At a time in my life when I needed stability, $5.00 proved to be all that it cost.
Seven years ago I walked into an animal shelter in Connecticut with the intention of adopting my first puppy. A grey and white pit bull puppy named Blue (named after his blue nose). I had already picked him out and had his bed and food bowl stand monogrammed with his name on it. There had been a waiting list to adopt him, the shelter told me, and I just happened to be the first person on the list. I had already come and met him, held him, played with him, and was ready to pay the $5.00 adoption fee that the shelter charged.
As we walked through the shelter to the back where they were giving him a bath and getting him ready to be signed over to his forever home, we walked down a long hallway lined with all of the kennels. Every dog was jumping on the door barking, and going wild at the sight of a human. As we passed by the last kennel on the left side, I looked over and saw what might have been the saddest thing my eyes had ever bestow.
In that kennel, was the only dog not jumping and barking at me. Likely because she physically couldn’t. I stopped dead in my tracks and stared at a filthy, tan and white pit bull mix who sat in the back right corner of her kennel, with her head hung in complete despair. She had four yellowed casts on all four legs. A cast on her tail, bloodied gauze on both of her ears, and what looked like wire headgear around her mouth. She was completely emaciated and had extremely engorged nipples, which hinted that she had just had a litter.
My heart absolutely sank. I tried to ask questions to the shelter staff who was escorting me to the back and I found myself not being able to make words. I would choke up anytime I tried to say anything, my feet planted on the floor in front of her kennel door, and my eyes locked in on her sad condition.
When he finally noticed that I had stopped moving, he came and stood next to me, sharing the same sadness. I didn’t have to speak a word before he started telling me her situation.
How her “owner” used her as a bait dog in dog fighting. She was very pregnant, and extremely beat up from a recent fight, so her “owner” brought her to the vet and asked them to take the puppies out for him since she was likely not going to make it. The vet called the police, and she was surrendered to the shelter while the “owner” was arrested.
She did lose all of her puppies, as she was too emaciated to make milk. She had four broken legs, a broken tail, her ears had been freshly ripped off by another dog, and the vet did the best they could with trying to clean them up; and her jaw was wired shut so it could properly heal from the injuries sustained while dogfighting.
To say my heart was heavy is an understatement.
The defeat in her eyes, whether it was from losing her puppies, her injuries, or the unfair life she had been given, won me over the second she looked at me. That puppy I came for had a waiting list of loving people ready to adopt him, he would get a beautiful life for sure. This one? This sad emotionally broken-down girl? I wasn’t so sure. Looking at her, she may seem to some as unpersonable, or a pile of medical bills with all of her injuries. But I didn’t care, I was taking her and giving her a new start to life.
I will never forget the look on that man’s face when I said “I want this one.” It was both a look of surprise and shock, as well as relief. As I went and filled out the paperwork for her that morning, I learned that her euthanization date was three days away. Three days. That’s how long she had left for someone to want her before they decided it was her time. She had three more days left.
Two days later I picked her up from the shelter. Her name would be Blue, as I had already bought and monogrammed so many things. We awkwardly loaded her into the car, careful of all of her casts, and she sat still and silent in the back seat for the 35 minutes drive home. When I took her out of the car, she immediately tried to eat the gravel in the driveway. A dog so hungry, she literally was trying to eat rocks. My heart still breaks at that thought.
It took a few weeks for her to adjust to home life. A life where she was fed regularly, had a warm and safe place to sleep, and people who showed her affection. I bought sweaters for her to cover her ribs, as people would yell things from their cars on our walks such as “Feed your damn dog!” or “You should be ashamed of yourself!”, little did they know I wasn’t the one who put her in that condition. Eventually, she filled out, her casts came off, she learned to run again and became my favorite being to be around.
She even saved my face, (and likely my life) from a dog attack in our own home. I was mauled in the face by a boyfriend’s dog who had lived with us for almost two years. Luckily Blue was there to intervene and pull the dog off of me but still needed three plastic surgeries to fix my face after that attack.
She came to every doctor’s appointment, surgery, and follow-up appointment after that. She would lay with her face next to mine, alongside the stitches, but would never touch them, and she was sure to always stay between me and any other dog around us while my face was healing. We developed a deep attachment to each other in the months that followed this incident. She has selflessly put her life on the line to save mine, and for absolutely no reason. I had only had her a few months, and given her traumatic start to life, she should hate everybody. She should hate people, she should hate dogs, but she doesn’t. Instead, she is the kindest, most grateful creature I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
My $5.00 shelter dog was the best investment I have ever made. No amount of money can justify the gratitude and love she shows me each and every day, and I am forever grateful for her. She is my best friend, the only consant in my life for the last 7 years, has lived across the ocean with me, been through divorce, moves, travels, jobs, and boyfriends. She will always be my number one.
A Letter to Blue
Seven years ago I made the best decision of my life and walked into the New Haven Animal Shelter. I picked the saddest, most broken, and helpless-looking baby I could find, and walked out with you. Little did I know what you would quickly become. You’re a world traveler now, a literal lifesaver, the gym’s mascot, and my best friend. You exude the purest form of love to every soul you cross, and I could not be more proud of how you’ve grown, and the heart of gold you’ve somehow managed to find, regardless of your torturous start to life. In the last 7 years, I’ve had my shares of ups and downs. Hello and goodbyes. Life and death. Triumphs, failures, and uncertainties. But what never wavered was you. Regardless of what was happening around me, there you were in the center. My furry little touchstone. Giving me something tangible to hold onto. Keeping me grounded, whole, and balanced. I cannot remember a time when you were not by my side and in my life, as all of my favorite memories include you. You are beautiful. You are perfect. You are the sweetest girl. Thank you for showing me how much my heart can love.