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Pets Large & Small

I want nothing but the best for her

Jennifer Vanderau
Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter

(2/2013) They say I saved her. The folks at the shelter. They say if I hadn't fostered her and bottle fed her, she likely wouldn't have survived. If being a savior is supposed to be so noble, why does it hurt so very much?

Oh, she was so small when she came to me. The runt of the litter. A tiny little ball of black fluff and she was having trouble gaining weight. Her mom was such a mess when she gave birth at the shelter. She'd been a stray, a pup on the street, on her own, fighting for scraps. That's no way to nurture unborn puppies.

In retrospect, it was probably lucky any of them survived to even be born.

The folks at the shelter knew that the littlest one was in trouble and needed that extra touch, so they called me. They knew I would help.

I bottle fed her, tried to get her to eat almost anything. I just knew she needed nourishment and tried to entice her with so many different things.

It was touch and go there for a while. We were consulting with vets almost on a daily basis. The little girl was on all kinds of medications just to try to keep her going. On more than one occasion, I really thought we were going to lose her.

She went practically everywhere with me. She had to. Thankfully I was able to take her to work with me and my co-workers were more than happy to help me. She kind of became the glue that held a lot of us together. Everyone wanted to greet her and see how she was doing.

Eventually, thankfully, she got stronger. Better. Healthier.

She was able to eat puppy food and started playing and acting like a regular, happy four-legged baby. And she started growing. It was difficult for me to notice it because I was with her every day, but people who hadn't seen her for stretches of time would remark on how well she had filled out and how big she was getting.

Her ears even started to stand completely upright. It was so amazing to see her mature into the pup I knew she would become.

I'm so grateful that my canine bunch at the house got along so well with her. Sure, they'd roll her from time to time because she was so small and they are such big lummoxes who I swear don't know how far their own feet can go, but she'd jump right back up and hop around and play.

She was a real treasure.

And because we were together so long and because I would feed her, she started to look at me as mom. I know she did. She was so tiny when we took her away from her actual mom, she had no other frame of reference.

She would recognize my voice and get so excited just to hear me talk. Sometimes she would whine if she could hear me but I wouldn't stop in to see her.

It really warmed my heart. She was mine in so many ways.

At first we thought we would wait to spay her until she was a little older than they normally do at the shelter because of her rough start in life, but she did so well and grew so fast, we took a chance.

She came through with flying colors and that's when the people at the shelter started talking about putting her up for adoption.

She was so incredibly adoptable. I knew this, even going in. First, she's a puppy and so unbelievably adorable. She had the perfect personality -- she loved absolutely everyone. She was so used to a life with other animals, she would fit into practically any home.

I have a canine group of my own at home who need me and she was only supposed to be temporary. A foster. I knew all this going in. I did.

It's just. When the day came that I said goodbye to her and sent her off with her new family, I just. I don't know how to explain it.

I helped get her situated in the back of the car and she turned around. Why did she have to turn around? She turned around and looked at me with those gorgeous brown eyes of hers and I know, I swear I just know, she was saying, "Come on, Mom. Where are we going with these folks?"

Shutting that door may have been one of the hardest things I've ever done.

I wanted so badly to tell her -- so that she would understand -- that I was only a stop off in her life. I was a transition, just to make her well, get her better, get her on her feet, so she could have a happy life with another family. I wanted so very much to make her understand that it wasn't because I didn't love her -- my God, it was never that -- but because I loved her so much that I took on the responsibility of having her in my life.

All I can do is pray that they will love her as much as I have. That she will bring them as much joy as she did me. That they will know how truly special this little girl is and was to so many people before she came into their lives.

I want nothing but the best for her. I always did.

Good luck, sweet little Pixie. You meant more to the folks at the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter than you'll ever really know.


This column was written for one of our Animal Care Technicians who truly loved a little girl named Pixie. This kind of absolute, unconditional love -- both given and received -- is a rare gift in this world and should be valued and treasured and remembered. Pixie will always have a special place in our hearts, even though she's no longer a presence in our daily lives.

Jennifer Vanderau is the Director of Communications for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter in Chambersburg, Pa., and can be reached at The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at (717) 263-5791 or visit the website

Read other articles by Jennifer Vanderau