My Thanksgiving Miracle
by Colleen Paige
It was a week before Thanksgiving and an emaciated black dog was found running down the middle of a dark highway at 3am in a rain storm. Two young girls coming home from a party pulled over to attempt rescue. The dog immediately jumped into the front seat desperate to escape the cold and wet. The passenger wrapped her jacket around the poor dog to try and keep her warm and she immediately fell asleep in the girl's lap from sheer exhaustion. They kept her overnight and dropped her off at the shelter the next day.
Only hours after this poor dog had been dropped off at the shelter, I arrived looking for a best friend for my 5 year old little boy who had begged me for a year to get him a dog. As I walked in, she was the only dog in the shelter that wasn't jumping up on their kennel door or barking or begging me with longing eyes. Of course I wanted them all - but there she was, emaciated, dehydrated, bruised and battered, just staring up at me with her big golden eyes that I could see the light starting to fade from. She was literally a skeleton covered in fur. There was no way I was walking away from this dog. Immediately her eyes took a hold of my soul and begged me to save her. I had no idea how severe her injuries were and no idea what kind of personality she had. I didn't care. I knew that it was fate. She was "the one".
At only 28 pounds of her normal 60 pounds, her ribs protruded through her chest and it appeared as if someone had been extinguishing their cigarettes out on her for quite some time. She was covered in fleas and wounds and scabs and huge swollen areas where she had been beaten. The shelter said that their policy was to wait 5 days to see if someone claimed her. Right then, I lost my mind. "You're joking right?? What do you mean you have to wait for someone to claim her? Whoever that person is has horribly mistreated her! How could you release her back to them?" I asked. The animal control officer said that since he didn't know the whole story, he would give someone a chance to explain. "A chance to explain what?? No way! There is NO WAY I am going to watch you release her back to some monster!" I shouted. I'm not leaving here until you leave and lock those doors behind you and that's the way it’s going to be until five days pass." I did realize that someone may have lost her and that she was abused at the hands of her captors, but it was doubtful.
I knew he was concerned that if someone tried to claim her, I would go ballistic, so because of that, I believe he was more willing to bend the rules for me a bit. He also agreed because, in his words, "no one wants a black dog anyway" and that if no one claimed and her and I didn't adopt her, she would be euthanized right away. I was floored. It was then, that I learned about this awful stigma.
So I camped out in front of her kennel every single day and by the grace of God, no one came to claim her. At the end of the 5th day, she was mine. I became so emotional when I got her in the car. I collapsed into the steering wheel and sobbed like a baby for ten minutes when the stress of the situation was relieved. It had been five days of hell...hell for her and hell for me worrying that I might lose her or end up in jail trying to prevent someone from taking her back to hell. I wrapped my arms around her and gave her a great big kiss and it was in that moment I realized she would be ok no matter what we had to face to get over over her trauma, it would be worth it, especially when I saw just the tip of her tail wagging.
The first day I put a bowl of food down for her, she whimpered and ran into the corner of the kitchen, peeing all over herself and shaking uncontrollably. As I tried to approach her to calm and reassure her, she shrieked as if I was beating her and hid her face to the wall. I knew then, that we had a long way to go. To make a long story short, I had to start out by putting food on the floor and literally leave the house for her to feel safe enough to eat. This made it clear that someone had beaten her horribly for perhaps trying to eat some food she found. It took two months to get her start eating from a bowl and a whole year before she felt ok having anyone around her when she did eat.
The physical wounds healed pretty quickly but the emotional trauma took a bit longer to relent. Sailor turned out to be a well adjusted, total goofball, who LIVED for children, playing fetch, romping the beach, romping in any body of water really. One of the first places I took her was to the beach. It was then that her sheer obsession for swimming was evident. She would live on the sea if she could and that's where she got her name. Initially I had named her something else and changed it when I witnessed her love of the ocean.
Sadly, on October 1st, 2014 at 14 years old, Sailor passed away from inoperable liver cancer. She brought joy to so many and is a true testament to the healing power of love. She was my best friend, my child, my soul dog. Our whole family will never be as whole or as happy without looking into her her sweet face and big amber shining eyes every day but her legacy and the love she left behind will keep me moving forward to help highlight the plight of black dogs everywhere and encourage others to do the same. Please adopt a black dog on October 1st and help to keep Sailor's legacy alive.