“Special Needs” Pets or Simply “Special”?

Stevie the "Wonder Dog"

by Tammy Souch

When I began the ground work for this article, it didn’t dawn on me that it would be posted to the Bessie Mac website during Petfinder.com’s “Adopt a Less Adoptable Pet Week.” Petfinder.com has adopted September 17-25 as the week to put a spotlight on all of the wonderful pets out there who need someone to love and appreciate them just for who they are – no matter their size, fur color, or medical needs.

Truly it takes a special person to do just that, and Sharon Beckham, who lives outside of Kansas City, Mo., is an excellent example. She has adopted many of the world’s castaways, and believes that God brings each and every one to her for care. One of them she named Angel. Angel was a Schnauzer who had been dumped out in the country to fend for herself.  She didn’t trust humans and would even bite Sharon. But time, patience, and lots of love and affection transformed Angel into a beautiful, loving dog. After spending nine full years with Sharon, Angel crossed over the Rainbow Bridge in 2010.

Sharon is no stranger to the cost of caring for dogs with medical needs either. Angel developed conditions in her later years that required $150 worth of medicine each month. And in 2008, she adopted Brodie, a seven year old miniature black poodle, paying $750 for a treatment so he could live and be free of hook worms. Brodie is still with Sharon today, and she says he is a “precious soul.”

And then she told me about Stevie. Well, his name was Collin before he met Sharon in 2005.  Stevie the “Wonder Dog” is a little black poodle who was born with no eyes. She saw his picture on Petfinder.com one day while searching for a white female poodle, and it was “love at first sight.”  She contacted LL Dog Rescue and soon found out that they had rescued Stevie from a breeder who was going to have him euthanized because of his disability. Instead of having his life cut short, he has gone on to live a full and happy life with Sharon.

“Stevie is just the most amazing little character I’ve ever known.  I tell everyone that he sees with his heart.  You would never realize he was blind because he does everything so well.  People just love that little face and all the love he transmits from his little body.  It is just so gratifying to have a special needs dog.  They emanate love.”

Even though it takes more time and effort to care for Stevie, you wouldn’t know it from the way Sharon talks about him. During our interview, she only made brief mention of the special things she has to do to care for Stevie, such as carrying him up and down stairs and keeping everything in the same place so he can find them easily. The majority of the time she positively gushed about his sweet personality and the joy he has brought to her life.

While special needs animals require extra care, it’s obvious from Sharon’s story that the investment yields an incredible return. There are thousands of animals just like Stevie and Angel out there waiting to be loved, adored, and appreciated for who they are. Do you think you have the time, the money (if need be), and – more importantly – the heart to adopt a special needs cat or dog? If so, find a local shelter or rescue near you today!


Petfinder.com asked their member shelters and rescue organizations to select a nominee that they had available for adoption. Click here to see the gallery of “Less Adoptable” pets they’ve selected.


Bodie (left), Stevie (right), and "Doogie Schnauzer, MD (Mama's Dog)" Doogie came to Sharon after his previous skin mother became very ill in 2010.



by Tammy Souch

The realization that not everyone treated their animals kindly came at a young age for me, and I’m thankful for it. At the same time, I started getting the idea that I shouldn’t be so quick to judge anyone on their appearance or on first impressions. Angie taught me those things, and I want to tell you a little about her.

Back in the early ‘80s, we lived on the coast of Massachusetts in a city called Lynn. My brother and I spent a lot of time out in the backyard playing with other kids in the neighborhood. Good times – except for the dogs next door, Angie and Newfield (“Newfie”).  Two Saint Bernards barking and slobbering at us from behind a wooden fence in the era of the Stephen King novel “Cujo” had our young minds convinced that we would be eaten at any moment.

We thought those dogs were mean! As time went on, we occasionally got bold enough to taunt them when they came close to the fence. Everyone could catch glimpses of one another through the fence slats, and there was one fist-sized hole that just barely managed to fit the tip of a very large dog’s snout. We’d poke sticks through, and they’d come lunging. That only reinforced our opinion that those dogs were nuts and would take us out in bloody fashion as soon as they got the chance.

I don’t remember how much time went by before we found out the dogs were being neglected. Neighbors in the house in front of ours had been throwing their scraps to the dogs, and my mother asked them why. They told her that the owner’s way of feeding the dogs was to throw a bag of dog food into the backyard every two to three weeks. Naturally, my mom started giving them our scraps too.

More time went on, and Angie kept getting out of the yard. She liked to lay on our front neighbor’s porch, since ours wasn’t big enough to hold an entire Saint Bernard comfortably. Finding her laying there one day – in the middle of a hurricane – was the last straw for my parents. They called her into the house and toweled her off. Even though they let her back outside a couple of times after that, she always came back. Angie was with us to stay.

Later my parents told the neighborhood to inform Angie’s owner to come see them when he got back. He did, and with obvious relief, signed Angie’s papers over to my mom and dad. He had already found a home for Newfie.

Angie was with us for just a few years until she died of a hemorrhage at the age of ten. We all loved her, and we all still appreciate her sweetness, and the joy she brought to our lives. For me, it was the beginning of my penchant for larger dogs – there’s just something about a giant, yet loveable, mushy dog that warms my heart.

And as I mentioned at the beginning of this tale, I got my first taste of regretting my own judgmental attitude. I had judged these big babies as a threat based on a work of fiction, and when I learned they were being neglected, I judged the owners as evil people who didn’t care about their animals. But, it was obvious from the man’s relief at Angie finding a new home that he did care in his own way (I’m not going to defend his actions – he was wrong), and when the time came to do the right thing, he did it. I’ve heard many horror stories of people leaving their animals to wither away and die, and every time I wish that they had cared enough to let them go to a better home. I’m forever grateful that Angie became a part of our family – and forever grateful to my parents for showing me the right way.

