Do I smell like puppy poop to you?
Puppies haven taken over at Animal Haven. Sets of two and three puppies are cuddled together in nearly every dog corral and crate.
I spend my volunteer shift alternating between cleaning up runny puppy poop or holding puppies while another volunteer cleans up the poop. We all work together.
Animal Haven is hosting a wine event on the 3rd floor which I can’t get anywhere near because the puppies are moving . . . to foster homes, to permanent homes or just worming around the joint.
Chaotic shouts heard on the lower level:
—Inchworm just got adopted!
—Carnation is adopted!
—Missouri is going home tomorrow!
Seeing these sweet innocents finding homes so fast cheers the heart. I whisper to the small, timid Black Lab siblings, “Don’t worry, you guys will be next.” Continue reading Happiness Is Many Warm Puppies
Returned to volunteer at Animal Haven after skipping a week and the shelter is swarming with puppies. I walked five pups, one after the other. I was never quite sure who was on the end of my leash. Later, I figured my guys must have been Alan Stuart, Montauk, Hampton I think, Moses and one sweet fellow who I can’t find on the Animal Have website.
The puppy room is full; corrals are doubled-up with puppies and the big sometimes-puppy room-sometimes I-need-to-be-alone room is now a dormitory with puppies and smaller adult dogs.
Between customers, puppies and clean-ups, I didn’t have a chance to give my latest favorite, Leo, a squeeze. Sweet Leo looks so forlorn. Before my shift is over, someone had wrapped his neck in a squishy blue cone. What ailment are you suffering, Leo?
I want to snatch him up and take him home, but that is for someone else to do.
When I volunteer Fridays at 6:00 pm, final walks and final cleaning are the main agenda and we work fast. Walk any “Green” dog, the staffer says. (green = easy)
I leash up a newcomer, a pudgy, four-year-old Beagle, yet unnamed. A. says she calls her “Lady.”
“Lady” isn’t too interested in the challenge of the staircase.
—But that’s the only way out, sweetheart.
If she were any larger, I wouldn’t attempt to pick her up. But I do, and I carry her up the stairs.
—Lady, you just made the weight limit.
Lady and I walk down Centre Street, then cross Howard Street. Lady picks up steam in the crosswalk and I am grateful. Every SoHo street is busy. After starting up Lafayette Street, Lady tires in the home stretch. Standing still suits her just fine. With encouragement, we make it back home.
I put the Beagle in her corral and she launches a heart-breaking wimper.
A. tells me to walk Natasha next, so I head down the back aisle to find her. Natasha is in the corner corral, the one with the door too high to see over. Natasha’s info doesn’t indicate a color, but if A. told me to walk her, she must be a green dog. A. said Natasha, right? Right.
What if there is a big feisty brute behind that tall door?
I open the corral door and a small happy black puppy, maybe four or five months old, tells me she is very happy to see me. Her leashed up, with treats in my pocket, Natasha and I hit the SoHo streets. I give her a treat just for being adorable. Natasha never forgets for a second that I have treats in my pocket.
—It will take a lot of treats to grow into my big paws, she says.
I return for Lily, a small rambunctious Shepard Mix. She has one bloodshot eye, probably not from Lasik surgery. Her head is all brown-and-black and her body is solid white, like the head was pasted on the wrong body.
Lily is a handful. Forget the stairs, she wants to grab the leash, taste my sneakers and chew my pant leg. Lily and I struggle to make it down Centre Street. That is, I struggle. Lily could care less. But once we turn the corner onto Grand Street, we figuratively turn the corner as well. Lily’s walking improves.
—Dear God, she just stuck her head through the fencing around that tree.
Lily slips her head back out easily. Relief.
—Lily, you are not going near those fenced trees again.
I get help harnessing big, red Clifford. With a harness and two leashes, I feel like Clifford is a pony and I am the sleigh. This is my second walk with Clifford and I am much more comfortable with him today.
I check the AH website over the weekend. Nick is adopted. Natasha is adopted. Myrtle is adopted. Clifford, too.
Lily and Lucy—I’ll see you next week.
A pattern emerges.
The animal shelter population is always shifting. This time, Lona and the last two Billy Joel puppies are gone. Tammy, the little girl missing an eye is gone too. She never appeared on the adoption website. The staff is busy and I don’t ask where she is.
