They are running out of time at the shelter, and they know it. From the smallest pups, to the gray grizzled elderly, the hands of their life clocks are closing on midnight. The day reeks of doom and all the workers can feel the tension sizzling through the cages. The unending stream of the lost, the forgotten, throwaways, discards, and surrenders pours through the front doors of the shelter. Each is carefully checked in and moved to a cage in the back. The available cages goes down to two, the time is now. The selection begins, as tears and pleas from some of the volunteers wet the sheet of names.
“Not him, he hasn’t been here very long. Someone will come for him!” as a tiny black puppy is added to the list.
“She is so scared, please don’t let her die in fear and alone.” The stern pen writes her name down with just a hint of quiver on the last letter to express the writer’s inner feelings. Although a Golden Retriever, she was not considered adoptable, her heart had broken when her owners died in a car accident. For three weeks at the shelter, she hid and shook when people came near.
“He’s only been here six weeks, maybe his forever owner will still show up. Just another week please for him.” The chocolate Lab’s name went on the list; he was so big and took up space needed by others. One by one, as tears flowed, the list grew.
“Today, after we close they will have to go. We must have ten cages empty before tomorrow. If no one adopts these eight today, they must be put down. Dry your tears, we open soon.”
The first hour was busy; a rescue came in and picked up the Doberman and Boxer from the first pen. They would go to foster homes to be evaluated, medicated, loved, and patched up. One of the workers pointed out the chocolate Lab to the rescuer but after looking at him; a sad shake of the head left him standing forlornly behind. He was a cryptorchid and the surgery he needed would eat away too much at their meager bank account. As the rescuer left, she noticed a family carrying out a small black puppy and smiling as he licked the face of his new Mom. An hour only, but with three down, and just five to go the day looked brighter to the shelter workers.
As the second hour of operations began, more volunteers came in to groom and play with the animals. Anything to help make them presentable, anything to not send some to the Room with the one way door. An older couple came in, and went out back to look. They passed up the puppies and the Lab, shook their heads at a brown mongrel, and turned to walk out. A small whine from the side propelled them over to the sad Golden dog’s cage. Maybe it was the wife’s dress, maybe the husband’s cologne, maybe the angels whispered to the dog. Somehow, she stepped out of her misery and slunk to the front of her cage. Silent eyes bled sorrow as a tail plumed tentatively side to side. The woman put her hand out and with slow dignity, the dog offered her head. The man looked at his wife caught in the net of the dog’s need and smiled. The hour rolled over and her adoption made four.
Halfway there, this could happen yet! The volunteers smiled at each other and went back to grooming and making plans for a parade to help raise funds. Two more hours, three more dogs went out the door. Seven, they were up to seven. An hour left, surely enough time to place a dog. A volunteer whispered words of hope to the Lab. In another place, another time he would have been swimming, playing fetch, laving a face with his loving tongue. He would be slightly too fat, not the “long on the road” gaunt framed dog he was now. He would be lying on a rug, mouthing a toy, stretched out at his family’s side. He’d certainly not be here, watching the clock tick down to closing time.
Five minutes to close and the door opens. I step in and somehow the Lab sees me and calls to me. “His name is Bear,” I proudly say as we go out together. His other time is now; his other place is at my side.
The shelter closes; the ten empty cages mean the Room will not swallow any tonight. Tomorrow is another day, who will help keep the others safe? More will come, more will need, and the cages will fill up with beseeching faces. They all cry, “Are you my forever friend?” They all sit as the lights go out, and wait for you to come. Don’t make them wait too long, the Room is hungry, and tomorrow a new list begins.
© Carol M Chapman 2004