The Chronicles of Little Bear, Part Four – Huge

Have you missed the previous installments of The Chronicles of the Little Bear? Click here to visit the archives.

A couple of days ago I was sitting under the fig tree daydreaming about all the things we did to get ready for Ralph when we thought he was coming to our foster home.  Remembering the fun we had getting ready for him gave me such a good feeling.  It made me realize all over again how much I love my life here at home — going shopping with Mommy, and doing my jobs.  Oh, my life here is just the best!

We all felt disappointed that Ralph didn’t come and stay with us for awhile, but we knew how lucky he was to go to his forever home straight away.  Danny, Smoker, and I had no trouble bouncing back into our daily routine, and in our free time we played with a renewed exuberance.  In the evening we would talk with great anticipation about what the next little foster dog would be like and how soon they would come.  The sooner the better, we thought.

I was especially anxious for a new friend to help me with my jobs. I was so sad when Holly left, that I could barely bring myself to get any work done, and I fell a little behind. Danny was kind and didn’t say too much, but now that I’m not feeling so blue, I’m wanting to get the yard back into shape. There doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get caught up, so a new friend’s help wouldn’t hurt!

Also, school is back in session, and there is more trash being thrown into our back yard.  That means I have to spend more time guarding the back fence during sports’ practices to keep the young people from climbing over our fence to retrieve their balls. That’s no easy job.  You can’t bite them, you just have to bark loudly and look like you want to bite them.  That’s hard, because I really want to give them lick-kisses and be nice and play with them, but a job is a job — no matter how hard it is!

Mommy said I have to keep the kids off the fence, because if they fall they could be hurt, and that wouldn’t be good. Not only that, but when they do manage to get over the fence, they walk on the flowers and bushes, and that’s not nice. So as you can see, I have to spend a lot more time protecting the yard from young intruders and picking up trash during the school season.

Even more important, Mommy said the kids could fall in the pool and drown.  I’m not a good swimmer, so it would be hard for me to save them.  I remember I had a hard time getting Girly dog out of the pool a couple years ago. We almost lost her. Thank goodness Danny helped pull her out after I got her to the side of the pool.  That was one close call.  Hmm, a dog’s work is never done.

We all look forward to having more help on Grandma’s watch.  For me, even though that is my favorite job, I worry about what’s happening in the yard while I am inside watching Grandma.  Smoker tries to help by keeping an eye on the yard for me at those times. Danny helps out too, but it’s harder for him because he has a lot more jobs than we do!  He even has to check on us to make sure we are doing what we are supposed to be doing.  So you can see why it would be nice to have another dog around.

As for the cats, Nicholas and Beethoven have been grumbling a little lately that they’re being overworked.  I think they’re just hoping for someone new to play their tricks on.  Smoke and I pretty much know their tricks, and they don’t dare pull any tricks on Danny.

I must say though, that they did get me good the other day.  I was walking by the table at the end of the couch, when one of the cats jumped out at me. I didn’t know it, but they had pushed some papers laying on the table close to the edge. That cat scared me so bad I barked an “Eek!” and jumped high into the air, knocking the papers right off of the table, and they flew all over the floor!   Nicholas and Beethoven ran off laughing.

Thank goodness Danny was close by and heard the ruckus and came to see what was going on.  He just shook his head in annoyance. “I’ll tend to those two later. Let me help you pick these papers up.”

The cats sat at a distance watching us put the papers back, snickering at us and purring with satisfaction. Oh those cats sometimes!  What can you do?  I was lucky, Mommy never did say anything about the papers being a little wet and wrinkled.

Yesterday, while I was on garden watch, I heard Mommy call, “Little Bear, hurry up and come inside!”  I knew it was important from the tone of her voice.  I rushed right in and found Danny, Smoker, and the cats all sitting on the couch with eager expressions on their faces.  I got up between Danny and Smoker and whispered to Smoker, “What’s going on? What happened?”

“We don’t know.  Mommy told us to sit here, and that she would be back in a minute to talk with us,” Smoke replied.

“Boy, it must be really important.  I hope it’s nothing bad,” I whispered back.

“Purrr-shh, here comes Mommy,” the cats said as Mommy came into the room.

“Boys, we have a new house guest.  She isn’t quite what you’re used to, but I know you’ll treat her kindly, and show her around.  I want all of you to teach her the rules of the house. Danny and Bear, you show her the yard jobs. I ‘m not sure how long she’ll be staying with us.”

As Mommy spoke, I felt a small twinge of disappointment that the new foster dog wasn’t a boy. I had kind of hoped for a boy dog. Oh well, girls are okay, too.

Looking around I wondered where she was, and I could see Danny and Smoker looking too. She wasn’t with Mommy, and she wasn’t in the crate like the new dogs usually are. That’s strange, I thought.

Mommy continued on, “She isn’t the kind of dog we are used to, but she is very sweet, and less than a year old, so she’ll need a little extra help.”  I could hear Danny let out a small groan as he sat up straighter and tried to keep smiling at Mommy.

“You cats need to be careful,” Mommy went on, “Because she isn’t the kind of dog you want to play tricks on. She’s good natured, but you need to give her a wide berth.  NO tricks, you hear?”  I could see the cats’ faces pinch up, and they both purr-meowed, “We’ll see.”

