A year after my husband and I had purchased a new home in Wisconsin with a fenced yard, we were sitting at the kitchen table one morning and I said to him that I would like to give a needy soul a good home. It felt like the right time.
Many years prior to that I had managed one of the largest no-kill animal shelters in the Midwest — I also had rescued several Doberman Pinschers from the shelter by making them apart of my family. My love for the Doberman Pinscher breed grew so much that I started to breed and show in obedience.
However, this time I just wanted to adopt a mutt — pure breeds are always more adoptable anyway. Yep, I wanted just a little ugly, scruffy, lovable mutt … the kind of mutt that most would pass over and not even glance twice at when strolling the aisles at the shelters. In fact, the last words out of my mouth to my husband when we were walking out the door on our way to the shelter one fine Saturday afternoon was, “I’m looking for the ugliest, scruffiest dog there … no more purebreds and no more Dobermans!”
My husband and I drove to the shelter and as I was walking up and down the outside runs, a few dogs ran up to me to say hi, but none of them were very interested … then I saw HER — all curled up in the back of the run … food dish untouched and over flowing with uneaten food. She was a purebred, 18 months old … a Doberman named Mariah.
Mariah slowly got up and walked to the gate on broken, dried, cracked, and bleeding paw pads and actually stood up on her hind legs to face me, nose to nose. She was towering over me as she leaned up on the gate. The shelter attendant informed me that I was the first person Mariah had shown any interest in. The attendant and I were both horrified to see the dismal shape she was in and she had only arrived two weeks prior. She was deteriorating fast. The volunteers had not noticed that she wasn’t eating. Mariah was so skinny you could count every single vertebra in her back, her chest was sunken in, eyes dull with no hope, hair starting to thin … Mariah had given up and was dying.
Her weight had dropped to 62 pounds. She should have easily weighed 110 pounds — she was the largest Doberman Pinscher I had ever laid eyes on, about the size of a Great Dane. The attendant was so alarmed at this poor dog’s condition, she ran to get the manager who was equally irate to see Mariah’s frail frame. I knew Mariah had picked me because of my experience with shelters … the manager felt confident I would be able to nurse her back to health and let me adopt her.
As we drove home, I rode in the back seat to comfort and stabilize Mariah. She was incredibly weak and could barely keep from falling over. When we arrived home I knew she needed an IV and may not make it through the night. I fed her by hand, laying on the floor next to her with very small amounts of food, I made sure she swallowed every bite.
On the third night, Mariah suddenly got up and hobbled across the room to retrieve a rubber ball I had bought in anticipation of a new pet. She gingerly picked it up and walked into the kitchen where she gently laid it on the kitchen table (she was so tall, she could rest her entire head on the table). She was too weak to play, but it was her way of saying thank you for choosing me.
Three moths later Mariah weighed 125 pounds and was a ball full of energy, her feet had healed, her coat gleamed, her eyes were bright. She was my giant shadow … always by my side … we were inseparable.
Fast forward eleven years later — one day I felt a lump on her chest and knew she would not have much longer … I knew it was attached to her lung.
On the day before St. Patricks day in 2007, Mariah walked over to me and placed her massive head in my lap. She looked up at me sideways and rubbed her head back and forth … I knew, right then and there, in that moment, that Mariah was saying goodbye. She was letting me know her time was near. That night, at ten minutes to midnight, I heard a yelp come from my bedroom that did not sound normal … as I rushed to Mariah, and held her in my arms, her heart gave out. She was 12.
Many years later, I now do volunteer work with my local shelter as well as sit on the board of directors. Yes … animals do choose us … so the next time you are looking to adopt … pick the animal that picks you!