Shadow’s Story

It was late in the afternoon. I had just gotten off work and went to our vet’s office, Opelika Animal Hospital, to pick up Shadow. Shadow, our oldest dog, age 14, had not been feeling well, & had been having more and more blood in her urine. We were concerned and had done everything the doctor had asked us to do, including antibiotics, special diet, etc. But the problem persisted. Word from the front desk was that Dr. Elrod wanted to speak with me. I sunk down in the chair knowing at that moment something serious was wrong. As Dr. Elrod came into the examining room, I knew my heart was not ready for the diagnosis. The ultrasound had revealed a large cancerous tumor in Shadow’s bladder, taking up almost 70%. I don’t know how, but somehow I heard the words…inoperable… maybe two months to live…meds to keep comfortable…I closed my eyes to hold back the tears I knew would soon be spilling over. In that moment in my mind, I left that medical room and traveled back in time to fourteen years earlier when Shadow and I first met.

It was November 1994. We lived in Florida then. One day on the front page of the local newspaper, the St Petersburg Times, pictured a beautiful young white dog up on the examining table…doctor standing near. The article talked about pet over population and how because of lack of space and lack of homes, they were preparing to euthanize this particular dog. The article shocked me, and made me cry. Haunted by the images, I tossed and turned all night thinking about it, and rushed to the shelter the next day to adopt, and to save a life. We had two dogs’ already…two cocker spaniels, but surely we had room for another. It was a life changing moment as my daughter, Rachel and I, walked up and down the concrete isles. I was not prepared for what I saw, and had no idea. So many barking…so many pleading…so many needing a home. Up until that time, I didn’t know anything about pet overpopulation, had never been to a shelter, nor did I understand the importance of spaying & neutering. And euthanasia- did they really put dogs and kitties to sleep??? But in this life changing moment, as I looked into each furry face, I learned the truth real quick. It was life changing for me, and little did I know then how much it would affect me and Larry and our future. But at this particular moment, I couldn’t do anything but stand there & cry. Now I knew…oh my, now I knew. Looking at each face, which one do I choose??? Because we already had two adult established dogs, the staff directed us to a small dog, puppy area. There were so many in there…they were all barking, jumping up on the fence. I thought my heart would break wishing I could take them all home with me. It was when I noticed her… standing there off to the side. A little brown shaggy dog. She was not barking, or pleading, or jumping up on the fence She had such a look on her face, that I would never forget, a look as if saying that she wasn’t sure exactly how she ended up in this place, but whatever the future would bring she would face it proudly and with all the dignity that she possessed. She would not beg, she would not plead. She was standing there off to the side, apart from the others…even turned away slightly, so proud, so strong and she was the one that I adopted that day….Shadow.

Now here 14, almost 15 years later, and I am looking to stay goodbye to one of my best friends as cancer takes her away. We had spent a history together, bringing her along with us, along with Patch, Rags and Candy, when we moved to Alabama in 1997. Then the start of Rescue K911 the same year, and the following years as hundreds of little homeless rescued dogs would come in and out our front doors. For sure Shadow let each one know that she was Queen, and that she was alpha, and indeed she was. Our only regret was that she had to share our time and attention with so many. But she took it all in stride and was happy and loved the Alabama rural countryside. The doors open, bringing me quickly back to the present. The vet tech comes in and at the end of the leash is Shadow. Eyes dimmed due to age, a graying muzzle, ears that don’t hear anymore, but I couldn’t help but notice….oh my there it was again, that same proud, so very strong look in her face. Not really understanding why she was there, but with whatever the future may bring, she would face it proudly and with all the dignity that she possessed. She would not beg, and she would not plead. I couldn’t help but wrap my arms around her and as I held her close, wishing I had such strength as she possessed.

We would have Shadow for 7 out of the 8 promised short weeks together. On her last day she went outside to do her business came in and laid down, unable to get back up again, and started losing large amounts of blood. In our last moments together, as I held her and sang to her, told her how much I loved her, and thanked her for what she had taught me about the plight of the homeless and the little lives that end up in shelters that have no voice to speak for themselves. She was a proud little dog and she had taught us all so very much. All of us here at Rescue K911 owe so much to this little girl, and I promised her that we would continue to carry on the work, and do our very best to make a difference in the world no matter how small it may be, and to keep as many little homeless/unwanted dogs off that euthanasia table as we possibly could.

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