Danny spoke up, “Where is she?” as we all glanced over at the empty crate.

“Her name is Sally, and she’s outside in the back yard” Mommy said.

Just as Mommy said her name, we heard some bustling in the back yard.  We all looked over to the sliding door.

Oh, my gosh. There she was! She was huge! I mean HUGE!  Unbelievable!  Her tongue was hanging out, and all I could hear was this loud “Hah-Hah-Hah-Hah–Hah!” as she breathed. There was a big, happy, slobbering smile on her face. Her eyes were ablaze with excitement as she stared at us.

A quick thought went through my mind, Good gravy, we’re lunch!  Her body shock with so much anticipation that I could feel the vibration on the couch all the way inside the house!  She had a tail like a whip, and it was going back and forth so fast and hard that it looked like it was going to break the chair it was smacking against.

The cats departed the room with their tails big and fluffy, hissing and yowling unpleasantries as they left.

I heard Danny say, as I stared at Sally in shock, “You’ve got to be kidding!”  He turned and looked at Mommy in disbelief, shaking his head.  My eyes were so big that I must have looked like they would pop out of my head. Danny muttered, “Tell me this isn’t real!”

Danny: "Really, Mom?"

Danny: "Really, Mom?"

It was real all right.  It was real, real.  There she was, as happy as could be, wanting to come in and meet us —  or eat us!  That was one scary sight.  One lick of her tongue, and I could be hurt.  I felt Smoker sink down on the couch beside me, and with a big sigh,  he bemoaned, “This can’t be happening.”

“I think it is happening!” I lamented back, and asked with a shaky voice, “What is she?”

“She looks like one of them Boxpits!” Smoker uttered, his tone ominous.

“Oh, what’s a Boxpit?” I asked, really scared now.

“Don’t ask, you really don’t want to know.” Smoker grumbled back.

“Is she supposed to look like that?

“Yep.  Boy, oh boy, do we have our work cut out for us,”  Smoke replied.

I felt like I was frozen there on the couch, unable to move, and truly not wanting to either.  Danny barked a bit in protest, but Mommy brushed his complaints aside and said,   “That’s enough, boys. Go greet Sally nicely, and make her feel welcome.”

Danny jumped down off the couch, and with one last pleading look at Mommy said, “Come on boys, it won’t be that bad.  Let’s go!”

Off the couch Smoker and I hesitantly jumped and followed Danny through the doggy door.  Sally was so happy to see us, and thankfully did not try to eat us.  With a lot of wet slobbery licks and whacks from her tail we all sniffed each other.  I thought to myself, If I dodge her tail and don’t let her sit on me, this won’t be so bad.  Hmm, she’s so big and strong, that I bet she can do a lot of work.

See you next week!






If you haven’t read “Holly’s Story” yet, don’t worry! You can click right here for your copy!



So You Want to Foster a Dog

Can you help me get to my perfect forever home?by Tammy Souch

There are hundreds of thousands of dogs out there who could use a good home, and rescue organizations are always on the hunt for good foster parents to house and care for the dogs they’ve rescued so that they can rescue even more. But providing for a dog’s physical needs is just one part of fostering.  Dogs, just like humans, need more than just food, water, and shelter. They need socialization, training, love, and a sense of security.

Many dogs that end up in local shelters have been neglected or abused – or both. Some adapt very quickly to new people and places, and greet everyone they meet with a wag and a smile. They honestly seem to have forgotten that something bad happened to them. Others are fearful and act out in aggression, because they don’t know what else to do. Some “shut down” and don’t appear to react to what’s going on around them at all. Most of them need at least a little help in learning what living the doggy life really means!

We can’t always know exactly what abuse an animal has suffered, but we can arm ourselves with tools to help them get into a good place mentally and be the best dog they can be. Here are some things to consider before you take the leap into the dog fostering world.

Patience. To truly help each dog that comes to you, patience is a must. If you have a fantasy of your new foster pup snuggling up with you and staring at you with adoring eyes, I strongly encourage you to talk to some people who have fostered dogs previously. Are you ready to go without sleep for a night – or three – until your foster dog is feeling more secure and used to the routine of your home? Do you think you’ll be able to cope with multiple accidents on your rugs? You don’t have to like any of these things, but you do need to be able to keep from allowing any frustration to boil over, which can be pretty difficult if you’re operating on little, or no, sleep.

Training Techniques. That new fellow in your house needs to learn their manners, and the more you can work with them in your foster home, the more likely they are to find their forever home quickly. A well-behaved dog makes a huge difference! Do some research on the various training techniques out there, and talk with the rescue organization(s) you’re thinking about working with. They’ll be able to lead you in the right direction and offer you valuable advice and tips.

Determination. Some dogs need more help than others. Some learn how to “sit” and “stay” and look at you as if to say, “Is that all you’ve got?”, while others struggle for weeks with the simplest of commands. Don’t give up! If you keep at it, you will see results. Keep in mind that you don’t know what that dog has been through. It’s entirely possible that their previous owner would tell them to “sit” and then do something harmful to the dog. The moment you both connect, and they finally put their behind on the floor without any physical assistance from you, you have created a foundation of positive reinforcement and trust to build upon.

Adaptability. Every dog comes from a different background, and you will find that what works for one dog may not work for another. For instance, some dogs aren’t motivated by a standard doggy treat when it comes to training. Some don’t like to be pet or snuggled – maybe just for now, but it’s possible they’ll never really “get into it.” Some are afraid of hoses, and some may want to eat your hoses! Learning how to “go with the flow” of any foster dog will keep you from getting frustrated when they aren’t behaving like “every other dog.”

