A Legacy of Hope

February 5th, 2009

I lost “Hope” two months ago.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t reach for her bowl, or look for her first when I come home.  There was so much of “me” wrapped up in her that I never realized what part of my day would be gone without her.  As many dogs as we care for now, and as many as we have cared for, there will never be one who touched my heart and saw me through so much.  Hope’s care was daily and it was continuous, but it was never hard, and it never took away from any of the other rescues we have.  Hope is who inspired me in everything I did for rescue.

Today I came across this article, and yes, I cried, and yes I hated that she is no longer with us, but I realized that she really will never be gone.  Physically, no, I cannot hold her, emotionally, no, I am not sure I will ever be the same, but stronger I am , and committed I remain.

Keep watching us Hopey, the rest is for you.

Reprinted from December 2006

I have spent a great deal of time as of late trying to explore new and innovative ways to gain support for an overwhelmed rescue organization.

Recently while I lie staring at the ceiling praying for words that would convince those who visit “here” how much we need their support, my thoughts were interrupted by the all too familiar sound of a slow awkward step, and I peeked around the corner to see Hope meandering down the hall.  Upon seeing me, she sat down and waited for me to carry her the rest of the way, something I was doing more and more these days.  Walking ten feet had become increasingly difficult for her, and there just wasn’t a need to encourage her to do the distance at this point in her life.  Her life was a reflection of accomplishments beyond all of our expectations of her.  There was a time that I would have sat down at the end of the hall and encouraged her to come to me.  She would have, and she would have “smiled” all of the way, and once she fell into my lap we would spend the next few minutes basking in her glory.   She had done the distance, and she had become a stronger spirit because of her efforts.  She no longer had to prove to me that she could do it.  She long ago had.

Those who have known me long know that I made a promise to Hope years ago.  As long as she could continue to beat the odds, I would pour my heart and soul into building a rescue organization that was an example of her life.  Each Pug we would represent would receive the same encouragement and belief in their life that Hope receives every day.  Each one would be loved in the same way in order to give them the gift of that spirit for the rest of their lives.  Each one would become a part of the mission of Alabama Pug Rescue and Adoption, Inc.

 I thought back to my first encounter with Dr. Jimmy Milton, a gifted veterinary surgeon who has consistently been one of our rainbows in rescue.  I brought Hope to him shortly after her rescue, and stood before him and basically told him I wanted her to be able to walk.  At this time her front legs were in a constant “split” and she walked on her wrist on her left leg.  I told him her story, and he led us out to the front of his office to the sidewalk, and told me he would like to see her walk.    For Hope, going forward usually begins going in reverse.  The thought process is obvious, but she has to back up, in order to concentrate on moving forward.  For someone who doesn’t know Hope’s body mechanics, it is difficult to watch her go through this.   He stared at Hope, and then back at me and asked “why?”   I can still feel the emotional drain of disappointment hearing those words as if it was yesterday.  Then, in only a way that Hope can do, she showed him why.   She backed up another step, stood up, flashed that look that only she can do, and stomped her whole self all of the way to a now bent down Dr. Milton, who scooped her up, and looked at me and said “why not?”  To this day, Hope walks because someone asked “why” and saw the reason in her determination.

 I stayed with Hope a while to let her settle on the pillows on our bed; and leaned over to give her a kiss as she settled. Once again, she had inspired me, and once again, I would have to believe that a little Hope goes a long way.

There was a time that we would reach for any Pug that needed rescue and we would make every arrangement to exhaust all efforts to get them to us.  The reality of the truth in rescue is that we cannot take every Pug that is referred to us, but what we can do is commit total care to those who enter our rescue, and refer appropriately with consistent follow up on those that we cannot take.  We have done this successfully in the last year; and will continue to do so in the future.   Like Hope, we have to learn it is okay to realize that slow and steady is often the better way to rescue 

We receive consistent criticism that we are too hard to adopt from.  Because we are, quality homes are few and far between.    Sadly, only a small percentage of people who turn to rescue understand what it truly means.  We have learned that those who really want to “rescue a Pug” are not concerned about looks or personality.  Like Hope, they trust us to make decisions based on our ability to know what is best for them. 

I have learned that comparing rescue to rescue is often the downfall of organizations that do the comparing.  We are unique in our ability to care for so many in one home at one time.  We are at poverty level with foster homes if we compare it to the Pugs we rescue. Fear of “attachment” is the largest reason that most people will not foster a dog in need.  Looking at Hope I find that so hard to understand.  Rescue dogs are truly the most grateful dogs on this earth.  There is something uniquely different about each of them, and they touch a side of us that is often hidden.   Letting go is hard, but admitting you need to hold on is often harder.  I have stopped an adoptive family en route in order for the dog to stay in their foster home when at the last minute, the foster mom could not let her go.  One should never feel a failure because they love a rescue enough to hold on to them.

We continually commit to what we can do; and we commit our lives to theirs.   When we are asked, and often so, how could we possibly care for as many as we do in our home, our answer is simple.  How could we not? Like Hope, it is not about how much we can do, it is about those we touch along the way; and those whom we have inspired enough who help without having to be asked.   The care provided for these rescues goes above and beyond their needs, no matter the numbers we care for.

How do I make those who regularly visit this website, attend our events, or own a Pug realize how much we need them? Recent pleas for help are acknowledged by so very few; and those who do respond are the reason we are able to hang on to what little hope we have of continuing. 

I can try to make people understand how it feels to have a Pug who belonged to someone else for 12 years die in my arms two weeks after being rehomed to our rescue.  I can write about my husband giving CPR to a Pug who died of a heart attack because of heartworm disease and his frantic call to me, and the sound of his voice when nothing he did would help.  I can talk endlessly about our Summer and the cruelty of her condition; and the feelings involved when we realized she was starting to see, eyes that had been blinded by the worst kind of neglectful abuse, starvation.  I can talk about some of the rescues that “nobody wants, “ and I can share stories of our day-to-day life with each of them.  I can, and I have, and again, there is so little response.

We can discuss the many owners who turned to us because they wanted perfect for their Pugs, but were unable to give it.  We can talk about the times we have worked with families to keep their Pugs in their homes and offered advise on behavioral issues, diet, or housebreaking, and those that remained in their homes because of our efforts.

We have asked if a dog was worth $1.39, and sadly, we found in the eyes of the public, he wasn’t worth very much.  However, to us, he is worth the thousands we have spent on him, with more surgical treatment yet to come.  We can show pictures of the before, and pictures of the after, and we can share our thoughts and our prayers with those who ask us to.  But how, do we ask for help?

I look back at Hope, and I understand that the answer lies in the question.   We simply ask for help.  We move in reverse in order to go forward and we simply ask, “can you help us? Can you wrap a present for rescue?  Can you hang a virtual ornament on a virtual tree in memory of a loved one?  Can you attend our events?  How about visiting our shop at Café Press and order something small as a gift for Christmas?  Can you make monetary donations to our veterinarian or this organization for the care of those we represent?  Can you design brochures for us or make crafts?  Can you show us, in some way, you support what we do, so like Hope, our spirits will become stronger because of your efforts to help.

In return, we promise to love each of them in a way that you would, and we will place them in homes that you would be proud of.  We will continue to reassure them about the rest of their lives; and if they must be returned to heaven to end irreversible pain and suffering, we will hold them and allow them to do so.  They will never be alone.   We will represent the spirit of Alabama Pug Rescue and Adoption, Inc. because you who support us, have allowed us to continue to rescue, and to hang on to the belief that “a little Hope still goes a long way.”

Pam Mayes

A Place for Hope 2006