Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Paw Prints in the Sand

Introducing my latest book, Paw Prints in the Sand-Available on Kindle, Nook and in paperback on Amazon.com

Prologue: Precious Innocence

A dog is not a thing. A thing is replaceable. A dog is not. A thing is disposable. A dog is not. A thing doesn’t have a heart. A dog’s heart is bigger than any “thing” you can ever own.

The buildings are always the same; old rusty cages, the unmistakable smell of fear; desperate dogs begging for loving homes, their raspy cries echoing throughout the lonely and frigid hallways.

As you trudge up and down the aisles of a kill shelter, you see that each crate houses an abandoned animal whose yearning eyes plead while your heart melts into a roaring sea of helplessness. How did they get here? Why them? No one deserves this.

You want so badly to rescue them. You’d love to take all of them home, but of course, it isn’t feasible.

As you look into the innocent eyes of each dog, you know it’ll be less than a week before the older ones lose their life, and the young “vicious” dogs, as they have been stereotypically labeled, only have a few more days at most.

While you’re there, you can’t help but wonder, do they know? Is there any possible way the dogs realize what cruelty fate has in store for them? Admitting that painful truth to yourself is harder than you ever imagined.

The thought races out of your mind as quickly as it had entered. Not because you don’t care—God knows you care more than anything—but because it is too difficult to accept the harsh reality.

But, alas, there’s still that somewhat gratifying feeling of knowing that you are there to make a difference in at least one of their lives.

You have a spot, or maybe even two, in your home and more than enough love in your heart to accommodate these precious creatures and hopefully free up some room for another unfortunate stray at the facility in the process.

At least that’s how it happened for Chelsea and Anthony Shelton.

Chapter 1: Love Unguarded

There will always be detours in the fascinating game called life. Find the path to your heart’s desires, and stay on course.

 Chelsea and Anthony had been teenage sweethearts, who, like most at that young age, broke up for a short while to sow their oats before realizing they were true soul mates.

Before they got back together, they each dabbled in the party scene and enjoyed a few drinking binges, complete with the dreaded hangovers the next day, but realized that wasn't the permanent lifestyle they sought after.  Eventually, they found their way back into each other’s hearts in their early twenties and had been together ever since.

Both became successful, conscientious individuals and though they occasionally had arguments like every married couple, they respected and genuinely cared for one another.

They weren't considered glamorous by any means, but were definitely average in looks.  Chelsea had long, brown hair and light green eyes and Anthony was blessed with a muscular physique and full head of thick, sandy brown hair.

Married only four years, they’d already experienced their share of hardships with trying to start their family. They wanted nothing more than to have a child of their own, but after they both underwent a series of medical tests, the doctors revealed that it just wasn’t in the cards for them.  A major disappointment as since the day they were married, they’d always imagined sharing their lives with at least two children, and a family dog to complete the picture.  

With the support of their beloved family and friends, they got over the initial shock of their misfortune, and moved forward with plans to adopt a child. The downside was that according to the adoption agency, it might take years. And there were no guarantees.

Although they were understandably disappointed, they decided that in the interim they would still consummate the second portion of their plan. After giving it some thought, there was no valid reason to put their lives on hold.

They'd been prepared to rescue a shelter dog and each time they sat through the tear-jerking commercials on the television, they realized in their heart that now was as good a time as any.

It was an early Saturday morning when they drove down to the town shelter. The building itself rested at the end of a cul-de-sac, surrounded by nothing but trees and a broken-up parking lot to match the brokenhearted pups inside.

When they ambled in through the double-glass doors, the middle-age volunteer greeted them with a personality as lively as a crumbled piece of that parking lot. Barely acknowledging their arrival, she merely pointed the way toward the gray, metal door that housed the dogs. Then she buried her face in her fitness magazine.

This establishment was known as a kill-shelter, and Chelsea speculated that to volunteer in the facility, it was probably better off that one didn’t show any emotion, as demonstrated by the detached woman occupying the front desk.

With so many dogs being neglected, abandoned, dumped, abused, and everything in between, there are never enough facilities to provide shelter for all of them. What adds to the devastation is that often shelter dogs fail to get adopted due to their seemingly aggressive behavior, even if they were once friendly on the outside.

Nine times out of ten, something changes their disposition once they get locked up. Their personalities shift, whether it be from the fear, the isolation, the confusion, the cold cement floors, or the lack of toys. Or it may be from being bereft of exercise, deprived of love, or simply because they can smell the death of their canine peers from the euthanasia rooms. The necessity to survive causes them to lose their trust and more importantly, their confidence.

The unfamiliar noises and lonely environment do nothing to mollify their fears. Since they appear aggressive, the likeliness of them finding a good home diminishes. It’s the same doleful story in every facility, yet their population continues to increase daily.

As the door slammed behind Chelsea and Anthony, it resonated, setting off a chorus of frenzied barks from the distressed occupants. The couple walked gingerly past the countless rows of crates, trying their best not to frighten any of the dogs, each one looking more desperate than the last.

Had it not been for one dog’s demanding howl, Chelsea might have run out of the building empty handed. The absolute realization and heartache was too much for her to bear.

But that howl.