But mellow Myrtle, the black Chihuahua is still around and on display in the store window today.
Nick, the soft Yellow Lab puppy, still calls the animal shelter home.
—Why are you still here?
Nick walks like a little gentleman-in-training while every other puppy walks like its the first time they have seen SoHo on a leash. The puppies—in front of your feet, doing a circle around you.
—I’m sorry, honey, I didn’t mean to step on your paw, but you put it right in front of my moving foot.
The young ones run ahead and look back at you to say, aren’t you coming?
People on the street react to lush Nick like they spotted a celebrity. Two sets of people don’t just admire him; they want to adopt him. The shelter is just around the corner, I tell them.
Nick stops in front of a gold reflective door to gaze at his own image, and why shouldn’t he?
Elmo, a skinny white poodle with a black Groucho Marx nose, kept pace with me so perfectly I had to keep checking that I still had a dog at the end of the leash. Elmo would be perfect for my parents, I think. Small, older, mellow.
I tell my mother about Elmo and she says absolutely, yes she will adopt him. She says, your father and I were going to look at poodles Monday. Coincidence? Or meant to be?
But Elmo had left the shelter for his forever home, which means another poodle waits somewhere for my parents to adopt.
Eager to help, I find a white poodle in an Ellicott City, Maryland shelter on a poodle rescue website. Just as eager to adopt, my parents drive over to meet him the same day. Sweet Delancy jumps into my Dad’s lap. They pronounce him perfect.
But two potential adopters applied for Delancy ahead of my parents and for the second time, they miss out. Many people seem to be adopting dogs, but the small mellow ones and the irresistible puppies are snatched up while bigger, older dogs linger in the shelters.
Wearing my purple volunteer shirt, I enter the animal shelter and admit I forgot all the instructions from Orientation.
I didn’t forget exactly. During Orientation volunteers, potential volunteers, staff and customers were milling around and weaving in and out of tight spaces. I couldn’t see much of the time. Orientation was like a typical concert experience for me—not made for short people.
New volunteers can only walk the easy-going “green” dogs. I am assigned to walk Clifford, a green dog in shelter parlance, but in real life, a big red dog. He is, in fact, a Mastiff Mix aptly named after the Scholastic mascot, Clifford the Big Red Dog.
Clifford requires a harness and a double leash. He bursts out of his corral and flies up the stairs with me in less than full control. I’m swimming in the deep end.
Clifford and I walk around busy SoHo blocks and I try to hold him close to me. Immediately, I notice respectful, admiring looks from people on the street. Guys nod their approval and not because I look great in my purple t-shirt.
I return to home base and M. tells me to keep Clifford upstairs; someone wants to meet him. A young woman in a smart trench coat drops to her knees and starts petting Clifford. A trench coat? This is a good sign. Isn’t Clifford the Big Red Dog a detective? I’m sure I’ve seen cartoon Clifford with a Sherlock Holmes hat and a magnifying glass.
The lady in the trench coat starts firing off questions and I admit to her that it is my first day and my first walk with my first dog. Even though I can’t answer questions about Clifford, she keeps asking them and I look helplessly toward the two staff members who are busy with customers. The lady starts addressing the questions to Clifford himself.
‘Would you like to live on five acres?’
Yes, yes, I’m sure he would.
‘Do you shed?’
Uh-oh. I look down and see three dog hairs on my jeans.
‘I think you shed, Clifford, right?’
Say no, Clifford! Say no!
In the spectrum of shredding, Clifford is low-end. I want to tell the lady in the trench coat that if she just touched my dog, Aimee, she’d have enough hair in hand to weave a toupee.
The other staffer, A. comes over and tells us both about Clifford. He’s a big sweetheart, she says. I can see that—Clifford is sitting like a prince and nuzzling his face against my jeans. But he has separation anxiety A. admits, but there are a lot things you can do to work on that. She runs through a list of tactics.
The lady in the trench coat decides to fill out an application but wants to bring her mother and sister to meet Clifford. Fair enough. I bring Clifford downstairs and put him inside his corral. He makes his separation anxiety known with the saddest howl I’ve ever heard.
When I return the following week, Clifford is still at the shelter, ready for his walk. If you get a chance, stop in and meet Clifford.