The bottom line is that foster dogs need the help of an understanding person or family to get them through this rough spot in their lives – quite possibly they need you. If this list of things to consider hasn’t scared you off yet, then you may just be ready to foster!

What about you? Have you fostered a dog before? If so, we’d love to hear about your number one “tool” – whatever it is that you have found to be the most helpful when fostering. If you haven’t fostered a dog before, and you think you might be interested, let us know and we’ll help get you in touch with a rescue agency who can assist you further.

The Chronicles of Little Bear, Part Three – Ralph

The Chronicles of Little Bear: Part 1, Part 2

I was so happy to be home! After having seen poor Ralph hit by a car and hearing his sad story, I realized how lucky I was to have a good home and family who love me. I ran around doing my jobs joyfully the rest of the week. Oh, it was so good to play chase with the boys and roll in the grass after dinner. How quickly things change. It seemed as though my fig leaf had stopped bumping along the “ground of glum” and an updraft of air had picked it up, whirling me high into the sky of gratefulness. Life was good again.

I told Danny and Smoker about Ralph, and we all agreed he should come to our home when he was released from the hospital. Danny said he would speak to Mommy later in the evening about him staying with us. Our spirits had been low after Holly left, and we felt excited and energized again at the thought of helping Ralph. Just thinking about having another little foster dog coming to stay with us until he mended and a forever home could be found for him was wonderful.

The three of us powwowed about how to help Ralph when he would eventually get here. Smoker said he would share his worldly advice with Ralph, and Danny said he would be gentle and not give him too many “Bites” while he learned the do’s and don’ts. As for me, as soon as I got a chance, I hurried down to the east side of the yard by the shed and checked that my trusty old bone was ready for a new dog.

Even Nicholas and Beethoven seemed happy about a new rescue dog coming. I kind of thought though, that when I saw them looking at each other and smiling smugly, that maybe they were thinking about what kind of mischief they could cause. So I asked them to go easy on Ralph the first week or two – just until he got the hang of things – because he had it rough on the streets for quite a while and had been hurt pretty bad in the accident. They looked disappointed, but agreed to be nice for a couple weeks. Their tricks aren’t bad and kind of fun most of the time. Two weeks would give Ralph plenty of time to get used to them and see that they are really great cats.

I could hardly wait each day to hear news about how Ralph was doing. Mommy said he was getting well and would be coming soon. She cleaned the crate he would be using, and put a new blue blanket in it. (Blue is for boys you know.) I laid on the blanket for a short nap so my smell would be on it, and he would know he was safe. Danny picked out a couple toys and placed them in the crate. Smoker pushed the crate a little closer to where we take our naps so he could see us better and not be afraid. Yup! We were ready for him!

Mommy went to the vets everyday to see Ralph and would come home with good reports on how he was healing. The days passed and soon a week had gone by as we patiently waited for Ralph. Mommy finally said he would be coming home to us tomorrow, so we needed to go shopping and pick a few things up for him. “Little Bear, you come with me because you know Ralph the best.” I happily ran to the hall tree and got my working coat and leash. Mommy put them on me, and off we went to the pet store.

I love going to the pet store. There are so many good smells everywhere in the store. Why, sometimes the people who work in the store even give me a doggy cookie!

Mommy said we had to pick up special dog food for Ralph, on account of he hadn’t been eating very much for a long time and we needed to build his strength up. She read every label on the different dog foods until she came to one bag and said, “This is the one, Little Bear. This will build him up nicely.” I wagged my tail in agreement, and in our basket it went. We also picked out a special shampoo so that his coat would look nice and shiny. That led to getting Ralph his own brush, comb, and tooth brush. Now all that was left was picking him out a new collar and leash.

We went to the aisle in the store that had all the collars and leashes. There were so many to pick from. They came in all sizes and colors. They even had harnesses, and there were some weird looking ones too. Mommy looked at all of them saying, “Hum, no – not that one, nope, no, no, hum – no, um – maybe, ah – no.”

Suddenly I saw “the one”! I stretched myself to reach up and pull on the leash. “Oops!” The whole shelf almost came down! Mommy grabbed it just in time to stop everything from falling. Boy was that ever a close call!

“Bear!” she said, “You must be careful!” She sighed, and continued on, “Oh, so you like that one? Well it is very nice. Hmm, I think you’re right. Let’s see if it has a collar to match.” She looked and looked and finally found a matching collar in the right size. “Here it is!” I stood there wagging my tail as happy as could be. It was a beautiful set. It was a deep, dark, wine red color with a black stripe running up the middle. Oh, it would look so nice on Ralph! “I think these colors will show off Ralph’s coat nicely.” Mommy said. I yipped in agreement.

Mommy said smiling, “There I think we are done. Let’s check out.” I trotted right beside her heading toward the checkout line, when she suddenly stopped and turned down another aisle. It was the dog and cat treat aisle. With a chuckle she said, “I think you dogs have earned a special treat. What do you think Little Bear?” My tail wagged so hard that my whole body shook as I barked happily. Plop! Into our basket went a bag of our favorite treats, and back toward the checkout line we went!

As soon as we got home Danny, Smoker, Nicholas and Beethoven ran up to see what we bought at the store. There were nods, yips, and tail wags for each item Mommy pulled out of the bags. Everyone approved and told me, “Good job, Little Bear! Good job!”

Mommy put the food and shampoo away and laid the collar and leash on top of Ralph’s crate. Now we were really ready for sure. With a loving pat, she gave each of us a treat.

