I guess it is often with tears that we find ourselves at the keyboard of our computer in the middle of the night. I have been wanting to start a blog for awhile to chronicle the world of fostering that I entered into about a year and a half ago. This was spurred on by an all black German Shepherd facing her last few hours, who was scheduled at the shelter to be euthanized. Her story though, this black shepherd, is one that melts and warms my heart, and heart melting, often, can be pushed aside to more convenient times. I will write her later. This story I need to write tonight is one that is breaking my heart, leaving me shattered in front of this screen, and, wondering how am I going to do this? Please keyboard help me. How do I write Saige’s story and capture her into words? And, how, HOW, do I let her go?
The beautiful girl sitting in the photo (below) is on this chair at her veterinary appointment today. This sweet dog was originally posted on Facebook in the Fall of 2013, as soon to be dumped into the “pound” because her “family” was moving. In the FB photo I saw of her, this dog’s harried gaze sunk deep into my soul and I searched high and low for anyone who would be interested in taking her. There were no replies of interest, no “likes” and certainly no “shares” in my pleas. I was entirely new to the world of “rescue” and only knew that this dog HAD to not end up in a shelter. And, there HAD to be something we could do, something other than turn away.
After much cajoling, negotiating, and tears, my daughter and I convinced my husband that we needed to go see her. “But we already have two dogs, we can’t have another” he rationalized. I kept saying, if nothing else, let’s keep her from entering the overcrowded and bleak shelter system, and, be her home for now until we find a great one permanently. That Saturday we drove an hour inland to meet her. We went to lunch nearby her “home” to pass time as the “owners” were late. Finally, they were there and with anticipation, the three of us walked up the front steps of the house. We were ushered quickly through a spacious and bright living area with a little dog lulling in the arms of a bored teen, and into a different realm, into a dirty and dark yard of mostly concrete. There she was. Tail curled under, two times bigger than I imagined, the large dusty dog was terrified. She was pacing with nerves and anxiety. She would not look at my husband and barely passed by myself and daughter, avoiding us by altering her route. I saw her flinching and ducking when we walked towards her, and, I asked the owner to level with us, what was the true story here? The “owner” proceeded to say “well my ‘soon to be ex’ has taken a lot of his problems out on the dogs and they got hit and kicked”. It was my turn to flinch. What? Dogs? Yes. The other died of arthritis. Oh. No. Not the truth. And, this dog had been alone, day and night, outside, no protection. No companion to shoulder the weight of this life. The owner also proceeded to state that the only way she “felt better” about the dog’s situation was to “pour a lot of food on the ground for her to eat”. Well that explained doggie love handles I saw on the constantly moving dog. Then in passing she stated that some kids had also tied fireworks to her, and, “other stuff has happened- thats why he’s my ex”. By this point I wanted Sally or Sadie (she didn’t even have an agreed upon name, though regardless she wouldn’t know it based on her neglect) to leave asap with us and be far away from them as possible. No one in the home wanted to say goodbye, they were “busy”. Symbolic of her life there as meaningless.
The rest is a blur of fur, Sadie/Sally had no idea what a leash was, then wanted to bolt, and had no intentions of getting into the car. And, once she was in, it was evident that she had not been bathed. Ever. In her five years of miserable existence. This sweet poor dog, I kept thinking (along with explicatives and the sting of tears in my eyes). But, at that moment, mad was not what this dog needed so my daughter and I directed our energy towards the being sitting in between us in the back seat. Perhaps lulled by our calmness, singing radio ballads, or finally being still, the dog couldn’t help her interest in us, and we found she was already giving us shy kisses. My daughter and I were falling for her, and, we decided she needed a new name. Saige it became (similar to what she maybe knew as Sadie or Sally, but different and beautiful, like her). In time though, it morphed (like most doggie names do) to a non planned (and goofy) term of endearment, “Poopie” and a half dozen other ridiculous nicknames.
Anyhow, during the drive to our home, Saige would not look at my husband. But, he kept talking to her softly and by the time we got home she sniffed his t-shirt sleeve. The love story began.
Over the last four years we have all been a part of Saige’s healing (and, she has performed her own healing on us). However, there has been something majestic about Manuel’s ability to bring Saige to a place of peace and trust, as well as joy. His gentleness and understanding of what she has needed has been the salve to those painful moments in her past at the hands, belts, and feet of another man and kids. In return, Saige has become the best dog ever, loyal to us, and him especially.
What has been really unique about Saige extends beyond her ability to win the hearts of our family and pack. Saige has also been the welcomer of the five foster dogs of different breeds, sizes, and ages, that we had this last year. It’s almost as if Saige understood how each felt as they found their paws on new floors, fur being massaged in warm baths, noses sniffing new blades of grass, and bodies relaxing into new laps. Saige has communicated “don’t be afraid, you are safe here, follow me!” as she walked them around the home, played with them, and even let one puppy sleep on her. Saige also began to participate in temperament testing with more “difficult” or less socialized dogs in rescue and has pack walked with those not able to mix with other dogs.
There is so much to say, this is my first post, in my first blog….I could go on and on. But I will close for now with this, Saige is an angel. We are so lucky. These years with her, they are gold. We witnessed miracles and graces with her, and with those she helped. We got to see her progress…sometimes in leaps and bounds, other times in steps forward then quickly back….all with bravery and gentleness. All showing us change is possible. Forgiveness is within reach. Redemption can come at any point.
A month ago we learned Saige has lymphoma. She has done well on steroids to help her last weeks be more comfortable….but, we know we are saying “goodbye” and how, tell me how, do you say goodbye to your soul, to your sunshine, to one of the best parts of your life?