It’s National Rescue Dog Day and there’s a saying in the rescue community – “Who rescued who?”
My husband and I adopted our first dog in 2006 about a year after we met. She was a blue heeler mix puppy, and she, her litter, and her momma were found abandoned on the side of a road in New Mexico. A couple of years later, my husband and I got our second dog after someone walked into my work with an armful of Rottweiler/German shepherd puppies that needed new homes.
It’s incredibly unfair that we outlive our pets; the past few years have been wrought with grief as my family has had to say goodbye to Ellie and Diesel. These pups were with us when we bought our first house, when we got married, and when I brought home my (human) babies from the hospital. My kids didn’t even know what life was like without a dog in the house until we lost Diesel in April of 2021. It was their first real experience with death (they were too young to remember when Ellie passed in 2018) and no parenting book prepared me to explain death and loss to my children, and why Diesel wasn’t going to come back from the vet this time.
We told ourselves we weren’t going to get another dog again for a while – the grief was deep, and we knew we had our hands full with the kids. But as I continued to work remotely during the pandemic, the kids went back to school in-person, and the quietness in the house became deafening.
Within six months after Diesel passed, I knew I was ready for another dog. I started following several different rescues on social media and filling out adoption applications, watching for the right dog for our family. There are so many rescues out there – some for specific breeds, some for big dogs versus small dogs, puppies versus senior dogs. I was primarily watching a rescue that specialized in pregnant dogs and their litters – a lot of rescues and shelters have a hard time finding foster homes willing to take on the work of a pregnant dog, so Moms and Mutts Colorado Rescue (MAMCO Rescue) does everything they can to take in these dogs through their network of foster homes. And one day I saw her – her beautiful brindled coat, a little white spot on her nose, and these sweet eyes that reminded me so much of my Diesel. After convincing my husband she was the one, I cried the whole way to the rescue to meet her. I kept looking at her sweet eyes and I swore it was Diesel telling me it was OK, that she was the one.
The kids named her Raya, after the Disney heroine from “Raya and the Last Dragon.” She’s kept us on our toes since the day we brought her home, but she’s done a great job of learning the ropes too. She sleeps near me in the basement when I work from home and lays with me on the couch when I read or watch TV at night. She knows when it’s lunchtime that she gets to go for a walk. But she doesn’t quite understand yet what it means when the kids swing on the swing set – she runs around them barking and trying to grab their feet.
I thought getting another dog might help fill the hole that Ellie and Diesel left in our lives. But grief and loss doesn’t really work that way. Those holes are still there and instead, Raya found a whole new spot to nestle herself into.
If you’re thinking about getting a pet, I urge you to check out some of the rescues in your area. There are so many dogs (of all ages), and hardly enough families and fosters to go around. I promise, if you rescue a dog, they’ll probably rescue you right back. If now isn’t a good time to adopt, consider becoming a foster partner with a rescue.
And in the wise words of Bob Barker: “Do your part to help control the pet population and have your pets spayed or neutered.” Rescue organizations do everything they can to rescue and adopt out all the pets they can, but we still must do everything we can to prevent overpopulation.
Some Denver Metro/Colorado rescue organizations: