Bay Reflections

 Vol. 10, No. 51

December 19-25, 2002

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A Home for the Holidays
by Steve Carr

On a cold December Sunday, a friend had come over to watch the Redskins game. At halftime, we walked outside to get some fresh air and take a look at the river.

As we stood at the edge of my cliff, watching a kingfisher patrol the shoreline, a black Lab bounded into the yard. No one in my community owns a black Lab, so I knew it did not belong to one of my neighbors.

As we turned to welcome the stranger, she dropped to her belly as if begging not to be hurt. When we tried to pet her, she fled. The dog was obviously lost and wanted our help, but she was afraid.

But the second half was starting, and the dog’s plight really wasn’t my problem, so my buddy and I went inside and watched the Redskins squeak out a win.

On Monday morning I awoke to the sound of barking. From my bedroom window, I saw the black Lab on the doorstep of my neighbor’s house, sniffing at the door and chasing her tail with nervous energy.

On Tuesday morning, the Lab was still there, waiting patiently by my neighbor’s door. She had also gotten into somebody’s trash can, and garbage was strewn all over. About then, I admitted that this poor Lab was indeed lost and had imprinted on my neighbor’s home.

A few minutes later, I heard what sounded like a knock on my front door. When I went to see who was there, I was greeted by the black lab, who instantly bolted away in fear. We played this scratch-and-run game for the remainder of the morning, and I was starting to lose patience.

The next time I heard scratching at the door, I opened it and the dog again retreated for cover. But rather than shoo the dog away, I sat down in the doorway and called gently for her to come inside.

Each time the dog approached, she got a bit closer until finally she was inside the house — but still close enough to flee before I could close the door. I had to gain her trust before I could capture her. I talked to her in soothing tones and remained motionless until finally she laid down in front of me and rolled over on her back, begging to have her stomach scratched.

From that point on, that dog was glued to me, never letting me out of her sight. Once she had eaten and drunk, the grateful beast collapsed on the floor at my feet in exhaustion.

I wish I could tell you that I decided to adopt the dog. The truth is I couldn’t handle a big dog. I don’t have the time, and I don’t have the right house for a rambunctious Lab.

I finally called the SPCA, which agreed to take my newfound friend if I brought her down to their shelter on Bay Ridge Road.

There is no place so full of hope and joy as the SPCA, especially at Christmastime. Families descend upon the place, looking for that special holiday treasure for the kids.

On that gray day, the front desk was a madhouse as people signed forms and paid for their new pets. I stared at the chaotic scene in wonder, fighting back tears at the goodness that frees a frightened animal from a cage and euthanasia.

Still, there is a pervasive, almost overwhelming, sadness about the SPCA. You breathe it in like air and it smells just like death. The people who staff the shelter — many of them volunteers — are close to angels. Because for every happy animal that leaves with a new owner, someone like me walks through the door with another sad story. And it never stops.

As I watched the ladies who work at the SPCA welcome that scared and tired Lab into their crowded home, I couldn’t help but marvel, amidst such tragedy, at their determination to find hope and bring love into the life of defenseless creatures.

I hope my story has a happy ending. I don’t know. The volunteers told me that black Labs are very popular with those who come seeking pets at the shelter these days, and they assured me such a nice, pretty Lab would soon find a new home.

As the Christmas story goes, Joseph and Mary could not find a room in the inn one cold and snowy night in Bethlehem, so they were forced to seek shelter in a stable where the son of God was born — amidst the animals. Nativity scenes recreate this timeless image of tired, desperate people seeking refuge with the donkeys, cows, oxen and sheep. But I wonder … is there also room for the dogs and the cats?

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly