Sometimes, things happen that defy explanation, that leave us traumatized and questioning everything we believe, that cause us to look to the sky and angrily demand to know, “Why did this happen?” It is often in moments like these that true character is revealed and that we are given the opportunity to become more than we were.
On March 2, 2011, a remarkable woman was faced with such a situation. “Bobbie” lived alone with her two rescue dogs, “Abby,” a 13 year old Doberman mix, and “Dana,” a Great Dane mix with special needs. Before she left for work that morning, she debated whether to leave the door to her house open so that her dogs could spend time in the back yard while she was away. She decided against it, thinking it safer for them to remain inside. Two hours later she received a phone call letting her know that her house had caught fire and that neither dog made it out.
Bobbie was shattered. In just two hours, her life had changed forever. She began the slow process of rebuilding, but the pain of losing her two best friends was nearly overwhelming. She desperately wanted a chance to do that day over, to be able to love her older dog until it was time for her to pass naturally, and to give her younger one the time and attention she needed to become healthy and whole and to live a long, happy life. That desire brought her to the HSBC.
At first, Bobbie simply asked to become a volunteer. She did not immediately share her story; rather she sat with the dogs, cared for them, played with them, cried with them, and allowed them to help her heal. She began watching for the dogs that most spoke to her heart, the ones that needed her most, the lost causes, the ones that no one else wanted. Tuffy was such a dog. Tuffy was a 12 year old grey hound mix who had been neglected by her previous owners. She was heartworm positive and was going into kidney failure. She had become depressed and showed no interest in food.
Bobbie began the tedious process of helping to pull Tuffy through. She came to the shelter everyday to hand feed Tuffy, to take her on long walks and field trips, and to give her the kind of love and attention that made life worth living. She paid for special food and covered her extensive veterinary bills. She claimed Tuffy as her own and felt that this was her chance to give back. This would be for “Abby”. Although her house was not yet ready for her to move back in, she adopted Tuffy and came to the shelter every day to care for her while they waited for the house to be finished. Still, Bobbie kept her eyes opened, knowing that there was room in her heart for one more.
Eve was a black lab that seemed destined to find her forever home quickly. She had everything going for her – she was young, beautiful, healthy, house-trained, and got along great with everyone. Bobbie saw Eve when she first walked in and fell in love at first sight, but Eve was adoptable and Bobbie had made a commitment to herself to help the ones with no hope. Bobbie intentionally kept her distance from Eve.
Then, Eve began to show signs of sickness. At first it seemed that Eve had a common dog illness that would be gone after a few days of antibiotics. However, her health took a drastic and unexpected nosedive. Bobbie volunteered to take Eve to the vet. It was not good news. Eve had pneumonia. Her heart had become affected and only 20% of her lungs were functioning. She needed emergency oxygen and care beyond that which our normal veterinarian was able to offer. She would have to be transported elsewhere if she had a chance of surviving. The cost would be in the thousands. Bobbie did not hesitate. She placed her credit card on the counter and said to do whatever it takes. This would be her do-over. This was her chance to save a dog that deserved to live. In just two hoursat the vet’s office, her life had come full circle. This would be for “Dana”.
Albert Schweitzer once said, “Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace.” Bobbie’s compassion humbles us all. The peace she has found inspires us beyond words. Bobbie tearfully tells us that she is grateful to the HSBC for what we do and we are amazed that she doesn’t see that she is the one that deserves our gratitude.
Bobbie, who asked that we change her name so that she could remain anonymous, and the countless other volunteers and donors who give freely and selflessly to the HSBC touch more than just our animals. They are changing the world one act of compassion at a time.