My last blog I wrote about Dillon and Molly, my two elderly foster dogs who lost their home in the devastating Valley Fires. The entire time that Dillon and Molly were in the shelter their 92 year old owner, Karen, was unable to visit. When the dogs came home with me I was determined to change that. I was able to reach the family members that Karen was staying with and arranged to bring the dogs to visit. I really didn’t know what to expect. It had been months since they had last seen each other and under terrifying circumstances as they fled the roaring fire.
The old dogs seemed happy to go on an adventure and scrambled to climb into my car. Both are frail with bad hips and I had to lift them the last little bit into the vehicle but they rode happily for the hour and a half drive. My friend Angie came along to help and the time passed quickly in good conversation. When we arrived a grandson greeted us at the door and invited us into the small cluttered room where multiple family members had been staying since the fire. Molly and Dillon heard a voice across the darkened room and dragged me to where Karen sat in a comfy chair dimly lit by the sliding glass door behind her. Karen’s shaking voice cried out “I thought I would never see you again!” as Dillon pulled me to her and buried his huge head in her lap with Molly following. It was hard to see through my tears but I could hear Karen saying “I love you, I love you” over and over.
Molly had greeted Karen eagerly but was somewhat restless and paced around the room. I had been told that Dillon had always been totally devoted to Karen and sure enough, he wouldn’t leave her side. His hips gave out a few minutes later and he collapsed next to her while she stroked him over and over. We chatted for a while and the entire time Karen’s frail hands were on Dillon’s big noble head. Karen kept saying that she was going to get a place where she could have the dogs and I told her that of course when that happened I would bring the dogs back to her. After a while I could see that Karen was tiring and we prepared to leave. I promised her that we would try to visit again and that I would take good care of her dogs as long as needed.
The dogs slept quietly on the way home and Angie and I chatted about the experience. It had been a wonderful reunion but we both knew that chances were slim that Karen would be able to find a place where she could have her two large dogs. Still, we can always dream.
Shirley Zindler is an animal control officer in Northern California, and has personally fostered and rehomed more than 300 dogs. She has competed in obedience, agility, conformation and lure coursing, and has done pet therapy. Zindler just wrote a book The Secret Lives of Dog Catchers, about her experiences and contributes to Bark’s blog on a regular basis.