Dog Day in the Life of...
...The Dog Rescuer
by Marcia Livingston
Editor, Charleston Doggy Town
I was asked to write about "A Day in the Life as a Golden Retriever Rescue Volunteer."
You might think that I have a teflon core after working as an ER/Trauma nurse for decades. I have seen human scalpings, gunshot- riddled bodies, burned children. That job could be agonizing. But it is nothing like being a volunteer for Grateful Goldens Rescue of the Low Country (GGRLC). In so many ways this is more difficult, but like being a trauma nurse, can be incredibly rewarding as well.
Take yesterday, for example. At 7 AM, after feeding my two adoptees and one foster at my James Island home, the phone calls began. I have two missions: to pick up a recently rescued Golden and to interview a prospective couple on Seabrook looking to adopt one.
So, before I make my trek to do a home visit with the potential adopters, I pick up Omaha. Recently surrendered by his family, Omaha is a 5-year old Golden currently being fostered in Mount Pleasant. To my shock and horror, this dog is in awful shape. He is terribly malnourished, at least 40-pounds underweight. And he has infections in his ears, mouth and eyes. He is unneutered and unvaccinated as well. He was turned in by a family who could no longer afford to keep him, and it looks like they stopped caring about him quite a while ago.
With devoted care Omaha should weigh about 90 pounds. Until he gains weight, he cannot be neutered. He is nervous, confused, pretty raggedy looking, but sweet and gentle. He wants to please so badly, as soon as figures out what you want. He wins my respect and my heart, but he is so frightened, he is rather unaware of me at all.
On the hour-long trip to Seabrook, Omaha is quiet. At traffic stops I can barely look at him, lest I burst into tears at his condition. Who could maltreat such an animal? What were they thinking? Or not thinking? I know times are hard, but dammit, there is help out here! Don’t starve your dog!
In retrospect, it seems silly that we thought the Seabrook family would FWI (Foster with Intent to adopt) such a dog since they requested a small Golden or Golden mix. But hope is eternal in us volunteers.
Ah, not to be. Sadly, Omaha was too much for them to handle. That’s OK. Another Golden is out there for them.
So, Omaha and I drive again and he patiently trusts me— a total stranger— to do the right thing for him. I am looking deep into this pathetic dog’s soulful brown eyes, wanting so badly to take him home with me and love him back to health. But my big Golden male hates unneutered males and that would be a disaster.
By cell, the other volunteer and I arrange to meet again. She will foster Omaha until we find him a home, even though she already has four fosters. Omaha docilely transfers himself from my car to hers, head down, resigned to his fate.
By late afternoon, I am back at home and on-line discussing with other GGRLC volunteers in Florence, Mount Pleasant and coastal Georgia the placement of several other Goldens.
Does that one like cats? Kids? Other dogs? Can the potential foster parent/adopter handle a sick dog? A big dog? A dog that needs to run? A dog who has never been on a leash? A dog who is undergoing heartworm treatment? How can people do this to a dog? Or not do? But we thank them for turning the dog in to us in lieu of having the animal euthanized or placed in a shelter for future death.
At 6 PM, after feeding my two adoptees and one foster, the phone calls begin again. I speak with more volunteers as we discuss the amazing rewards and horrors of being a volunteer. Ups and downs.
I fall into bed at midnight. I am exhausted. And as I hear the gentle snoring of Lady, Chase and Izzy, I think still of Omaha. What is his fate?
Note: for a listing of Lowcountry rescue organizations: click here.