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The First of the Third Ones


Iíve finally found my forever home

Michael Hillman

My mother always told me that if I was nice and obedient I would find a forever home. I thought I had, but it turned out that I was wrong.

It has been almost four days since I last saw my people. The food and water bowls my bother and I shared have been empty for days. The house, which at one time shone bright at night, is now dark. I wonder: where did my people go? What did I do wrong? I always wagged my tail when I saw my people, I always smiled at them. I thought they liked me.


I sat patiently as my daily plethora of e-mails downloaded. As usual, most of it was spam, which my junk e-mail filter hid from me. But, amongst those that escaped the junk filter, I once again noticed an unusually large number of pleas from animal rescue groups.

A year back, I had sent some money to a shelter in order to help a save sick cat. I thought it was a one-time donation, but a few weeks later, I got another notice to help a injured dog found alongside a roadó so, I gave again. Since then, the number of e-mails from rescue organizations seems to grow almost exponentially. I wanted to help them all, but I only have so much money.

I read the dayís list of animals in need. A two-year-old male dog named "Spot," whose owners didnít want him any more because he was no longer a puppy, would be euthanized that evening unless rescued. There were twelve-year-old, brother-sister cats, whose elderly owner had died. The womanís kids didnít want the cats, and thought nothing of taking their motherís companions to a high kill shelter. I shook my head in disgust and sadly deleted the e-mails. I could only help so many.


My stomach hurts. I canít remember the last time I ate. Itís cold outside, colder than I can ever remember it being. Our people used to let us go inside on really cold days, but no matter how much I scratch at the door, no one answers.

My brother went to houses with lights on down our street, but every time he got near a door, someone came out and yelled at him. I donít think anyone wants us. We donít know what we did wrong. Weíre only eight months old. What could we have done wrong?


Itís late and Iím tired. As I click through my daily load of e-mails once again, I purposely delete without opening those from the rescue shelters. I feel guilty, but Iím tired of going to bed at night with the faces of those lonely dogs and cats on my mind. I can only help so many. Someone else needs to step up. Iíve done my part for the month.


My brother and I struck out to find something to eat today. We were walking down our road when a white truck pulled up along side us and a man got out. I walked up to the man wagging my tail. He spoke to me nicely and patted my head. For a moment I thought he was going to feed us, but then he put a chain around my neck and put me into a cage in the truck, and my brother in another.

Before I knew it I was in a building, in a cage, and all around me were barking dogs. I had never experienced this before. I was scared. All I wanted to do was go home to my shed. What had I done wrong? It was a long, scary night.

Days soon become weeks. The nice girl who feeds me always pats my head, but as the days go on, she keeps telling me I need to get adopted soon or else. Or else what I think to myself?

As I was finishing my breakfast one day, I looked up to see a nice woman talking to the man in the truck.

"Iíll take her and her brother," she said, "weíll find homes for them."

"Just in time" the man said, "they were on this weekís kill list."

That afternoon my brother and I were taken to a farm and allowed to run for the first time in weeks. But before we were let out to play, the nice woman took photos of us.


It was well into the evening before I had time to check my e-mails; I steeled myself for the daily barrage of rescue e-mails. For some reason I found myself opening and reading them all.

Unlike the past few day however, I had time to read. 35+ precious, friendly dogs and 6+ cats from a gassing-only shelter with death date in two days. My heart sank. I opened the next message. As I scrolled down, I came to a photo of a dog that bore a strong resemblance to one my wife and I had lost due to an accident at much too early an age. I must have been staring at the photo for five minutes when my wife came in to kiss me good night. I showed her the photo. "Doesnít she look like Emma?" I said.

"Yes she does" my wife replied. "Whatís her story?"

"I donít know, but Iíll find out," I said determinately.

I contacted the sender of the e-mail, and was surprised to get a reply almost immediately. "You need to contact the name next to the dogís photo," the sender replied. "Iím just a cross posterĖ someone trying to help others trying to help animals in distress connect with as many people as possible across the country."

So I e-mailed the name next to the photo and turned my computer off for the night.

The next morning, while sipping my morning cup of coffee, I check my e-mails. The first one was from the rescue. I check the time stamp: it was sent at 2 a.m.ósomeone was working late into the evening to help this dog.

Over the next 24 hours, a flurry of e-mails was passed. The dog was in Kentucky. Since they couldnít meet me in person, if I wanted to adopt her I had to fill out an application and have a background check done. I felt a little bit insultedówith three dogs and five cats, I thought I had more than proved myself a worthy pet owner. But, they didnít know that. For all they knew, I could be an animal abuser seeking my next victim. So, I filled out the application. I wasnít sure I wanted the dog, but I did know I wanted the option.


I got to drive in the nice ladyís car today. We went to a house where a big man looked into my mouth and shined a bright light into my eyes. I was feeling pretty happy until he poked me with something sharp. I let out a yelp, but the nice lady stroked my head and told me I was alright.

I listened as they talked

"Bring her in tomorrow at 10 a.m. tomorrow and we will spay her," the man said. "This is another rescue, correct?" he added.

"Yes," she replied.

"Lucky dog," he said. "I was talking to the vet over at animal control the other day. It seems a lot of people are having a hard time making ends meet, and pets are bearing the brunt of it. More people than ever say they are surrendering their petsó and most are getting put down for no other reason than they donít have space for them. This is one of the lucky ones. "


I spent the day thinking long and hard about the dog. My life was pretty setó we hand only recently rescued a stray kitten off the street and she was finally coming out of her shell. I was enjoying her and worried that a new dog would cut that time short. By the time I home, I had decided that if offered, I would turn the dog downóthere would always another, that I was sure of.

I walked into the house and was greeted by a less then amused wife: "So, when where you going to tell me weíre going to get a new dog?" she asked.

