Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hangin’ with the 1%

Sorry for my recent absence. I’ve no excuse, really. I was simply distracted by dogs and ponies and kettle corn.

The Bluegrass annually hosts a Really Big Show for eventing enthusiasts. (For those of you outside the equine sports community, “eventing” is an equine / equestrian triathlon combining dressage, jumping, and cross-country.) This particular contest—the Rolex Three-Day Event—is fiercely competitive and demands the utmost skill and athleticism from its participants, both equine and human. It is also dangerous and has taken the lives of horses and riders in the past.

At this point, you may well wonder why I’d watch such an event. I didn’t. I watched some world-class, gorgeous horses warm up before competing, but that was it. And that was enough. The rest of the time I served as a volunteer for the local humane society, walking a homeless dog through the crowds and telling everyone I could that she needed a home.

I met some great people from around the globe and heard oodles of rescue stories about both dogs and ponies. I also heard tales from the Dark Side—the cruel and unjustifiable things people do to animals because…

(I don’t know how to finish that last sentence, but I’m working on it because I want to fix it/stop it/prevent it.)

For four hours on Thursday and four hours on Friday, “Peachy” (or Peaches as I more often called her) and I walked the grounds. It was a dog-friendly event, so she met lots of elite dogs and their people. She also met vendors (her faves, of course, were hawking fried fair foods) and police officers (she displayed more respect for the mounted variety), horses and equestrians. She never uttered a sound and she never passed up a potentially edible item without first tasting it (peppers, bananas, tomatoes, broccoli, a frog*—all was fair game). When we rested beneath shady trees together, she always ended up in my lap, nuzzling her snout against my face.

As my shift ended on Friday, I considered it a personal failing that she hadn’t yet been adopted. A couple of other dogs snagged new homes, but not Peaches. There had been plenty of interest in her, but I hadn’t closed the deal with anyone.

Some people would initially try to ward me off by saying they lived far away. “I’m from California (or Colorado or Florida). Otherwise…” But I never waited for them to finish. As soon as they named their state, I shot back with “That’s not an obstacle. I’ll personally drive Peachy to wherever you live.” Yes, I realize now that they were actually attempting to say No to me in a way that 1) Wouldn’t offend me, and 2) Let them off the hook for what they considered good reason. I just wasn’t very reasonable. And frankly, I looked forward to a road trip.

I was hot, my feet hurt, and I couldn’t bear to think of Peachy reduced to living in the shelter again—where she’d been for many months because she’s a neurotic mess while there (bloodies her paws trying to claw her way out of the cage, can’t calm down long enough for any potential adopters to get a good look at her) and nobody wants to adopt a neurotic mess.

Except one woman, who I’m pretty sure had some neuroses of her own. I should have been thrilled over her attraction to Peaches, but I wasn’t. I dreaded she would be the ONLY hope. My concern hinged largely on a single question the woman asked me repeatedly: “Can you guarantee she won’t run away?” She explained she planned to let Peachy roam her large farm with her other rescued dogs. I asked her how she managed to get the other dogs to stay on the farm. She said they simply followed her around. I said I couldn’t guarantee anything. I believed she’d need to work patiently with Peaches to educate the dog about her new home and boundaries.

I went home. Saturday passed. Sunday morning I returned to the park for my shift working Doggie Daycare (basically a boarding service for the dogs of the 1%). Several more dogs had been adopted since Friday. And Peachy?

“Yeah, we think she’ll get a home today,” said one of the humane society employees.

I cringed. “Is it the woman?”

“No. You’ll like these people.”

I couldn’t imagine who would meet the standards I’d suddenly set for my Peaches. There had been one family I wanted to belong to myself, but they clearly had enough animals and children and stuff going on already. I didn’t even try to push Peaches on them, but I enjoyed chatting with them whenever I ran into them.

Halfway through my shift as prison warden to a couple of elite dogs from Hell, I noticed my dream family standing outside the Doggie Daycare tent. I stepped outside to say Hey, but was rendered speechless and motionless when I realized why they were there: They had decided to adopt Peaches.

I couldn’t believe Peachy’s good fortune. I thanked the young father profusely and said I could just hug him. (I am NOT a hugger.) He hugged me. I’m sorry now that I didn’t get a pic of the entire dreamy blended family. When my shift ended, I celebrated by buying a bag of kettle corn and blissfully munching on it as I strolled around the park in a daze.

On Monday morning, I worried about Peachy. I sent her telepathic messages: “PleaseBeGood. PleaseBeGood. Don’t steal anyone’s food, leave the horse pies alone, cuddle with everybody. Do NOT make that family resent your adoption—they are the best home any dog could hope for. PleaseBeGood.”

On Monday afternoon, I received a follow-up e-mail about the event from the humane society. In addition to raising an impressive amount of money through the Doggie Daycare, the merchandise tent, and donations collected by the shelter dogs (they wore little coats with big pockets in which passersby would slip $10, $5, or $1 bills), eleven pooches shook free from their homeless labels and left the Rolex event with their new families.

I know what some of you are thinking: “Eleven? What’s eleven next to the millions still waiting for homes?”

You’re right, of course. Eleven is nothing.

But for Peachy, and for each of her ten canine pals, it’s everything.

* The frog incident was not on my watch, thank goodness.
[Pics of Peaches snapped in haste by yours truly; photo of Rolex second-place winner Allison Springer and her horse, Arthur (who won the coveted award for Best Conditioned Horse), by Nancy Jaffer.]

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