Yesterday morning, I took one of our shelter dogs for an extended walk in the woods behind the shelter facility. We usually walk our dogs along a driveway that leads to the shelter gate and along the property line. This time, I decided to go deeper into the woods with Fred.
It's actually our first time to walk together. The area behind the shelter is a favorite for off roaders because the trail is rough and undulating. In the warm months, the vegetation is dense and you cannot see more than 50 feet ahead. It shouldn't be a surprise if you encountered a deer, but it's the stray bear that could ruin your day. But it's winter and I trust that the bears are asleep and not on the prowl around the area.
Walking with Fred, a homeless dog like all others at the shelter, was like walking with a friend. He picked his way among the snow-covered leaves and ice-clogged ruts of the trail as I did. Fred looked back periodically, checking on me, seeing if I was alright or able to keep up. That was very nice of him, my sentient animal friend, a loving being without a loving family. We were the only ones out there, amidst slabs of basalt rock and boulders strewn all over the place when the Earth was formed, surrounded by bare trees standing still, playing dead, waiting for March. With the leaves gone from the trees, I could see farther and get a better idea of our remoteness. Our footsteps made the only sounds, spooky but I loved the privacy. It was as if all the animals in the woods had taken the day off. I took Fred to the stream but it didn't interest him too much. The water felt ice-cold; it was clear, clean, and from melted snow.
We could have stayed there for a couple of hours, but my colleagues at the shelter might send out a search party for us. When we got back to the shelter, I took Fred to the enclosed yard behind the main building and let him loose. He ran and barked at passing dogs, inviting them to play from behind a fence. The sweet dog that he is, Fred would run to where I was seated and nudge me with his head. And off again he went to check out the multitude of scents in the yard. I thought, what a pity that Fred spends many hours in a kennel. The time I spend comfortably at home, Fred spends it pent up in his kennel. A small bed, some stuffed toys, food and water bowls, those are his companions. When we close our doors at 4pm on Sundays, a dog like Fred wouldn't interact with a human again until 9am the next day. They will be fed and walked in the morning, and then several hours of solitude again until the afternoon crew comes in. A shelter is not a home.
A good dog like Fred, and there are many like him, deserve a loving home. Rest assured, we do our best at the shelter and we have found loving homes for many of our dogs and cats. I think that someone is already interested in adopting Fred; there was a yellow tag on his kennel door. If I don't find him at the shelter by next Sunday, then I know he's made his escape. All the best to you, my friend.
Bloomingdale Animal Shelter Society
UPDATE: Fred adopted February 09