I stuttered. "What? How?"

She explained, "The shelter in Kentucky called to get the vet hospitalís number Ė they needed to confirm that we take care of critters. Sheís getting spayed tomorrow and they will be shipping her North at the end of the week."

I tired to explain to my wife that I hadnít actually "applied" for her yet, but my wife would have nothing to do with that excuse. ĎíYou filed an application for a rescue and they are not going to ask twice. Sheís ours."

We weíre both right, but she was righter.

That night I contacted the rescue and sent them the adoption fee. It was a pittance compared to all the vet work they had done on the dog. Having been neglected for a long time, the dog was full of worms and covered with fleas and ticks. That all had to be addressed before the rescue would release her.


I donít feel well today. My stomach hurts really bad when I move, so I try not to. My brother keeps trying to get me to play, but I donít want to. All I want to do is sleep.

The nice lady comes out every few hours and strokes my head and ask me how Iím doing. I want to cry, but I canít, instead I just look at her. She offers me food, but nothing tastes right. I donít even want to drink water. Iíve never felt this bad before.


Two days after her spaying, we got an e-mail from the shelter. While the spaying had gone well, the pup was so full of worms that she had had an adverse reaction to the worming and was off her feed. While this was not unusual, the rescue stressed, they nevertheless wanted to postpone her ride north until she was eating again.

While my wife and I were disheartened to hear the news, I appreciated the efforts of the shelter to care for what I now considered "our dog." Ď"More money out of their pocket" I thought to myself, "and here, a few days ago, I was whining about not being able to help them all, yet these people are doing more then I can image for someone elseís dog. I can learn a lot from them."

I turned to my dogs who were lying at my feet. "Ok guys, youíve got a five day reprieve before the new dog shows up, so lets make the best of itó who wants to play Frisbee?"

My wife, overhearing the conservation, noted that we had not yet picked a name. We had been toying with calling her Emmatoo, after Emma, her look lookalike who we had lost. "Letís not call her that," my wife said, "letís call her Troy."

I agreed immediately. Having long since established a tradition of naming animals after Star Trek characters, Troy fit perfectly. So it was settled.


My stomach feels a lot better today, but Iím lonely. My bother left with the nice lady the other day and never came back. I wonder what happened to him. As far back as I can remember my brother has always been by my side. People said we were inseparable. But now heís gone. What did he do wrong? What did I do wrong?

The nice lady took me on a long ride today. It was the longest time I had ever spent in a car. She kept telling me I was headed to a "forever home." I donít know what that means, but see seemed pretty happy for me. She said she would miss me but promised to keep tabs on me.

After what seemed like forever, we arrived at a house. A nice woman came out and sat down to pet me. I didnít know what was going on, but something in their voices told me to trust them, so I did.


"Thanks for getting her up to me Ellie."

"What time will you be leaving in the morning, Becca?" Ellie asked.

"We leave at 8:30. Weíve got a full lot of lucky dogs to take with us. Itíll take us 7 and half hours to get to the drop off point. By the time we get there, weíll all be whooped, including the dogs."

"Did you get her brother to the other rescue?" asked Becca.

"Yes, I did," replied Ellie. "Heís safe."

I had a restless night. Once again I was in a strange place, with strange people, and strange dogs. I wanted to go home, but I no longer knew were that was, or where that was. All I could do know was hope for something better.


My wife and I meticulously followed the directions to the drop off point, but as we neared the end, it occurred to both of us somewhere along the way that we had misread the directions. We were lost. As we drove around desperately trying to find someone to ask for directions, I found myself reflecting back on my younger days when I was bachelor and I was always the last person to pick up my dog at the "doggie day care." I would arrive at the barn to find my dog sitting alone waiting for me. Once again, 25 years later, and half an hour late, a dog was once again waiting for me.

When we finally pulled into the drop-off point, most of the other dogs had already been picked up by their new owners. After exchanging collars Ė itís a bad omen for a dog to go home with its shelter collar Ė we thanked Becca for delivering her safely and headed to our car. Troy balked. We couldnít blame her, after having spent the better part of two days on the road, the last thing anyone would willingly do is get into another car.

"Iím going to ride in the back seat with her," my wife said. With a little encouragement from me, Troy was soon in the car with her head nestled on my wifeís lapó where it stayed the whole trip home.


As soon as I got out of the car I knew there were other dogs around. I could smell them. As I sat and looked around, the man went to the door and opened it. Out came a small, older dog that waddled up to greet me. Once we were finished exchanging hellos, another dog appeared. She was a big black dog, but from her wagging tail, I knew she would not hurt me. I licked her mouth in joy. Then the door opened again, and another small dog ran out to greet me. He too wagged his tail, or what tail he had. All seemed to greet me as a long lost friend.

They all followed me as I explored the house. I counted 5 cats in alló all said hello, except the kitten, who hissed at me. I tried to say hi, but the more I tried, the more she hissed. When she scratched me on the butt, I decided to give her a wide birth for a while.

Dinnertime was crazy. There seemed to be a routine, but I didnít know it. But no one seemed to care. They kept calling for someone called Troy to eat, I donít know who she was, but I was hungry so I volunteered to eat her food. What a lucky dog, I thought, as I ate out of her fresh new bowló she even had her own brand new water bowl!

That night I slept with my new pals at the foot of a big bed. It was windy outside and I could hear the rain against the window, but it was warm and quiet inside. My stomach was full, and my thirst was quenched. I had never experienced this feeling before. I wasnít quite sure, but something told this is what they meant by having a "forever home."

I donít know what I did to deserve this, but Iím glad I made it. So few shelter dogs do. Iím one of the few, one of the lucky ones.

My name is Troy. Iím a shelter dog. Iím safe because someone cared.

Read other stories by Michael Hillman