Tuesday, February 21, 2012

“The Love of a Forever Family” (By Catherine Mann)

Puppy love is universal! Every time I foster puppies for my local Humane Society, I lose a piece of my heart all over again. But to be truthful, I lose a much larger part of my heart to the adult shelter dogs who have a tougher time finding a new home.

American poet Joaquin Miller once wrote, “The biggest dog has been a pup.”

When I walk through my local shelter, my eye is drawn to the older overlooked dogs who were once cute puppies too. Back in December, one dog in particular caught my eye and tugged at my heart. His name is Big Daddy, a gray muzzled beagle. He’d been brought in with a female beagle who was pregnant and ready to deliver.

I’m a realist. I knew what my role would be as a shelter foster mom. Big Daddy needed to stay at the shelter so he had a better chance at being adopted. Mama Dog needed to come with me to finish delivering her litter in a home environment.

Mama Dog had four beautiful puppies four days before Christmas.



We named her Noelle and named her puppies after reindeer. I delighted in them all – how could I not?! – but I kept checking in at the shelter regularly, praying that older dog Big Daddy had been adopted. Luckily for Mama Noelle – only 2 years old – she already had a wonderful family to go to as soon as her puppies finished weaning.

January faded into February and still Big Daddy stayed in adoptions at the shelter. Waiting in a kennel run. I started second guessing myself. Should I have brought him home too even though I have three dogs of my own in addition to the foster mama and four puppies?

Finally the time arrived for the puppies to get a second round of vaccinations in preparation of going up for adoption and Mama Noelle going to her new home. I took the puppies and Mama to the shelter clinic, my heart heavy as I thought about saying goodbye to them all.

We walked inside- and there was none other than BIG DADDY! He had just been neutered and was waking up. He’d been adopted and was on his way to his forever family!



Mama Noelle remembered him. She ignored all the other dogs in the clinic and greeted her old friend. The shelter vet joked that she laughing and whispering in Big Daddy’s ear how he wouldn’t be able to knock her up again.

She may have been doing just that. But I knew she was also saying goodbye and good luck.

How cyclical that they would all be together just then. And what were the odds of us being there at exactly the right window of time? Especially since I’d had to cancel appointments at the clinic the two days prior.

No more second guessing. We were exactly where we were supposed to be. All had played out to a heart tugging, perfect conclusion. I got tears in my eyes knowing this whole little family that had been homeless at Christmas would now each know the love of a forever home of their own.



I lost a big piece of my heart to that beagle family. And I’m so very, very grateful to have been a part of their Christmas miracle that turned into a lifetime of Valentine’s family love.
***
Pets are a beloved part of our family. Did you have a treasured pet as a child? One commenter will be chosen at random to win an autographed copy of my December book HOT ZONE and my March book PROTECTOR. Winner will be announced on Saturday, Feb. 25.
***
USA Today Catherine Mann writes military romantic suspense for Sourcebooks and Berkley, as well as steamy romances for Harlequin Desire. A RITA Award winner, she has over forty books on the shelves, in more than twenty languages. She has a packed release schedule this spring with PROTECTOR (March), HONORABLE INTENTIONS (April), UNDER FIRE (May), and "Dog Tags" in LOVE BITES (June). FMI on her upcoming books, check out her website.

42 comments:

  1. Growing up on a farm, we had a lot of cats. But there was one cat in particular that has stayed in my mind most of my life. Her name was Tiger (not because of her coloring but because she was a great hunter). Dad even liked her becasue she stayed in the barn the majoriity of the time. When she weaned her kittens though she always brought them to the house to leave them with us and go back to the barn. I spent a lot of time in the barn, working, playing and my favorite past time reading in the loft. Tiger would join me most of the time and occassionally would bring me her kill (pigeons, mice, rabbits) :O, since then I have had other cats that are special to me but she was my first and most special cat.

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  2. We had two dogs in our life as a family. My oldest brother received the very first pup of family friends, and he named her Lady, but one day she just disappeared. Not sure what happened. Then my second youngest brother got a dog for passing school and we named her Princess, but she had a habit of getting out of the yard and one day she followed Peter and instead of taking her back home, he told her just to go home, and she was hit by a car. It was a terrible day for our family. My dad, who could have not shed a tear, after all she ate his false teeth, was upset.. After that we did not get another dog. But my oldest brother did and he had to put Tanner down last summer, it just about did him in.
    We again we all upset, Tanner was a part of the family after all.

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  3. Linda, your Tiger sounds like my Cooper! He's a fearless cat - 18 pound orange tabby. We adore him! We would have more cats, but he doesn't like other cats, only dogs, lol!

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  4. Kathleen, how sad to have lost family pets when you were a kid. That had to have been so tough for all of you. Thank goodness now we have microchipping so lost animals have a much better chance at making it back home again!!

    (And OMG I had to laugh over the dog eating your dad's false teeth!!)

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  5. Cathy, you write the most wonderful blogs!

    To answer your question, yes, we've always had dogs in our lives. From childhood to marriage (yes, my Lab stood next to me as I spoke my vows), dogs have played an important role. I cannot express how much these furry treasures make life better and the lengths we go to as we include them in our trips, camping, and events. Life is better with our fur babies!

    Hooyah & hugs! Anne

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  6. My childhood pet was a tricolored beagle named Sally. I think she was the second or third Sally, since that was 'the name' my dad preferred for his beagles. He wanted a hunting dog. My Sally had no clue what that was. So, she remained a pet with no particular job except to love and eat cornflakes. Nothing else. Just cornflakes.
    Because I was only 10 and didn't know that dogs were allowed 'in the house' Sally was confined to a doghouse in the yard. Occasionally she was let loose and those were the times I could hug her and get sweet beagle kisses.
    I composed a song about my Sally. It went, 'Sally Wally Wally Wally, (repeat) I love You' to the tune of a popular 1950's Frankie Avalon song. I can still sing it today, some 50 odd years later.
    One afternoon my dad came home from work and put Sally in a box. She had been in our basement for the night. My parents hadn't told me that she was terribly sick. They knew I would have been so upset. He took Sally to the vet and she was kindly put to sleep. She was in the horrible, incurable throes of distemper. During the night, she had lost her mind and frothed at the mouth and ran a terrible fever. Mom and Dad didn't want me to see my beloved girl like that. My Dad brought her home in the same box she had gone to the vet's in and he buried her in our backyard. The vet never charged my dad for the shot. He never admitted it, but I think my father cried. We had not given her any shots except rabies ... and, being so young, I didn't know any better.
    I cried and cried and was inconsolable. My brothers, younger than me, were sad as well. But, that was the first time my heart had ever been truly broken.
    I am sitting here typing this with tears again running down my face and Sally's Song going through my mind. I will never ever forget my first precious girl. I love her still.

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  7. So happy for Big Daddy!!! We had a german short haired pointer growing up named Gretchen. She was soooo sweet. I remember coming down one morning and seeing a little bundle in the kitchen. (my dad had surprised us)The thing I remember most about her was that she always wanted to sit in our laps which was so funny because she was a big dog!!!! Miss her she was the sweetest.

    Patti F
    pfleming913@comcast.net

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  8. Lovely story. Our first dog as a married couple was a rescued beagle named Lucy. She was our baby since we didn't have our family for another 15 years. As to a pet as a child, I too had a cat named Tiger. I had begged for so long that the surprise of a lifetime was a wild barn cat one Christmas. I had him for only 5 yrs. due to unfortunate circumstances (my one grandmother lived with us and didn't like cats and she took it on herself with my other grandparents to bring him back to a farm unbeknownst to me! My grandfather had left the trunk open a bit with string thinking it would help him breathe but he got out at some point in their trip. I never found this out until many years later. I had already been caring for ferals/strays so I think subconsciously I was doing for these poor animals what I hoped somone did for mine. I still can't believe they did that and they let me look and call for him that entire summer and always hoping for a chance he would return). Sorry for a sad story but I have lots of wonderful stories of other cats that I have saved :)

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  9. Anne, I love the image of your lab beside you as you said your marriage vows to your hubby! That's awesome!! I can't imagine my life without my furbabies. :)

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  10. Hey Cathy! *waving* What a lovely, heart-warming post. I'm so glad Big Daddy got his forever home.

    We've got a soft spot for black cats - all our rescued cats have been black or tuxedo - because they are often the last ones to be adopted. Worse so many people are cruel to black cats for silly superstitious reasons (which we find odd over here in England as we think of black cats as lucky!) or because they're supposed to be witches' cats!

    Our current two were adopted during our time in NJ. Jersey Girl is a beautiful tuxedo who was abused, then abandoned. She's still nervous and timid (unless you're another cat invading her territory!) - but compared to how she was when we adopted her, she's like a new cat!

    The other one CC, a tiny black cat with amber eyes, was also abandoned, but she made her own way to a shelter and helped herself to their food! Not much phases her - she's a little cat with a huge personality, who loves catching worms, rubber bands, twigs and anything that moves!