It was the single thing that caused her to laugh when she was on the verge of tears. That demanding howl, combined with the act of the dog maneuvering his scrawny paw through the cage in a sincere effort to grab her leg, as if to say, “Hey, get over here. Come be my new mom.”

Aside from his disheveled exterior, he was indubitably striking. Like most shelter dogs, he was in dire need of a thorough grooming, as his knotted hair was course and his skin flaky. The hardened goop under his eyes appeared as if it hadn’t ever been cleaned.

Underneath that tangle of golden fur was a bright-eyed, energetic sweetheart of a dog. His fox-like ears bent forward toward his light brown eyes, which revealed an expression that couldn’t be mistaken for anything but hope.

His sparkling personality shined through like an illuminating star, and those same hopeful eyes translated a heartfelt story that words would never be able to accurately describe.

In the cage directly across from him sat a more demure canine that appeared to be his twin. She wasn’t nearly as vocal, but just as stunning, if not more so. Her golden fur was also knotted right behind the ears, and her paws were caked with mud, presumably from yesterday’s rainfall. She sat erect, the previously white tuft on her chest now gray and soiled. Both of the dogs had clearly been neglected even before they had arrived at the shelter.

Chelsea had already made up her mind when she turned back to catch Anthony’s eyes, who was grinning from ear to ear. He didn’t have to say a word.

“Both?” she whispered, knowing her husband well enough to read his mind.

He nodded. “Absolutely.” Though he was a man broad in stature, he was normally not flagrant with his emotions. This time, however, tears pooled in the corners of his hazel eyes. Apparently, the dismal environment was heart wrenching for him as well.

While they discussed it, another volunteer turned the corner and greeted them. This one seemed to have notably more compassion than the woman occupying the front desk. She smiled warmly at them before realizing that they were interested.

“Have you decided on which dog you’d like to take home today?” she asked Chelsea. After helping out at the shelter for so many years, it was easy for the volunteer to recognize the vibrant sparkle in Chelsea’s eyes that could signify only love at first sight—the special kind that often transpires between human and dog.

Chelsea couldn’t wait for Anthony to speak, so she took the lead. “Yes, please. We’re interested in these two.” She pointed to the female and male. The male was ignoring the conversation, focusing on reaching through the bars, trying to grasp the shoelaces on Chelsea’s sneaker.

They asked the volunteer a number of questions, including whether or not the dogs were related, wondering if perhaps they were brother and sister. The volunteer said that, to the best of her knowledge, they were not.

She informed them that they had been surrendered within two days of each other. The male’s age was estimated to be approximately a year and a half, while the female was about a year old.

Both were unmistakably purebred Nova Scotia duck tolling retrievers. They had all the markings, the white tuft, the fox-like ears, the pink nose and lips, and the light eyes that matched their golden coat.

While some families have no other choice but to surrender their dogs because of hardships, financial difficulty or medical issues, these dogs were given up needlessly.

Apparently, the male was given up because he barked incessantly, and his owners couldn’t handle the atrocious noise level. They admitted that they didn't have the time or the patience to train him.

The female was turned in because she wasn’t housebroken yet, even though that was due to no fault of her own. Rather than train her, the previous owners argued that dogs should instinctively know how to take care of business. They voiced their frustration and said they wanted her out of the house as soon as possible.  The shelter took her in that same day.

Hearing their heartbreaking stories further confirmed their decision, and it took only moments for Chelsea and Anthony to fill out the necessary paperwork.

Within an hour, the dogs were on their way to their new home, finally given a second chance at enjoying their lives as they should, which was an opportunity many other dogs are never granted.

Sadly, the pair was hesitant to meander out of the facility. Both dogs tucked their tails between their legs, both were frightened and shy—most likely stemming from their stay at the shelter.

But once they walked outside with their new owners, the warm breeze wafted a plethora of new scents to their keen noses, allowing them to do what came naturally to them—just be dogs. To a dog, smelling the scents of other dogs, humans, or creatures that had visited a path before them is a luxury in itself.

Hearing the natural songs of the wildlife, even smelling something simple such as flowers that are in bloom, is a wondrous joy. To them, each unique scent tells a captivating story and is a vibrant indication that they are still alive, and more importantly, it signifies that there is hope.

Before long, the two dogs slowly began to wag their tails with unbridled enthusiasm. Moments later, they even danced around each other, demonstrating the customary canine greeting that initiates a friendship and builds the foundation for an everlasting relationship. It was a sight to remember.

Before leaving the shelter, Chelsea and Anthony had been advised that the female had been spayed, but the male had not yet been altered. So the first thing they did once the adoption was finalized was make an appointment at the vet to have Spice neutered. The appointment was set for the first of March, three weeks after his adoption date. Sugar wouldn’t have to go to the vet for shots until a month later.
Copyright © 2012 Elizabeth Parker
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1 comment:

  1. This is a quick read for anyone who loves dogs. Elizabeth Parker is a vocal advocate for animal rescue and protecting animals from abuse. In "Paw Prints in the Sand" she takes her knowledge and passion and combines them with her writing talent to produce a novella that will move your emotions. She has created an intriguing story that will teach people about the real and ugly side of dog breeding. The characters provide a glimpse into the way the human mind works on both sides of the issue. I also enjoyed the way she shifts gears at certain points in the story and gives the reader a view from the dog's perspective. Very well written and worth reading.