Saving a Life

On Christmas Eve, Zelda’s wonderful black lab, Huggy, passed away. It was sad because she had been with Zelda for 13 years but we all know that pets don’t live forever.

A few weeks Zelda and I started shopping for a new puppy, preferably another black lab but at least a big dawg. We talked about it on the phone while looking at pet rescue websites, emailed each other pics of different candidates, but none of them worked out for one reason or another. It was time for action. And so bright and early on a Saturday morning we trekked out to our favorite shelter in Pasadena. There were some very cute dogs there and the puppies Zelda was interested in were pit-bull mixes, a litter of five. She liked a female brindle and went to the office to talk adoption while I wandered around and talked to all the other canines in residence.

I started to get anxious as I walked down row after row of caged animals, wondering why there were so many adorable unwanted animals. I wanted to cry but big girls don’t cry so instead I prayed that Zelda would hurry up. Well it turned out that pit-bulls were not a good mix for people who have cats and Zelda has plenty.

So we went to the shelter in Glendale and were met with some suspicious shelter workers wanting to know why we were there and what we were looking for. We told them a dog. The lady seemed a bit nonplussed and said she would get someone to help us. Another suspicious lady eventually appeared and questioned us thoroughly on just exactly what kind of do we were looking for and after Zelda complied with a description the woman furrowed her brow and said they didn’t have anything like that. I asked, “well could we look anyway?”

Begrudgingly the woman led us through the door to the kennel, where we were told we may not cross the yellow line much less do anything as dangerous as pet any of the dogs. The dogs all looked like they were on death row and kept their tails in check except for a quick swish once Headmistress McAdopt-no gave them a treat. And truthfully I expected them all to rise up on their hind legs and belt out a chorus of Food Glorious Food any minute. Sad to say the woman was right and there were no candidates for Zelda. And once we heard that their adoption fee was $300 we weren’t all that upset either.

Our last shelter was in Burbank and unlike Glendale, we were welcomed in and encouraged to go back to the kennel and take a look around. And wouldn’t you know that the big black lab mix puppy in the first cage turned out to be the one. We had to come back the next day to adopt and we had a close call with a raffle because another family wanted her but Zelda got her pup.

But the real story starts here. When Zelda was running around talking to staff to figure out how to handle the adoption procedure for her pup, I was drawn to another cage down the row. That is where I first laid eyes on Emma. A yellow and white Maltese mix. She wasn’t overly friendly or throwing herself against the cage for attention – in fact, she regarded my outstretched hand with some indifference – but we did connect somehow. I walked away and then I went back and away and back. There was something about this animal, I knew she needed a home. I knew I needed to find her a home.

I proceeded to talk to every person who was there and talked up Emma, they all smiled but were looking for something else. No takers. I knew I could find someone. The next morning when we went back for Zelda’s dog, I tried again, but again, no takers.

I went to work and talked to my co-workers and discovered our receptionist wanted a dog. I showed her Emma’s picture and she fell in love with her. I was relieved, Emma would have a home. But a few days later I found out that the receptionist’s landlord said no to pets. I had to find someone else for Emma.

After many attempts I finally brought Emma up to my room mate – a staunch cat person. Although he had come to appreciate dogs because of my dog who he had come to really love. After a few stammers and stutters he finally said, “so you want me to adopt this dog?”

“Ah, yeah, I do,” I admitted.

I showed him the picture and he said he’d think about it.

After a couple of meets and greets with Emma, roomie decided to adopt her and was a bit surprised to discover she wasn’t available until a week later. At that point we learned that Emma had been held at the shelter for nearly two months so that she could be socialized. The previous owners had neglected her badly. When she was brought in her coat was so matted they had to sedate her so they could shave her – they also had to teach her how to eat out of a dish as apparently she’d never been fed that way before. Apparently this sweet little dog had been tied up and left in the yard and thrown table scraps and had no skills with humans or other animals. Sad. Even as roomie was walking her out of the shelter, the employees were telling him he had two weeks to bring her back.

It sounded pretty bleak and we thought we’d spend months helping her to adjust to normal life as a house pet and to our other pets. But, within three hours of being ‘home’ Emma was rubbing up against me and let me pet her, and when I bent down to smile at her and say, ‘good girl!’ she licked my nose.

It’s been a week now and with the exception of a few territorial issues with the other pets and an inclination to eating squeaky toys Emma is a happy, affectionate and loving animal.


I’m hoping that she understands she is home and will never have to be tied up outside or thrown table scraps which she’ll have to hide in case food runs short. That she will always have food, shelter, friends and humans who love her. We still need to convince her that a harness and leash only means it’s time for a walk and that potato chips and squeaky toys aren’t good for her digestion and cats should be given wide berth – but it’s looking pretty good.

In my mind, we saved a life. I’m sure of it, really, because I knew in my heart that if we hadn’t adopted Emma, no one would have. And that wonderful, sweet little animal who only wanted someone to love her and someone to give her love to probably wouldn’t be alive now.

Every year, millions of animals are abandoned, mistreated and euthanized – but as Emma has proven even animals who are mistreated can be wonderful pets and a great addition to a family. If you’re looking for a pet, please go to your local shelter and see if you can find an Emma of your own. Puppies are great but older dogs have as much love and affection to offer as a puppy – sometimes more. I’m sure glad we did.