Jersey for springing her on our behalf,
Dora Sesler of Project Pet Rescue (www.projectpetrescue.com) for not only coordinating Elizabeth’s transport but for driving the last leg straight to my door, and finally, to
Elizabeth herself for saving my aching heart.