The Story of “Sweet Pea”, or “Why We Do Animal Rescue”

The following story is a fictional account of a Cocker Spaniel meant to tell the greater story of why volunteers band together to accept dogs into their homes and go to the time, effort, expense and heartbreak of finding a loving forever home for an animal. If it sounds familiar, it is because it is a common story for any family that has a beloved dog, but as years pass other priorities put the dog on the back burner until the time comes when the family arrives at the difficult decision to give up their dog that has been a part of their lives for years. Names, characters, places and incidents are all fictional and any resemblance to actual people, dogs and places is entirely coincidental.

Sweet Pea was an adorable little parti colored Cocker Spaniel who was adopted by her owners when she was a young pup.  She was sweet tempered, well behaved and loved her human pack, both the adults in the beginning and the children after they were born.  Time went by and the children grew up, as children do. One day the dog was no longer their favorite toy because they were busy with their friends, school and other activities.  The adults were distracted with caring for the kids, but Sweet Pea was still fairly happy.  She had a huge box of toys and a nice bed and blanket; the problem was, her favorite playmates didn’t care about her any more.  The humans put a pretty purple nose leader on her, which was OK, but they didn’t realize it was too tight and chafed the fur off her little nose.  Her harness, a high quality nylon one in a deep shade of yellow, looked great on her, and it probably fit just fine when they first got it.  Now it was so tight that she could only breathe in shallow gasps.  Sweet Pea tried nudging them for attention: she was a good girl, but she had to let them know she was having trouble breathing.  The humans pushed her away thinking she was demanding affection—affection they simply no longer had time to give.  She tried whining.   That displeased her humans.  She tried a sort of wheezy barking: they just tightened her nose harness further.  Walking and running was very difficult for Sweet Pea with so little air getting into her constricted lungs, but she tried to play with her humans anyway.  They thought she was lazy and lost interest.  She finally, in desperation, peed on their bed.  Yes, she knew it was a BADDOG thing to do, but she had to get their attention somehow—she couldn’t breathe!  So the humans decided she really was a BADDOG and dropped her off with a rescue group, telling them that she had serious behavior problems and they didn’t have time to train her.

I was there when the family brought her by.  After the family left, Sweet Pea barked and cried to let them know she was forgotten so they would come back for her.  Anyone who resembled one of the children or the parents got Sweet Pea very excited until she realized it was another stranger.

We were to try to get her a new home at an adoption event that day: if we couldn’t, they’d take Sweet Pea back home, and maybe try again later.  We looked Sweet Pea over.  She seemed well fed, though her ears were dreadfully matted.  As soon as we removed the nose halter from her and loosened up her harness so she could get some air and drink a little water, she visibly relaxed and became a bit more cheerful.  Of course, she was still disoriented and confused: her family had, after all, driven off without her, leaving her with a bunch of strangers.  Still, she was a friendly little thing and very affectionate.  It was hard to process for her: her own humans wouldn’t even play with her, and these strangers had let her get some air, fed her, walked her, petted her…and there were so many of them, all saying what a pretty girl she was.  Maybe this day wasn’t so bad, after all.

From the other end of the parking lot came a woman, walking slowly.  She was calm and smiling, tidy in appearance.  If her eyes held a searing loneliness, she carried it well.  She had almost not come to this event, but decided she at least wanted to see the agility trials, fun dog games and obedience contests being held in the tent—a little silliness to brighten the day.   Mary visited all the various adoption booths in the parking lot, where there was a wondrous array of four-legged friends: the ghostly gray Weimeraners, the Boston Terriers with their cute little pushed-in faces, the enormous Irish Wolfhound, the mournful Bassetts, the mixed breeds, the Cockers…all  were hoping for a forever home, someone who would let them be a companion.  They asked little more than food and affection in return for their complete devotion for their entire lives.  It really doesn’t seem like too much to ask, somehow.  Mary visited them all, looking for the one that could fill the void left when her dog died of cancer the previous year, followed only three months ago by the cancer death of her husband of 28 years.  All the dogs seemed wonderful, but she just didn’t feel a special connection with any of them.

One of the volunteers had taken Sweet Pea for a little walk around the grounds of the event.  Mary spotted Sweet Pea and fell in love.  She asked if she could take their picture—the dog was just so adorable.  The volunteer told her that the dog actually was not his, but was available for adoption.  Mary followed Sweet Pea and the volunteer back to the booth.  While she was filling out the adoption application, Sweet Pea climbed into her lap.  I don’t think I saw them in any other position for the rest of the afternoon as they sat snuggled together as if made for each other.  The sweet neglected dog and the lady, who had come to the event determined not to spend another Saturday night without a dog to fill her heart, went home together.

And that, my friends, is why we do animal rescue.