Witnessing a variety of animals is all part of working at an animal shelter. By this I am not referring to their DNA, size, coat, or the breed (or mix thereof) they may be. At the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons (ARF), each animal that comes through our doors, be it a cat or a dog, is as much an individual as any human being I have ever encountered. Each comes with its own personality, its own quirks, its own habits, and its own sense of self. They also come with their own coping skills, and again, just like humans, some are more highly skilled than others.
In early April of this year, Michele Forrester, ARF's Director of Operations, received a call asking for help with a New York City hoarding situation. A serial animal hoarder was being evicted and had been keeping over 100 small dogs in a one-bedroom apartment. Bodies would be disposed of under cover of night, and many of those who managed to survive another day in the squalor and pain had suffered muscle atrophy because of lack of space. They were all underdeveloped, undersocialized, inbred, and had never received proper nutrition or medical care. Some had to be put down immediately because of suffering too extreme and graphic to write about here. Seven rescue groups participated in the intervention, and ARF received five of these poor, maltreated dogs: Robert, Randall, Ronnie, Reece, and Rebecca, a.k.a. the Fab Five (see photos of them below).
Now remember, all five of these dogs had grown up in and witnessed the same horrifying circumstances. Robert, only 2 years old and the worst-off, physically, had multiple fractures that had not been treated, along with severe patellar luxation (a condition in which the kneecap sits on the inside of the leg rather than where it is supposed to be). The combination of these conditions made it almost impossible for him to walk. Nevertheless, while the other four cowered in the back of their cages when initially approached, Robert was right at the front, tail wagging, ears perked, eyes brightly lit, yearning for human interaction. It was a bittersweet sight: Robert, who could hardly walk, trying to jump for joy at the promise of being held and played with. Thankfully, Robert's leg did not need to be amputated, and thanks to ARF's generous supporters, he was able go through his first reparative surgery later that month, with another scheduled for July. In the meantime, Robert has been adopted by a local family in East Hampton, and all have never been happier. Slowly but surely Ronnie and Randall overcame their shyness and fear and were adopted together by another local family, lending their adoption story an ending just as happy as Robert's, all in a matter of less than two months.
This brings us to Reece and Rebecca. Both are approximately a little over 2 years of age, and both are smooth-coated Chihuahua mixes. They are each other's shadows. While their appearances are completely different, their behavior is very much the same. Both are shy and scared of new people and new things but get along well with other dogs. Rebecca is a bit more advanced than Reece, as she does warm up to new people and showers them with love and affection once she trusts and accepts them. Reece is not to be discounted, however, as he has made a huge amount of progress in the three months he has been at ARF. In order to help both dogs with their recovery and socialization, they have been spending their days in various offices here at ARF and are about to be fostered by one of our staff members, who recently lost a beloved Chihuahua of her own. Everyone at ARF eagerly awaits the day Reece and Rebecca will find the home they so deserve -- preferably together. But first they must find themselves. And they will. They just need a little more time.
What allows one animal to cope better and socialize faster than others who have experienced the same circumstances, I do not know. I do know, and have witnessed, that with constant love, reassurance, and the newfound promise of safety and security, the majority of animals are able to eventually blossom into the selves they were meant to be. They simply need for us to give them the time, and then they will share the love.
Please visit our website, arfhamptons.org, to see all of our animals currently up for adoption.
You can help an animal in need by adopting, fostering, volunteering, or donating. Find out how at AnimalAllianceNYC.org.