I didn’t sleep well all night. I kept waking up and checking the clock with excited anticipation of seeing Ralph. Morning finally arrived, and that was the big day. Ralph would be coming to our foster home early in the afternoon. We all jubilantly went through our morning routines knowing that was the day we had been preparing for. In a few hours, Ralph would be here and we again would feel fulfilled helping another dog on his journey to his forever home. Oh, we could hardly wait! It felt like we were puppies again waiting for a new bone.

Finally it was noon and Mommy said, “Okay boys, I’m going to get Ralph now.” as she picked up the new leash and collar. “You guys behave and I’ll be back shortly.” Out the door she went.

Danny started issuing orders for us to look over our work to make sure everything was ready for Ralph. We scurried around checking and double-checking. Finally we all sat down in front of Ralph’s crate and Danny said, “We’re ready.” Smiling, we gave each other high fives.

We were all in the living room looking out the big picture window when we saw our car drive up. Our tails were wagging a mile a minute with delight knowing Mommy and Ralph were home. But – what? Mommy got out of the car by herself, and she had the leash and collar in her hand, but there was no Ralph at the end of it! As she walked to the door her head was down, and there was a sad look on her face. We all moved to the door and waited for her to come in, but our tails were not wagging. We were all feeling so let down, and wondered what was going on with Ralph. Had he taken a turn for the worst? I heard Danny say, “Let’s hope Ralph is all right.” Then Mommy opened the door.

“Oh, boys,” Mommy said with a sad tone, “Ralph is not coming to our home. Let’s go sit down in the family room and I’ll explain what happened. We all followed Mommy quietly into the family room and sat beside her as she told us about Ralph. “Well boys, when I got to the vet’s office to pick Ralph up, the other lady who helped at the scene of the accident was there with her husband. She said she had worried about poor Ralph so much that her husband thought maybe they should give Ralph a forever home. They will be adopting him. He is going home with them today.

“Ralph liked both of them very much, and asked me to thank you, Little Bear, for the offer of you and your brothers’ foster home, and to tell you that he knew you would understand. I know how disappointed you boys are, but we should be happy that Ralph has a good home now. I am so sorry boys. I know how you were looking forward to Ralph coming here, but cheer up! Soon there will be another little dog needing us!”

We all sat there for a moment looking at the floor with long faces. Nicholas and Beethoven, grumbling under their breath, got up first and went to do their shift watching Grandma. “Come on boys,” Danny said, as he headed for the doggy door.

We all thanked Mommy for telling us, and followed Danny to a nice shady spot under the fig tree. “Well guys, it’s unhappy news to hear that Ralph won’t be coming, but think of all the fun we had getting ready for him.”

Smoker spoke up, “We shouldn’t be sad. Ralph has a good home, and now we are ready for any little dog that might need us.”

“Yeah, you’re right. I feel a little disheartened – well, maybe a lot – but you’re right, he has a good home, and we’ve done all the work to get ready for another dog, and that means we have more time to play! Soo, whoever gets to the fruit trees last is IT!” I barked as I started running toward the trees as fast as I could!


The Chronicles of Little Bear, Part Two – Sad Sack

Did you miss the first installment of the Little Bear Chronicles? No need to worry, just click here to get caught up.


You all know me as Little Bear – happy, cheerful, lovable Little Bear.  But It seemed like a dark cloud came over me the day Holly left and remained with me for over two weeks.  When she passed over the threshold of our front door wagging her tail goodbye, the fig leaf I was riding on seemed to blow into a murk of sadness that lingered on and on.

After the car she was riding in drove away, we each drifted silently back to our jobs with heavy hearts.  The lump in my throat at that moment was so big that if I had spoken, I would have completely broken down.  I suspect everyone felt the same way.  So off to our own areas we went, trying to keep a stiff upper lip.  Boy dogs aren’t supposed to cry, you know.

The rest of that day and the days that followed, I spiraled into a deep sadness.  Life wasn’t fun any longer.  I used to love my jobs of guarding Mommy’s garden from the birds, picking up the balls that accidently came into our yard from the school, and keeping the neighbor cat out of the yard.  For some reason though, it all became drudgery, and I half-heartedly did my work.

It just wasn’t fun anymore without Holly.  When I was on my off duty time, running, playing, and burying my bones just didn’t interest me anymore, I preferred to slump in the chair and stare at the doggy door, wishing Holly would pop her head through.  She never did though, no matter how hard I wished.  Every time the telephone rang, I would hold my breath in hopes that it was Holly’s new mommy calling to saying Holly wasn’t a good fit, and she was bringing her back – but that never happened either.

While doing my jobs, I would start crying for no reason – or if thoughts of Holly came to mind, and that seemed to be all the time.  When Danny or Smoke saw me, I would tell them my runny nose and watery eyes were from allergies.  They would nod in agreement and say they had allergies too.  I thought that their eyes looked puffy, and their noses were sniffy too.  Even the cat’s eyes seemed watery and puffy most of the time.  I guess we all suffered in our own ways.  It was just too painful to speak of, so I kept to myself.

My body actually physically hurt.  Breathing hurt, seeing hurt, talking hurt, moving hurt, and worst of all, my heart felt like it had broken in half and both pieces were pounding against each other.  I dragged myself through each day. Oh, life had become so empty, and I felt suffocated with grief.  I didn’t really want to do anything – I was just too sad.  Oh, how could life be so mean to me?

I even started to feel angry at Mommy for letting Holly go.  I had grown so sorry for myself and unhappy with everything that I pouted and dragged my feet when I was told that I had to go shopping with Mommy one day.  I sat in my seat in the car with a sad sack face, wishing I was slumped in my chair watching the doggy door, when suddenly Mommy yelled “Oh, no!” and pulled over to the curb and stopped the car.

I looked out the window and it looked like two cars ahead of us had hit a dog.  The poor dog just lay there on the street curb.  Mommy grabbed the blanket from the back seat and got out of our car, telling me to be quiet and sit still.

Mommy and a couple other people went to the dog. I was shocked at what was happening, and watched wide-eyed while they checked the dog over.  I could tell they were talking a lot, and I saw Mommy shake her head and glance quickly at our car.  The other lady that had stopped nodded her head as Mommy wrapped the dog in our blanket.  As Mommy pointed to our car, a man picked the dog up and started to walk toward our car.

Mommy ran ahead of the man carrying the dog and opened the back door.  The man gently placed the dog on our car floor once Mommy had moved the seat back.  I didn’t move or bark, I just watched – knowing this was serious – and I remained quiet, wondering what was going to happen next.  I was a little anxious and frightened too.

Mommy got back into our car and off we went.  Mommy shook her head and said, “The car that hit the dog just kept going, Little Bear.  How could they not stop?” She sighed and continued, “Bear, we’re taking the dog to our vets to get the medical help he needs.  Don’t bother him, just stay in your seat.”

I looked down at the dog and saw the fear in his eyes.  I could smell blood, and he was starting to try and move.  “Oh no, don’t move,” I whispered to him, “we’re taking you to the dog doctor, so lay still.”  He laid his head back down and closed his eyes for a moment.

I thought about Holly and how she had been hit by a car, and I remembered when she told me how much pain she was in and how frightened she was.  My heart went out to him, and when he opened his eyes again I said, “I’m Little Bear. Don’t worry, we’re going to help you. My Mommy is nice, she’ll make sure you get better.”

He weakly groaned back that his name was “Ralph” and he had been on the streets for about two months.  No one wanted him anymore.

“Oh my,” I said as I thought, How terrible!  How can this be?  Then I told him, “We have a doggy foster home and you can come stay with us when you get better.  Why, you can help to keep the birds away from the tomatoes and we can play.  We even have plenty of food; you will like it at our house.  So just do what the humans tell you to do and get better.  I’ll tell my brothers that you will be coming to stay with us.”

He seemed to like the idea of coming to our house and said, “Thanks, Little Bear, I’d be happy to come to your house.”

We got to our vets hospital, and the nurses helped Mommy carry Ralph inside.  He barked to me, “I’ll see you in a few days Little Bear.”

I barked back, “Great, see you later!” and remained in the car waiting for instructions from Mommy.

Mommy came out a few minutes later, and we both went into the vet’s office.  I had to sit in a chair for a long time, waiting quietly.  Mommy finally came back out of the room she had gone into, and we left.   She said that Ralph was some kind of a Spaniel dog, and the doctor thought he would be all right.  We went straight home instead of shopping.

On the way home, I looked at Mommy and thought how lucky I was that I had a nice Mommy who helped dogs.  I lived in a great house, with a wonderful back yard, and I had forgotten how important our foster home for dogs was.  I was an important dog because I helped other dogs.  Why, I need to get home and do my jobs!  I’m the best tomato guard dog there is, and my brothers, and the cats, they are my special family.  We need to get ready for another needy dog. “Oh,” I whined, suddenly anxious to get home – I had things to do! When we got home, I ran into the house as fast as I could and hurried into Old Grandma’s room.  There was Danny watching Grandma, and I joyfully barked, “Hey, Danny!”

“Hey, Little Bear,” Danny answered, smiling.

“You want to go chasing each other when you get off duty?” I said wagging my tail with happiness.  Danny gave me a nod and a wag.

I felt so happy that I ran off looking for Smoker.  I found him guarding the garden and excitedly called, “Hey, Smoke!”

“Hey, Little Bear,” Smoker replied.

“You want to run and chase each other after we finish work?” I shouted.

“Sure do.”

As I turned to go do my job of picking up the baseballs, I heard Smoke holler, “Good to have you back, Little Bear!”

I thought, It’s sure good to be back!










A Call for Help

A Call for Help

by Bessie Mac

Have you ever seen, heard, or said something that put that painful pit in your stomach and sort of lingers in your mind in a replay over and over? Well, that happened to me about three weeks ago, and it keeps flashing back in my mind and lies very heavy on my heart. It’s times like this when I am thankful that I have an avenue to share my experiences and thoughts with others.

Three weeks ago, on Sunday, June 26, I went to Wal-Mart to pick up a few items. I live in Glendale, Arizona, and I’m not too far from the Wal-Mart on Northern Ave. and 55th Ave. It was about 3:45 p.m., and it was 112 degrees outside. As I turned into the Wal-Mart parking lot, I noticed an older, dark-colored van – or maybe it was a truck with a shell over its bed – with an awning on its side. A large sign said, “For Sale – Poodles, Chihuahua and Lhasa Apso Puppies.” I was surprised to see a street corner puppy sale because it is no longer legal in Arizona in counties with more than 800,000 citizens. (You can read about that by clicking here. I’m going to be writing a separate article soon on why it’s not illegal in the entire state of Arizona.)

Looking ahead, I noticed there was an empty police car parked in front of Wal-Mart about a hundred yards away, so I continued to the store. Entering the store, I inquired where the policeman was, and was informed that he was in the security room. The greeter was kind enough to call the store’s security for me.

A pleasant security gentleman came to speak with me and listened politely while I explained that there was an illegal sale of puppies going on in the parking lot. He stated he would notify the Glendale police officer who was in the store at the time, and departed into the security office. I waited a couple minutes and then went about doing my shopping, thinking the policeman would notify animal control and felt confident he/she would deal with the two men selling the puppies.

Forty-five minutes later I had finished my shopping and started back to my car. I was surprised to see the two men were still there selling the puppies. I reentered the store and saw a different security man. I again explained about the puppy sale in the store’s parking lot, and asked if the policeman had been notified, or if animal control had been called. The security man stated, “Oh, they are out there again?” – implying that this was not the first time the men had been in the parking lot selling puppies – and he informed me that the policeman had gone to lunch and nothing had been done to his knowledge, nor could he do anything.

I left the store feeling very upset and not knowing what to do. I couldn’t call the police myself as I have not owned a cell phone for three years. As I drove by the two men selling the puppies, I thought speaking to them might make a difference, so I drove over to them and parked my car.

When I got out of my car and walked over to them, there was a lady there who seemed nice, and she was bargaining to buy one of the two little white poodle puppies. I heard the man give her the price of $200.00 for the poodle puppy. She offered him a lesser amount, and held the puppy up and said to me, “Isn’t she so cute?” I simply nodded yes, wanting to get to where I could see the other puppies, and she continued to barter with the older man. I made my way to the basket of puppies.

Inside the basket were two fluffy Lhasa Apsos laying beside each other in a corner. I touched one of them only to find it was very bony beneath all that fluff. Just as the horrible realization dawned on me that they weren’t breathing, my eyes landed upon three tiny, tiny little Chihuahua puppies. They were lying on their sides beside each other. Their little mouths were struggling with fish-breathing gasps.

The young man, who was selling the puppies alongside the older man, stood there holding the other poodle. His expression turned to worry as he saw the stunned look on my face, and he pushed the small poodle at me saying “Cute, cute!” in what I believe was an attempt to distract me. I nodded and touched the little poodle only to feel a very thin boney body beneath its fur.

My eyes riveted back to the Chihuahua puppies in disbelief. My heart jumped out of my chest. It was 112 degrees out, and they could not have been more than four weeks old. I was dumbfounded at the horror of seeing them struggling desperately to breathe. Somehow I managed to touch the tiny foot of one of them, and he tried to lift his head, but could not.

Oh, my God. They were dying from the heat and needed help immediately. I could hear my own voice screaming inside my head, and panic rushed through me. I looked at the older man still bargaining with the lady over the poodle puppy, and realized he knew they were dying and he did not care. His only interest was money. He knew the two Lhasa Apsos were already dead, and his only concern was to get as much as he could for the poodle puppy.

The situation was desperate. I only had a couple of dollars on me, and I knew that it would not be enough to offer him. How was I going to get the three tiny Chihuahuas out of his hands and to a vet? What could I do?

As I hurried to my car, I felt so helpless, and yet so filled with rage that someone could be so callous with those precious puppies. I fought back another wave of panic that screamed at me to hurry and get help, and tried to think clearly. Foolishly, I thought if I told the people at Wal-Mart how serious the situation was, that the authorities would be called, so I rushed back to Wal-Mart and explained to the same security man from a few minutes earlier about the desperate need for help for the three Chihuahua puppies. He nicely explained he could not call the police or animal control himself, but that he would call a manager. I thanked him.

Minutes felt like hours while waiting for a manager, and my anxiety grew to unbearable levels. My mind raced with the knowledge that time was running out for those three baby Chihuahuas. I asked myself why I hadn’t looked at the puppies when I first arrived. If only I had, maybe I could have pleaded the puppies’ plight better. Maybe all of them could have been saved. My mind was running wild with all of the “whys.” I chastised myself unmercifully.

When the manager arrived, he listened to my pleading for him to call authorities and the dire situation with the puppies. He remained quiet and expressionless as I explained about how I had asked for the policeman to be informed of the puppy sales, and that it was imperative to call the police and animal control now if the puppies were to be saved from heat exhaustion and death.

On my insistence of calling authorities, the manager seemed to become annoyed that he had been called away for such an unimportant matter. He explained that he was a lesser manager and only the top two managers of the store could call the police, and that he would tell them when he got a chance. He suggested I go home and call the police myself.

I felt helpless and trapped in my inability to get immediate help for the puppies. I had explained that I did not have a cell phone, nor did anyone there offer me their cell phone. Oh how, how could people care so little?

In blind desperation, I ran to my car and headed home to call the police, knowing it would take at least fifteen to twenty minutes before I would be able to make the call. I had explained this to the manager at Wal-Mart, but he just looked at me with an unconcerned expression and shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “Oh well.”

I struggled on the drive home to remain a responsible driver, because every fiber of my being wanted to put the pedal to the metal! I didn’t realize it until I reached my home, and the phone, that I had been crying uncontrollably and my hands were shaking so badly that I could barely dial the number.

I called the Glendale Police general line and spoke to a female police officer. After explaining the situation, she asked me what kind and color of vehicle they were driving. To my surprise, I couldn’t remember. I thought it was a dark-colored truck with a shell, or a van. I felt so angry at myself for not being more observant. My only thought had been to save the puppies.

As the conversation continued, I couldn’t help but beg her, with tears, to get animal control over there quickly to help the puppies. She assured me she would have the situation checked out, but I did not hear urgency to her statement only in my voice.