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  11. Donna, your post about Sally brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful, beautiful tribute to a dear friend. Sally deserves every tear.

    I'm sure your dad did cry... the only times I can remember the men in my life crying have been over the loss of a pet.... I can still see my burly Air Force pilot granddad as he stood over the grave of his cocker spaniel Sam (who'd been buried in my granddad's favorite tool box.) Sam liked to chew sap that seeped from the tree - my granddad pushed a piece of sap into the ground for Sam, big tears rolling down his face.

    I can see my dad smoothing the whiskers on his cat one last time. I can see my husband with his face buried in the scruff of our beagle Trooper's neck after Trooper passed....

    Well, Donna, now I'm really crying too.... but yes, those dear furry friends deserve to be remmebered!!

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  12. Patti, aren't the big dogs so cute when they don't know they're not lap dogs?! My sister's border collie is that way! (A lovable goof. :)

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  13. We had a wonderful orange stiped cat who was brave against dogs and taught them not to come into her territory. She was also the most playful and friendly feline ever to cross our threshold.

    little lamb lst at yahoo dot com

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  14. Cat, what a beautiful tribute to your childhood kitty that you would help other cats in need now. Thank you for all you do to help!!

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  15. Lil, I adore orange tabbies!!!!! Our Cooper is one of the coolest cats ever! ;)

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  16. My pet I remember the most would be my parakeet Goofy that my dad had given to me when I was a teenager. He was awesome! He was trained to come when you called him and would just sit and ride on my shoulder and he also knew how to whisper. Sadly, we had a house fire and he died from smoke inhalation. We now have our cat who we rescued, believe it or not, from our doctor. I went in for a quick appointment and there she was wandering around meowing her cute little head off and came right to me! He was taking her to the shelter that day because his kids wouldn't take care of her, so of course I had to save her and now we've had her for about 3 years. We also have our dog that we rescued that my sister-in-law got from a lady that was neglecting him in November. Poor baby, he's a Yorkie mix, but is all terier and is the best ever. He was under weight and had obviously never had a hair cut. It's like you said Catherine, we are at the right place at the right time when we are supose to be. I love my fubabies too and there is no replacing them!

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  17. Anna, what a great point you bring up about choosing the animals that are less adoptable because of a certain look - something that has nothing to do with their personalities. Just as older animals like Big Daddy get overlooked. Sounds like you have some well loved pets! Cool!

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  18. Hey there, CK! A parakeet! How cool!!! My oldest son always wanted to have birds but our cat is just too much of a hunter for that to work. =8-O

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  19. When I was about 9 we got a puppy that was supposed to be a beagle/cocker mix but as she grew she looked like someone took a Black Labrador and shrunk her to the size of a cocker spaniel. She was a wonderful friend to me. I had been dating my boyfriend for a few months and one day when he came over she ran out from behind the couch and tried to bite him. I think she was trying to tell me something!

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  20. I always had a dog as a child, Laddie was a collie and he went everywhere my twin brothers would go, he was the protector, on time my grandfather was wrestling with the twins and Laddie bit him on the ass, Laddie thought they were getting hurt...then I had Thumper an mix of collie and Irish setter,which Marty one of the twins left it for my care, so I started walking thumper 2 miles a day so I could lose alittle weight and he knew what 2 miles was, and my mom couldn't walk the whole 2 miles, and I was away...I wanted to take him with me but couldn't, anyways he sure was glad that I came back. I wanted to bring hm to my new home in Stuart but he got sick and died, another lost...both dogs hated fireworks, they died having heart attacks. I love fireworks but they are hard on dogs. Now my son has 2 new dogs from the shelter, I love them both but its still hard for me to get close and lovong but I'm getting better and taking them walking with me every morning.

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  21. We had a dog growing up. Don't know who came first him or me! I always remember him being there. It was terrible when we had to put him down. Then my parents though we should get another dog almost right away. By then my older siblings were off in college. So this new dog was more like mine. As soon as our own kids were old enough, my husband and I got a dog. He had grown up with them, too. A very important part of our lives have been our animals.

    pennsdog(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  22. Bookie, I get such a kick out of seeing what my foster dogs look like when they grow up.

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  23. Carole, thanks again to your son for choosing foster pets to adopt!!!

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  24. Sue P., I totally agree - pets are a part of our family. :)

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  25. I miss my kitties. I had two and both passed away when they were fourteen (fortunately a couple years apart). I had several cats growing up, but the most special cat I ever had was Suki. She was a good kitty friend, always following me around the house, sitting in a chair next to me when I worked or read. I was never lonely with her around.

