I’m already in tears after just writing the title of this blog post. How I’m going to get through it, I’m not sure. I sit here, surrounded by my dogs, tears running down my face. Sadly, I had to say goodbye to my sweet Journey earlier this week. He had been dealing with some health stuff for a while and it was clear that it was his time. Those that know his story know that he is afraid of everyone but me so putting him through more tests after a year of trying different things seemed to only benefit me not wanting to lose him. It was his time and I’m heart-broken.
The fours years he spent with me doesn’t seem like enough after the years of abuse he was subjected to. I keep vividly remembering the broken dog I met four years ago in a sad county shelter. A shelter that doesn’t ever get dogs out of their kennels for bathroom breaks. They hose off the kennels with the dogs in their runs. Once the dogs enter this shelter, they never see the outside world again unless they’re adopted.
I went to this shelter every Sunday for months along with some of my rescue friends to walk the dogs, vaccinate them, give them a name, take pictures and try desperately to find them homes.
It was my first Sunday going to this shelter and I believe I was meant to be there that day. Journey and his friend Tristan (at the time they were just dogs #151 & #152) were frozen in the back of their kennels. They wanted no part of the love we were trying to share with them.
My dear friend Carolyn, the Phodographer was there (phodographer.com) to use her talent to capture the emotion of the day and try to get these dogs adopted. With great effort, I was able to get Journey out of his kennel but that was as far as he would go. I just sat with him in front of his kennel, scratching his ears while Carolyn snapped some photos.
I took the above picture and posted in on Facebook, hoping to find someone who could give Journey a home. The dog warden at the shelter planned to put him down because he was deemed not adoptable. A term I’ve grown to dislike very much in the rescue work I do. I have been working in the pet care industry for eight years and fostering dogs for over four years. Saving dogs is who I am. It’s what I love. Some people have the view that there are so many healthy dogs in shelters, why spend money on the sick and broken ones. I think the broken ones deserve a chance too. Often times, those healthy dogs aren’t available to rescues, but I won’t try to explain how the rescue world works now.
I will say that this dog, the sad dog sitting in the back of his kennel, deserved love and rescue more than any dog I’ve ever met. So did his buddy Tristan whom a friend of mine fostered and adopted.
These dogs were subjected to terrible abuse. The kind of abuse that so many could never wrap their heads around. Most dogs that are scared in shelters snap out of it as soon as you get them out, or soon after. Some broken dogs emotionally heal after a short time. Tristan and Journey’s emotional wounds were deep. I can’t imagine what they must have gone through on a daily basis to be the terrified dogs we met at the shelter that day.
After no one offered to help with Journey, I knew I had to. It took months for Journey to even look at me. After a trip to the vet we found out he had two dislocated hips and buck shot pellets in his abdomen. He had surgery on both of his hips and some swim therapy to strengthen his legs.
Here he is with his friend Sandy at K9 Waves (K9waves.avmp.com)
Even though these dogs were so horribly abused, they didn’t have an aggressive bone in their bodies. Journey was a teddy bear. A terrified, broken teddy bear.
There aren’t words to describe the look in Journey and Tristan’s eyes when something would scare them. Lori, my friend who adopted Tristan did the same thing I did while rehabilitating Journey. We took it slow with them, talked to them, read to them, sung to them. We didn’t push them to do more than they were ready for. Slowly they started opening up to love, but only to us. Journey really only trusted me and my mom who watches him when I’m out of town, but he was still guarded in his trust of my mom.
Watching him open up to me was amazing. He wouldn’t look at me at first. Trust took months. I was cooking in the kitchen one day and I felt his cold nose touch the back of my leg. I didn’t move, I slowly looked back at him and he moved away. I turned back to cooking and he sniffed me again. Insignificant to some, major in his ability to start to come close to me.
He started opening up slowly. Eventually he started to howl when I first saw me in the morning. I cried the first time I heard it. He had learned to enjoy a humans company. He started stealing my clothes off of the bathroom floor while I was in the shower. He would take them back to his bed to curl up with.
I started fostering puppies which he adored. It really helped him to open up and start playing.
Journey with foster puppy Elton. He adored puppies.
His best friend was my pyrenees/lab mix Vita
I could sit here and type out his whole story but what you need to know is he suffered the worst kind of abuse. Someone took pleasure in hurting him and Tristan. Small things could send them into a panic. What you really need to know is that they learned to love and trust again. Any life is deserving of a chance. All dogs who are dumped in shelters deserve better, but I will forever be drawn to the ones like Journey, who need extra love.
I am heart-broken and missing him like crazy. I miss his high pitched screech that he made every time I came home and every morning when I woke up. I heard it as soon as I shut my car door when I came home. I am so sad to not hear it when I come home now. As my mom said to me yesterday, “You knew how much he loved you by that scream. He couldn’t wait to see you EVERY DAY!”
If you have read my blog in the past, you know I’m likely to never have kids. I ‘m ok with that. I tell my mom often that I prefer dogs to kids. My dogs are my world. When my body is hating me because of my brain condition, I have my dogs to curl up with. When I had a miscarriage and everyone went back to their normal lives after being there for me, my dogs snuggled with me and let me cry. They’re my world. My mom is the only real family that I have. My dogs are a bit more spoiled than most. They have their own dog room that I am in search of toddler beds for. I joke that I’ll be single forever. Just my dogs and their race car and fire engine toddler beds! Kidding!
Journey was more than a great rescue story. He was a testament to what a little love can do. People want to say “someone do something” but how many rarely get up and do it. I will keep saving dogs, for Journey. I miss his big bulldog head, his wonky ears.
I can’t control a lot in my life. I can’t control my headaches and all the ridiculous things my body throws my way. What I can make sure of is that the lessons Journey taught me will fuel me to keep saving dogs. To advocate for dogs like him and Tristan. I’ll remember the things that are important in life.
I miss you like crazy J. I wish I could have given you more years of love than the abuse you lived through. The four years you spent with me don’t seem like enough.
Thank you to Shannon Debra and Shera Keeton with Recycled Doggies for pulling Journey from that shelter. Thank you Carolyn Evans for being there on that fateful day to capture the emotion and energy with your pictures. Thank you Lori Hiltenbeitel for saving Tristan. Thank you to the rescue world that saves dogs like Journey and Tristan every day. Thank you Sandra Hodges for the water rehab you gave to Journey.
Journey was loved and I was honored to be loved back by him.