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A special place in hell...

Peter McCormick

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I really don't want to write this, but there is a rage welling up inside me that begs release. For me, writing is cathartic — like having a therapist at my fingertips — so here we go.

With senior citizenship upon me, I have dedicated the past year or two to personal wellness, finding and sharing joy, and shunning stress and negativity whenever possible. The latter is the most challenging of the three, but integral to the first two. I've found the key (if you can't simply avoid them) is to meet stress, tension and negativity head-on, deal with them and release them. Move on. Even my broken Toro mugs have been sent down the river, so to speak.

My sources of joy are simple: my wife, my daughters and their husbands, my dogs, my books, my guitars and piano, my chainsaw and tractor, fireplace and our summer home in the Maritimes. Our dogs are always toward the top of the list. So it was with great anticipation (and a bit of fatigue) that we welcomed our third rescue, Ellie, the Friday of GIS week. We had to pick her up near Hartford, CT, at 8:30 that morning (a 4-hour drive for us), so I had a 90 minute nap between getting home from GIS at 1:30 AM and turning around for Hartford.

ellie_pickup_400.jpgThe van transporting about a dozen dogs from Kentucky arrived on time, and it was a joyous occasion. I wish I could have just stepped back and watched the meet-n-greets between rescues and new dog-parents, but our new Golden Retriever emerged and of course took center stage for us. A quick pee (for her), a walk-around to stretch the legs and we headed to her new home in Vermont.

Our series of four Goldens (three at one time, years ago) has been replaced in recent years by two rescues, Frosty (a Labrador/Great Pyrenees mix from this same rescue agency in Kentucky) and Marley, a chubby bucket-fed yard dog who came up from Atlanta two years ago. Both Frosty and Marley were "marketed" as Golden mixes but neither has a drop of Golden DNA in them, not that it really matters.

Since we lost the last of our Goldens last April, my wife has wanted another and has been scouring the rescue sites. Available Goldens get snapped up quickly, so (as with many other things) it boils down to who one knows. This one happened to come up through the same agency through which we got Frosty (a true 'agency' as they never touch the dogs, which go from shelter to foster home to their forever home up here), so we had a leg up on the other 80 applicants and got her.

The details on Ellie's history were sketchy. "Three year old female, purebred, somewhat timid, just weaning a small litter of puppies, housebroken, 50 lbs., would do well with a mentor dog in the home." She appeared very thin in her photos. Fifty pounds was being generous.

We thought the puppy thing was a little odd as nobody in their right mind would give up Golden puppies, which usually fetch $1800-$2500 each, but we didn't dwell on it. It did occur to me that she might have been seized from a shut-down puppy mill, which would explain a few things.

Upon arriving home, a quick introductory walk and the other dogs seemed to accept her, but she hesitated before coming into the house and quickly found a safe space between a sofa and upholstered chair. She was ravenous, tentative around me (less so with Patty), generally skittish. Didn't seem to know her name, didn't respond to praise, not interested in toys. It was like the "lights were on but nobody's home". She gradually took treats from our hands. Peed on the carpet a few times. Didn't seem to connect going outside with doing her business, except #2. No attempt to jump on the sofa, no interest in the multiple dog beds we have around the house. She slept on the floor along Patty's side of our bed. But she did walk well on a leash, trotting along with the other two.

Didn't seem to know her name, didn't respond to praise, not interested in toys. It was like the "lights were on but nobody's home".

Fast forward a few days to yesterday, when we took her to our vet for a checkup. "Well, she's a beautiful dog but she's more like 6 years old than 3, missing a few teeth probably from decay, has had multiple litters judging from her well-worn nipples, and... you see this yellow-stained skin and fur on her belly? That's from laying on a concrete floor in her own waste for years."

Hence my rage at those responsible, puppy mill or whoever they are. And some lesser irritation with the rescue agency, which was less than forthright with us. Hey, we would have taken her anyway, but forewarned is better than surprised by this type of thing, and a little honesty goes a long way.

Upon relating the story to my colleagues, John Reitman said, "There's a special place in hell for anyone who would do that to a dog."

So we have another project dog (Frosty was a year-long project), but that's OK. There's an odd sense of wonderment when putting myself into Ellie's paws and realizing how everything is new to her at this stage of her life. All the smells on our walks... the squirrel scampering across the driveway and the hawk overhead this morning... the coyotes howling at night... the UPS truck that drives the other two nuts. New snow underfoot. The calm of the fire in the fireplace and the sound of an acoustic guitar. A leaf blowing across the snow. Birds at the feeders. So much that we take for granted.

There's much work to be done. She has never been up or down stairs. Isn't thrilled with the car. We will beef her up to our specifications, teach her how to play fetch. Frosty has already shared his stuffed toys with her, one of which she proceeded to rip the tag off of. And she reached up and grabbed a few pieces of paper hanging off the edge of a table and started to rip them up. That's the Golden genes coming out. All good.

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Frosty has already shared one of his favorite lambies with Ellie.

