Yesterday, Iain and I dropped off some donations—garbage bags, paper towels, bleach, SOS pads—at the local humane society where we adopted Zelda (and where I also adopted my late cat Jimmy). It wasn't much, but it was what we could afford, and they were grateful for what we could give.
While we were there, we spent some time with the dogs and cats housed there. It is not an easy thing for either of us, to see animals in need of homes for whom we cannot do more, but that little bit of snuggling and cooing and telling them how lovely they are is a little bit of affection they wouldn't have had otherwise, which feels worth it, even though it is so hard to walk away.
We were both taken with a white Husky ironically named Midnight, who was so shy it took forever for one of the workers—a wonderful, gentle, empathic, passionate young woman—to get him on a lead. He cowered and shook, but had no aggression. He was visibly underweight and was deeply lacking in socialization with humans. The person who dropped him off at the shelter cited as the reason for abandonment that "he wouldn't do anything."
We got Midnight on the lead and took him outside for a walk in the falling snow. His tail was tucked firmly between his legs, but he stayed first at Iain's side, and then at mine, and slowly his tail began to relax, followed by the rest of him. He did not know come, or heel, or sit. He cringed away in fright if anyone reached out to touch him. Midnight reminded me a lot of Dudley, once upon a time.
We took him into the little dogpark the shelter recently built out back. He walked with us, back and forth, and we did not try to pet him or make him do anything he did not want to do. We simply walked beside him and let him know there were people who would not hurt him.
Eventually, we stood. We let the lead slack, and he began to investigate us. He sniffed our hands, and we offered closed fists. He lowered his head and we stroked his ears and his chin. He wasn't sure whether he liked it, but he was pretty certain he didn't hate it.
Midnight is a great dog who will not show well at the shelter and would profoundly benefit from being fostered. Iain and I very seriously considered fostering him ourselves, but he's so shy yet that he can't be properly tested with cats or fences. I felt pretty sure he'd be fine with cats, because he's so submissive, especially in a house with other cat-respectful dogs, to whom he'd be looking for behavior cues. But Huskies are notorious escape artists, and we only have a four-foot fence. For his own safety, we left him there.
I put out the word to people I know in local animal rescue that there was a dog in great need of fostering. Most of the people I know are, however, involved in greyhound and pitbull rescue. They're sharing the information—hopefully someone can rescue Midnight.
After we left, Iain moaned miserably, "I don't know why I do this to myself." To which I can relate. It is hard to feel so sad and helpless.
"We gave Midnight an opportunity to spend time with people who won't hurt him," I said. "Next time he sees the lead, he'll associate it that little bit more with good things happening and be that little bit less reluctant to be leashed."
Iain murmured his agreement. It is small consolation.
He is already a great dog. I hope someone sees what a great pet he will be, once he's given the chance to build his confidence through a trust-building routine in a safe home.
We went home and hugged the furry residents soooooooo tight.