Hanging up, I called a friend – Jeffrey Tye, who works with Foothills Animal Rescue – and he said his rescue would help the puppies with immediate medical care, and later find them good homes. After we hung up, he immediately started making calls to set up medical and foster care to help save the puppies. We had agreed that I should go back up to Wal-Mart and let the police and/or animal control know that the rescue group was on board to care for the puppies.

So I rushed back to Wal-Mart, only to find that they had gone. I asked a person collecting carts in the parking lot what happened to them, and he said they just packed up and left. He hadn’t seen the police or animal control there. I prayed that didn’t mean that they hadn’t been there, but I felt in my heart that they had not come.

Upon returning home, I called Jeff to let him know that the puppy sellers had vanished and about my failure to save the puppies. I knew without medical help the tiny Chihuahuas would not live. My heart was broken. I then proceeded to sit down and cry.
A hundred things went through my mind that I could have done better, and I felt such anger at the policeman in the Wal-Mart security room. He had driven right past the men selling the puppies. Why did he do nothing? I couldn’t help but wonder if Wal-Mart had given these men permission to sell those puppies there, since they did nothing to help me, or did the policeman not feel it was of importance? He could have called it into the station or animal control if he was there on another matter. To me, breaking the law by selling puppies on a street corner in 112 degree heat is important. I was equally frustrated and angry with the Wal-Mart manager who was so insensitive to my call for help for the three tiny Chihuahua puppies.

I have carried a heavy heart around for three weeks. The vision of the probability that those five tiny lifeless bodies were probably thrown into a dumpster as if they had no value except for money, flashes before my eyes frequently. I believe all manner of life is of value, and worth a call for help when needed. Especially for those who are so helpless.

The Chronicles of Little Bear, Part One – Missing Holly

Little Bear feeling lonely

Have you ever felt like time is just flying by?  For the last year, I’ve kind of felt like I’m sitting on a falling fig leaf that has been caught up by a gust of wind, and I’m being lifted here and there through time.  Each day is like an air lift that spins me in a new direction, and I have no control over the length of each glide through the air.  I’m just being whisked through the journey of time, with some days filled with great joy, but ending too quickly, and others dragging from weary sadness over the loss of a dear friend who has moved on to her forever home.

I can hardly believe how fast my leaf of time has gone by since Holly left.  Six more weeks and it will be a year, and yet when I sit here under the fig tree watching the leaves float by, it feels like it was just yesterday that we sat here together.  I’m Little Bear – you might know me from the book Holly’s Story. If you haven’t read the book yet, well you should, because it’s a really good story and I’m one of the main characters!

I’m a sweet lovable miniature Schnauzer who became Holly’s best friend while she stayed here at our doggy foster home.  Since Holly left, not a lot has changed in our daily lives.  Danny, Smoke, Nicholas and Beethoven (the cats), Mommy, Grandma, and me are all still here doing what we always do – the best that we can to help dogs find their forever homes.  There’s always plenty of trauma and drama, especially when the cats get involved, but mostly there is lots and lots of love and friendship.

Getting back to Holly, it was so hard to see Holly go.  We all missed her something terrible for the first few weeks.  It was hard not to have her around – her laughing bark, her eagerness to help out, her “bounce to every ounce” way of doing things, her sweet gullible innocence, and her kind loving heart.  How can you not miss a little dog like that?  Life just isn’t as exciting without her around.

I still miss her to this very day as I sit underneath the wonderful old fig tree in the west side of our back yard.  She was my best friend ever, and it took me a long time to get over her going to her forever home.  I guess that’s how it is when you lose someone you love deeply.  I’m really happy that she has a good home and a very happy life with her new Mommy, but that doesn’t change the fact that it left a deep empty spot in my heart.

Danny says life has got to go on, and I know he is right, but he didn’t say how to do it.  I guess that’s because he and Smoke have a big empty hole in their hearts too.  Even the cats get teary-eyed when we talk about Holly.  Every now and then, Mommy still gets a sad look on her face when she looks at Holly’s picture.  Some evenings when we all sit together, Mommy reads Holly’s Story to us and we all well up with pride that our Holly Girl was brave enough to tell her story, and it helps take some of the “missing her” pain away.

As I sit here under the fig tree, I realize there have been some changes with Holly gone, but some of the nice things are still the same.  Like here I am watching the bees hard at work, thinking that some day when I see Holly again, I’ll have to tell her that the beehive dwindled down to almost nothing.  We thought they had moved away for good and that made us all sad.  We liked watching the bees.  Just when we thought they were gone for good, spring came and the bees started to come back.  It’s not as big a beehive as before, but it’s growing fast.  Smoke says that the busy buzzing of the bees is sweet music to his ears.  He won’t think so if he keeps getting so close to them.  Then it will be weeping from the stinging of the ears.

I should know, because a couple years ago I was digging a hole near their front door at the base of the fig tree so I could bury my bone. They gave me a buzzing warning, but I didn’t pay attention.  A short time later, one of the bees buzzed my bum, and I paid attention then!  Ouch, did it hurt!  I went crying to Mommy.  She put some medicine on the sting and said, “The bees were nice enough to give you a warning.  Now stay away from their door, and don’t get in the way of their work.  They are nice bees and won’t hurt you if you don’t interfere with their work.”

I was so disappointed that she sided with the bees.  I wanted her to go out and scold them, but instead she patted me on the head and sent me outside.  Needless to say, I don’t dig around the bees’ door anymore – I learned my lesson.  Besides, it’s more fun to sit in the shade of the fig tree and watch them.  I can find a lot of other places to bury my bone.

Oh, I’ve got to go now.  It’s my shift for Grandma watch.  See you later!

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