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  26. Hats off to all who provide a foster home to all the orphan critters. You are very special people to give so much of your heart and your homes, to give these special animals the chance they deserve!

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  27. I want to adopt a puppy or dog one day, when I am able to provide with a loving and safe place. For now I'll stick to gushing ove my friends' furry creatures and the ones living within book pages. We had fishes that we believed brought us luck. There wasn't much action but we did have fun feeding them and decorating their water world.

    Your pups are so cute! A handful, literally :)

    Cambonified[at]yahoo[dot]com

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  28. Shana, I agree - pets do make for wonderful company while I'm writing!!

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  29. Sheri, it's truly a blessing to me to be a part of these special creatures' lives when they need someone most. :)

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  30. Na, kudos to you for being wise about the right time to add a pet to your fmaily!! And I totally agree, aquariums are gorgeous!!! Watching the fish swim around is so peacefull too. :)

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  31. Obviously you are a very special person. Make your work continue for years to come so that more puppies can become big dogs.
    Amelia

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  32. Loved, loved your post and the pictures...I just sent in a cowboy Christmas book and the rescued dog in it is named Noel! What a coincidence.
    Boots, our black and white cat, got tossed out at my sister's house and since she can't have cats...I inherited him. He rules the back yard.
    Chester, the gray striped feller, got tossed, literally against the tree in our front yard. Broke his shoulder and he's blind in one eye (don't know if that's the result of hitting the tree too hard or a preexisting condition). But he's my writing buddy. He's grown and only limps now when he wants attention. He lays beside the computer and helps me get through some really tough writing days by purring and "talking" to me.
    He and Boots are good buddies and take care of a whole multitude of invaders in our back yard!

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  33. They are so cute. I love beagles. We always had dogs growing up and they were fun and loyal and I would take them for walks. But I always wanted a cat as well and now that I am in an apartment thats what I have for my own pet. But someday I will get a dog again as soon as I have a yard for them to play in. In the meantime I have a cat that thinks hes a dog and is basically the size of a small one. Best of both worlds!

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  34. Hi Catherine,
    The dog show was in town last week all the dogs were so adorable. We never had any pets growing up and since then the only pets I've had are fish. No need to enter me in this giveaway.

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  35. Those puppies are ADORABLE! I would take a few home if I didn't already have a full house. We tried adopting a kitten last year, but my adult cat decided she was not going to tolerate him. It was not good! We had to find the kitten a new loving home. We will have to be content with the animals we have - just as mama cat wants it!

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  36. Thanks, Amelia! I think of myself as a very lucky person. :)

    Carolyn - Your cat Chester sounds like my dog Toby! We adopted him when he was 10 and he has this every now and again limp. He's a stinker!

    Donna - So glad you're enjoying your kitty cat!! We love our orange tabby!

    ::;waving::: Hi Jane! I wish we could have fish, but I fear my cat would go bananas to get to them. He's fierce!

    Amanda - Our cat is a one cat kind too. We've tried, but he just doesn't like other cats. I think dogs are more of the pack type.... or at least that's the way it is around here!

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  37. I enjoyed your story. We actually adopted an older dog years ago. She was very cute and friendly.

    bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  38. Hi Bn! Aren't senior dogs the best?! We adopted a senior beagle last fall - Toby. He was microchipped but his owners wouldn't return the shelter's calls. So now he lives with us and we adore him! Luckily, my other two dogs like him too. :)

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  39. What a wonderful post and heart warming story. Thanks for sharing this with us! As for childhood pets, I've only ever had a couple of goldfish, but I also did have some furry friends to play with because my cousins had a cute dog and bunny :)

    chibipooh(at)gmail(dot)com

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  40. I had a Pekinese Poodle named Tiny that I adored when I was a teenager. She was sweetest little dog.

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  41. My heart still mourns our beloved dog who had to be put to sleep more than two years ago but we have had many loving fur (and feathered) people over the years. My favorite cat when I was young was very cooperative about sneaking into the house through my bedroom window...of course I was busted when my folks finally saw a picture I had taken of him laying on my bed!

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  42. Congrats to Winnie, the winner of an autographed copy of my December book HOT ZONE and my March book PROTECTOR! (Winnie, I've sent you an e-mail with details on collecting your prizes. :)

    Thank you so much to everyone who commented!! I thoroughly enjoyed sharing pet stories with you!

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