It’s been a long time since I volunteered at German Shepherd Rescue fostering dogs. I got to thinking about it the other day when I read a short story about the author’s rescued pug. The tale was familiar…a dog being abused, neglected and finally rescued. My memory spiraled back in time to a spring afternoon when I got a call about an abandoned german shepherd puppy that desperately needed rescue. I had never been able to turn down a puppy.
I met Jaspar for the first time in a parking lot. He lay in a crate in the back of another volunteer’s car. I had imagined him to be roly-poly, full of energy. I couldn’t wait to smell his sweet puppy breath and bury my nose in his soft fur. But the eyes that peered out at me though the bars of the crate were dull. The puppy trembled from fear or cold, I wasn’t sure. I opened the crate and gathered him into my arms. The odor that wafted from his matted fur gagged me. The wetness of urine soaked my shirt. The sickly puppy managed to wag his tail and tilt his head up to give my face a weak lick. From that moment on, I was determined to save him.
That first evening I discovered that Jaspar didn’t just look and smell horrible, he was one very sick puppy. His fur crawled with thousands of fleas. He coughed up vast quantities of mucus from his tiny lungs. His ears burned with a red, ugly infection. His temperature soared. My vet looked me in the eye and cautioned, “Don’t get attached. He probably won’t make it.”
It’s amazing what two baths, a dose of flea medication, antibiotics and round the clock love can do. Jaspar’s fur shone. His ears pinkened. His breath sweetened. He began to get a glint in his dark eyes. His cough, however, lingered on. At night I listened to the painful hacking and worried. Each morning I peered fearfully into his crate and was delighted to hear the thunk thunk of his tail. The weeks rolled by and Jaspar regained his strength and lost his cough. He raced about the house, throwing up his huge feet as he chased a ball.
Six weeks after I had rescued him, I made the decision to find him a forever home. My throat grew tight with the thought. The hardest part about fostering dogs is saying good-bye.
After interviewing several interested families, I chose a gregarious woman named Gigi to be Jaspar’s new mother. I think what cinched it was her comment: “He’ll have his own couch at my house.” I imagined little Jaspar perched on the pillows of an overstuffed couch; abandoned no longer.
Jaspar may be the only puppy that ever was given a puppy shower. Gigi’s friends at work organized the party and there was cake, balloons, dog toys and goodies. Happiness and sadness filled my heart equally.
When it was time to say good-bye, I knelt and gathered Jaspar into my arms. “Be a good boy,” I whispered against the soft fur of his ears. Tears ran down my cheeks. Jaspar tipped his head and licked my face.
I have kept tabs on Jaspar. He has grown from a tiny pup to over 110 pounds of pure dog. His favorite pasttime is sleeping on the couch with his head in Gigi’s lap. He has finally found his forever home.
**Photo thanks to Carol Brandt