February 24, 2012
By – Dani Hart
“‘Men,’ said Mr. Kyle, ‘people have been trying to understand dogs ever since the beginning of time. One never knows what they’ll do. You can read every day where a dog saved the life of a drowning child, or lay down his life for his master. Some people call this loyalty. I don’t. I may be wrong, but I call it love–the deepest kind of love.'”
-Wilson Rawls, Where the Red Fern Grows
It seemed like we’d been looking forever for a dog. Walking past the pet stores in the West Village we’d stare into the saliva smudged display windows and make faces at the French Bulldogs. They mugged back, cuter than we were. They knew it too.
But the initial surge of warmth always faded after watching the puppies at play. Because if you went inside, if you walked in the back, there were the big dogs. The ones who hadn’t found a home and were now overgrown, no longer worthy of the window. You could trace your finger along the cage while they watched with listless desperation. Their price, much lower than the rest, was scrawled in white grease pencil next to a sticker marked “Clearance.”
We began looking at animal shelters and rescue groups. Petfinder.org was a great resource we kept coming back to. But no matter how cute the animal was or engaging the description, we’d look at each other and shake our heads. “Not the right time,” we’d say. “Who has time for all those walks?”
Until we saw Gatsby.
His name wasn’t Gatsby then. It was Stephon. We found him on a dreary rainy day, the kind of day where you praise the Lord for Milton Bradley and the invention of board games. However, the game we decided to play that day was let’s find ourselves a dog.
We searched “small.” We searched “young.” We searched “Brooklyn.” And there was Gatsby, wearing the brightest, snazziest smile I have ever seen.
“That’s our dog,” I told my husband. And he agreed.
We called before we left the house to ask if he was still available. We were certain he’d been adopted already. But it was a rainy day, and the people who said they’d come for him didn’t. And then we were in the car, driving like mad to get to the shelter before it closed.
Sean Casey Animal Rescue immediately felt different from the pet store. It was equally as busy. There were dogs, and cats, and lizards, and birds. But the listless desperation was replaced with spirited hope. Volunteers tended to the animals with care. The animals showed their appreciation in those subtle to humans yet obvious to animals way they have. An elderly tabby cat nuzzled someone’s outstretched hand. The pitbull with the home cropped ears wagging his stumpy tail in delight while being walked. For some of the animals, this was likely their first kindness in a long time.
They knew they had been given a second chance.
The staff generously allowed us to walk Gatsby around the block. Afterward, he plopped down and immediately looked up at us as if to say, “so when are we going home?”
And home we went.
It’s been six months since Gatsby moved in. He’s gained a few pounds, lost a few toys, befriended one of our cats, and signed a peace treaty with the other. He twirls, he woofs, he races around our apartment like he’s training for the New York City marathon. In his spare time he even models for our clothing line. It’s nice to have a model you can pay in biscuits.
People tell us how handsome and proud Gatsby looks when they see this picture. His handsomeness is inherited, but I’d like to think his pride comes from knowing he is always, and forever, home.
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