Our job will be to help her forget the negativity and neglect of the first half of her life and blossom into a real dog. The second half of her life is now on a much happier trajectory than it was just a short time ago, and that brings joy to us as well. Yesterday I lifted her up onto our bed so she could enjoy her first pack nap with me and the other two dogs, and she reveled in it... as did I.

Positive feedback can be difficult to come by these days, but just rescue a dog and they will thank you every day, even if starting out in small but meaningful ways.

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Thank you for rescuing these dogs. I like dogs a whole lot more than people because people generally suck and all a dog wants to do is be friends and please.

Steve

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Can’t argue with you there, Steve. I feel much the same way, depending on circumstance.  I have always enjoyed the quote below:
 

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Well, that was a tough read. 

It triggered my vengeance problem real good . . . but knowing Ellie will be living on the McCormick Estate has calmed me down quite a bit.

 

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My son just rescued a dog.  I tried hard to talk him out of it, I told him to wait, he's finishing up his last semester at ASU, and it's not a good time to take on the added responsibility.  He said "dad, this dog needs someone, I want to help it" and sent me this picture.  I'm not sure who benefits more-- rescued dog, or dog rescuer.  Either way rescuing a dog is a mitzvah, and shame on me for trying to talk him out of it.  Two lucky dogs there.  

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Peter, 

Awesome!!

I prefer pets more than most people also...………………Thank you for having a kind and caring heart for these poor mistreated friends.

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Well said, Peter and Mickey.  We are on our second rescued Golden Retriever and they are incredibly special dogs.  And similar to what you said Mickey,  I am not sure who is getting more out of the rescue - them or us.  Their quirks are different (Shelby loved car rides and open spaces/Katie hates the car and sleeps under our bed) but the Golden personality always comes through.

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Thank you for loving her and all the other rescues you have loved in the past!❤️ 
The caption caught my eye, because that is a saying I have used for a number of years. 
There IS a special place in hell for anyone who abuses or neglects animals, and the fires don’t burn hot enough. 
I am involved with a horse Rescue here in Canada, and the things I see enrage me, just as they do with dogs (and kitties). The love of my life was my yellow lab, Roger. 😊and  my beautiful, gentle Rotti rescue, Jada, (who appeared on my doorstep one day) was a close second. The love I felt for them was unfathomable- I can’t put it into words...and I can’t bring myself to get another one. 💔
Seeing what people do to animals...I just can’t comprehend it. 😞
People like us, who have compassion, a heart, a soul, ( and a brain) need to be the ones who become RELENTLESS in lobbying our governments to introduce legislation with harsh penalties, and we need to demand that the Courts ENFORCE said legislation.  
From the torture, abuse & neglect I’ve witnessed over the last few years, I think we should ALL be VERY concerned about the increasing animal abuse, not only because of the harm inflicted on these precious creatures, but also because it’s a reflection of our society.  There are one hell of a lot of people out there that are displaying psychopathic tendencies- harming animals & absence of empathy being two key tendencies- with violence escalating to humans. We have to try & stop animals from being harmed, identify the perpetrators, and try to get them help while they are incarcerated. If we don’t continue to push for this...I don’t know where we are headed as a race. 
Thank you again for sharing your story. Unfortunately, it’s all too common these days, so in addition to telling these stories, those who are compassionate, loving, caring and intelligent have to be the ones who step up and fight for change on behalf of those with no voice. 
Enjoy your new Golden!!! She is a beauty!! And I’m so glad you’ve found each other to love! ❤️ Patti 

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Ellie Update:  A little over a week in and Ellie is becoming more comfortable every day. She’s getting the hang of house-training and absolutely LOVES the snow and cold. A couple days ago we got about 4” of fresh snow and on our morning walk she dropped to the ground and gatored on her back, snorting and making snow angels! It was awesome to see.

We got another foot of snow yesterday and this morning, at -12F, she pranced outside, snorted a few times from the cold, rolled around on the driveway and then tore around through the snow, leaping over the banks and drifts, having a great time. She runs like a goofy puppy, all awkward and splayed legs, probably because she never had much opportunity to run before.

She gets along great with the other two dogs, and they have accepted her as one of the pack. 

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I rescued a little black Pit Bull just over 3 years ago. He was in a kill shelter in the southeastern tip of Colorado. Likely he was a "Target Dog", meaning professional victim in a fighting operation and was about 3-4 years old. It took him a while to learn to be a dog, but I have never seen an animal try so hard and put in so much work to do what his human asked of him. And every day, I see in him, great gratitude for now having the life he has. And when the tides shift and I need to be taken care of, Bruce impacts me with the same zeal as he did when he came to me.

Previous to this I had always had Rottweilers, my breed of choice. And always puppies from reputable breeders. I love the Gladiator dogs. They fit my personality. But I had never been around a rescue. And the thought of a dog who had had so much abuse was on my mind. That quickly left.

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I can't thank you enough Peter. For making a difference. Really. These animals are so much more than they get credit for.

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