Given the festive time of year, I thought I would focus my year-end blog posts on happy endings. Some of the most touching stories arose from tragedy.
The ASPCA’s largest rescue effort this year was helping the animals left homeless following the tornadoes that devastated Joplin, Missouri. Several of our responders told me stories that I’ll never forget.
One of those involved a male setter mix dog who was quivering with fear in his kennel at the emergency shelter that had been set up for animals rescued following the tornadoes. One of the ASPCA’s responders built trust with the dog by patiently hand feeding him, until finally the dog allowed us to put a leash on him to take him for a walk.
Walking this terrified dog was challenging, as he pulled with all his might in the same direction. No matter which way the handler tried to direct him, the dog insisted on going in a single southward direction.
A few hours after the walk, a man was walking through the shelter trying to find his missing dog. When the man and the setter mix saw each other, the formerly-timid dog leapt up with excitement and started barking, howling and wagging his tail furiously. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, this man and this dog had belonged to each other before the tornadoes. The man pointed out where their home had been and, sure enough, that dog had been pulling his handler earlier in the day in the direction of where their home had been.
After the man and his beloved dog were reunited, we were hoping for similar joyous reunions. ASPCA responders talked frequently to an 18-year-old woman and her brother who visited the Joplin emergency shelter desperately trying to find the woman’s cat. Like countless others, this woman had lost almost everything she owned, but she clung to a dirty photo of her 16-year-old cat.
The cat the woman was desperately seeking was missing an ear and looked every one of his 16 years. Each time the woman visited the shelter and could not find her cat, she assumed the worst and broke down in tears. As the woman was leaving after one such heart-wrenching search, she saw a rescuer carrying a cat in a crate. She held up the picture of her beloved cat, and the rescuer said that he thought he had the cat. The woman looked in the crate, saw her cat, and collapsed on the ground while hugging the crate and crying along with her brother.
As news reports focus on must-have holiday gifts, I can’t help but think about the people who lost all their material possessions, yet felt so blessed to have found their beloved companions. Happy holidays, everyone!