Quite by accident, we got ourselves into the Boxer rescue business nearly 20 years ago, because a small, strange-looking wet brown thing appeared at our window on a rainy evening when Mac was small and I was actively nesting. I'm pretty maternal by nature and ordinal position, but it was red-zone-mothering when the boys were little. So this small wet pathetic thing turned out to be a Boxer puppy who belonged to a neighbor and couldn't stand being left alone while he worked. Over and over again, she escaped to our house; each time I bathed her and fed her and she curled up with tiny Mac to sleep and finally the neighbor just said, "Pay her vet bill and keep her." And so we did. She came to us with what I thought was the embarrassing name "Sheba", and we asked Mac for his thoughts on a new name for her. He was about 2 years old, extremely talkative though not in a language usually recognizable as English but rather some patois of his own creation. But on this occasion he removed his pacifier from his mouth (I know, I know) and gave thoughtful consideration to the matter. He ruminated for 20 or 30 seconds, and then said deliberately, "I think a good name for Sheba would be...Sheba." And so it was.
Later we would rescue in a variety of ways 3 dogs who stayed with us and were part of our family. Sheba died peacefully at the Boxer-ancient age of 14. Rocco was put to sleep at 13; Faye was about that same age. And by this time, we knew we always wanted dogs with us, and that we understood this breed in some fundamental way. And in our search for a young dog to accompany our seniors into graceful old age and be with us as our boys flew from the nest, we connected with a group called Boxer Aid and Rescue Coalition, fostered a dog, and were hooked. Well, in fairness, I was hooked and my most excellent husband came along for the ride until he was hooked, too. It was - and is - harder for the boys. The coming and going of foster dogs is harder for them, but they are kind to their mother and usually pretty indulgent.
After being part of a remarkable bucket brigade of volunteers who helped place April and several other dogs in happy homes, we helped rescue Zeke. He was a hard case, needing lots of work to rehabilitate whatever had shaped into a defensive, sometimes- aggressive hard timer. With help from other BARC volunteers, hard work, research, reading Cesar Millan, and coaching from a local dog behaviorist, "The Muttman", we brought Zeke along step by step, with Rodney putting his heart into the work. About 6 months into the work, Zeke, who'd made great progress and become a beloved member of the pack, fell over dead. (This happens rarely but consistently with dogs in our climate who have heartworms. I can tell you more about this, if you like, but you probably know it, and you are probably careful to be sure your own dogs get a dose of HeartGuard or something like it every month. Until we became active foster people, I really had no idea.)This weekend, we spent most of our time driving from St. Augustine to Jacksonville to St. Augustine to Starke to St. Augustine, trying to find a foster home for a dog who'd been adopted through BARC and has become somewhat neurotic and has special needs. You don't plan to spend your weekends doing this, of course, but sometimes you gotta step up. Stepping up with us are the volunteers of BARC, other rescue groups including Paws in Prison, Cathy Sherman's amazing organization which has been subject to some of the troubles that plague all rescue groups, and unsung heroes including vets like those at Antigua Veterinary in St. Augustine and Scott Mill Animal Hospital in Mandarin.
This is tiny work, I know. We could be among the heroic legion in Haiti, helping reassemble broken lives and allevaite suffering already beyond description and only made more intense and more intensely visible by the recent earthquake. And there are a million other things. But we make the planet better in this small way, rescuing dogs. And we are humbled every day by the sacrifices made to make the planet better. So whatever you do, whether it's saving animals or giving advice or chicken and dumplings or music or reminding people that azaleas are sometimes in too great a hurry to welcome spring: whatever it is, you make the planet a better place and we are grateful, indeed.
Pictured (top to bottom): Prissy Miss April, Bandit (Donnie), Zeke and Olive. April is taken to breakfast at Panera by her wonderful family; Bandit is in Dog Heaven with his new pack, and Olive is still in foster care. Zeke will live in our hearts forever.