This story is by Elise Wu and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“I can’t believe how people could be so irresponsible!” Maddie yelled, barging into my office without knocking. I got used to it since I established ‘the open door’ policy. The old chair creaked loud as she put her weight on it. Her anger face was almost matching her ginger hair.
“What happened?” I asked.
Maddie exhaled before venting of her rants.
“The dog was attached to a tree in the backyard” she began. “No water, no food. Her leash was long enough for her hunt the critters because we found bones around the tree. AND… where’s the owner? In Spain for two weeks! Outrageous!”
Then her tears rolled down, and I knew it would happen. I offered her a box of Kleenex from my drawer.
People thought that those who work in a shelter have an impenitent heart because we get used to seeing animals suffered or being euthanized. It was wrong! We cried when we had to choose the procedure as we cheered when they were adopted.
“From which neighborhood is she?” I asked. Maddie mentioned the name. I frowned. It meant the dog was the fourth dog we had confiscated in the last two months due to negligence and cruelty.
“Well, that should be under our surveillance starting immediately,” I asserted. “Now, let’s see the dog.”
Maddie nodded and let me lead.
A tan dog sat in the corner of the kennel as we were approaching. Its eyes widened, and a soft growl heard as I was kneeling in front of the kennel’s door.
“Hi, Sweetie, how are you?” I said in my particular voice for dogs. The dog pressed her back to the corner with her hind legs trembling.
“Her name is Kawana, a Jindo breed” Maddie filled me in. “No ID chip, but I have her owner’s phone number and will try to call tomorrow.”
“Thank you. Then when will she get examined?” I asked, looking at Kawana.
“Tomorrow morning,” Maddie turned to me with her face looking solemn. “As you know, our kennel is almost full. We need to work extra hard to get her adopted. The sooner, the better.”
“How long can she be here?”
“Two months. Can’t be more,” she answered.
I shuddered involuntarily. The sentences always sent a shiver through me. If no one were interested in adopting her, Kawana would be in the death row!
Working in the high-kill shelter was stressful and I’d recognized before I accepted the job. Yet, I determined to change the condition.
Within four months since I arrived, I had reduced the amount of the euthanized dogs and cats by thirty-five percent. I reached my friends or families and they were sports and willing to adopt the unfortunate creatures. They also provided transportation to bring the animals to their new families, if the new houses were far away from our shelter.
Unfortunately, the total of dogs and cats being dropped off at our shelter was too many. We were so overwhelmed. We snapped for a small mistake, suffered a headache, and were lack of enthusiasm. I wished I did not give up my last job at the no-kill shelter.
A month passed by.
“Lisa, Toby’s time is up in two days. Could you sign this?” Lilian, one of the executors, handing me a release paper. My heart sunk for the bad news because Toby was a sweet golden retriever. His old age became a hindrance for people to adopt him.
“I found someone who will take him,” I gave the paper back to her. Lilian’s eyes squinted for a few minutes.
“Well, what will Tom say if he knows you will fetch the fourth dog home?” She said.
I sighed and rubbed my forehead. Lilian knew that Tom and I threw a big fight after I brought Bailey home. Although no HOA regulation about total pets in the house, our expenses would be off the roof to pay their food and veterinarian’s bills.
Before I said something, Bob, another caretaker, entered my office. The long scar on his right cheek would look scary for those who did not know his golden heart.
“Boss, Snowy’s time will be up in one more week,” he said in his thick Southern accent. Right after his saying, Maddie walked into my room, looked concerned.
“Kawana is pretty, but she is too scared of people and not friendly to kids,” she said, running hands through her hair. “No one is interested in adopting her”
“How about fostering?” I asked, feeling a knot in my stomach. Maddie shrugged and said, “In three weeks, we will have Thanksgiving and people will be busy for a holiday.”
I clenched my jaw, feeling hot on my cheeks. For all attempts and the hours we spent to save those dogs, seemed useless. Would we fail this time?
“It won’t be easy Boss, but we will find a way,” said Bob, looking at me. I nodded and cleared my throat.
“Yes, we will.”
The big wall clock behind my desk was ticking as it was mocking me. But, I would not give up.
Only two weeks left.
Mike, a dog trainer in SoCal, sent us an email stating he is interested in fostering Kawana. To meet our rules, he promised to contact a rescue group to sign up as its member.
But, in five days, my hope was scattered because Mike said no rescue group was interested in accepting him as their member.
I slammed two thick binders on my table.
“Why is it so difficult to accept one person to be their member? What a hypocrite! Saying they save animals. Only when somebody would wish to take part, they rejected him,” I cried. “Argh!”
“Calm down, Boss,” said Bob. “Mike could lie to us.”
Inhaling deeply, I shook my head.
“I don’t think so. I contacted Mike’s clients, and they vouched for him.”
“Well, what if Maddie and I bring Kawana to our homes. Three days with her, four days with me. In this manner, we can buy more time and won’t bend the rules,” Bob insinuated. “I will also contact my friends in San Diego’s shelters. Since people in SoCal know the Jindo breed, we can transfer her to their shelters and who knows her luck will be in the county.”
All a sudden, all tensions fell on my shoulders unraveled.
“That’s brilliant!” I said, almost jumped to hug him. “Let’s do it!”
Bob grinned at me and nodded.
Five days before Thanksgiving.
After making a tough decision, I permitted Mike to foster Kawana, because I trusted him and I believed on his clients’ vouches.
Alas, Mike did not respond to my email yet, and it was four days ago. have no longer interested. A pain stabbed my heart when I was thinking about that.
At lunchtime, I got to visit Kawana. When we confiscated her from her household, her body was covered with sores and scaly skin underneath her hair. Today, the skin’s condition looked better, but her weight was below average, although we had fed her with puppy food to gain her weight.
I was looking at her and heat swelled behind my eyes, and when I blinked, a tear slipped out. To my surprised, Kawana was crawling closer and licked my hand. Forcing a smile, I caressed her soft head.
Not certain how long I was with Kawana when my ears caught my name being screamed. It was Maddie. I called to let her where I was. In a few minutes, she showed up, holding our office’s cell phone. Her face beamed.
“It was Mike! He left you a message saying he is still interested in fostering Kawana.”
I leaped up, grabbing her hand.
Maddie nodded, and we squealed as teenage girls.
Unfortunately, nothing was smooth.
Mike asked if he could pick up Kawana in halfway because he lived in Carlsbad, San Diego, which was five hundred miles from us. The news that was brought by Maddie in a cracking voice made my head spinning.
A miracle happened.
Bob’s girlfriend, Sadie, was going down to Carlsbad to bring a few dogs from our shelter to her friends in the town, and she did not mind to take Kawana with her.
We shouted and hugged each other. My tears dripped on the excellent news. Our persistence paid off.
I had the best Thanksgiving Day in my life. Besides Kawana, we were able to release dogs and cats to their new homes with their new families. The whole day, I was smiling, humming and joking about.
“I am sorry that we end up having four dogs,” I turned to Tom, as we were watching the football game at his parent’s house. Tom shrugged.
“Well, if I can see your smile more often, I don’t mind,” he said, pulling me closer. “But don’t sneak any dog into our house without telling me. I was scared to death when Toby jumped to me as I entered the house.”
I chuckled. “OK, I promise.”