Although ShoeShine was dumped at the shelter by his owner about a month ago, I only had the opportunity to meet him this past weekend. At first, I didn't think he liked me at all - he would dart to the front of his kennel, bark repeatedly, then dash off... only to repeat this ritual again and again. It was only after I got home and was getting ready to walk our dog Rufus that it hit me: Rufus usually uses the same bark when he's playing or when he wants something. And that got me thinking even more.
The next day, I managed to get up to the shelter again. When I got to his kennel, I called out, "Hey, ShoeShine! Wanna' go ouside?" and he cocked his head at me; not a confused expression at all, but a cheerful gesture that I recognized well. It's the same bright little "Heck yeah!" nod that Rufus gives me when asked if he wants to do something fun. So outside we went.
ShoeShine is brimming over with energy and enthusiasm. He's a smart dog, and a complex one as well. One moment, he can be mischievous and swaggering; the next moment, he'll be sweet, vulnerable, and eager to please. He's a combination of German Shepherd and Golden Retriever, and seems to have gotten some of the best of both breeds in him.
Beautiful, energetic, and amazingly friendly, ShoeShine is a real find - and sadly, one that may be gone forever in just a few short days. Since the opening of the new shelter, adoptions have been painfully few; rescue groups are over-full and desperately trying to make just a tiny bit more space to save more lives. Times are tough all around, but it's literally a life-and-death struggle for the shelter, its staff, and the animals. ShoeShine has been there a month - long enough to grow from a puppy to an adolescent, long enough to watch a number of other animals come and go. In the past two days, at least eighteen new dogs have come in, and there is nowhere to put them.
Tuesday may well be his last day. If it is, and he has to be put to sleep to make room for new dogs, it will be heartbreaking. And for me... well, he's so much like Rufus in so many ways, I think my heart will break a little bit every time I look at my own lovable rascal and see what ShoeShine could have been, too.
UPDATE 6/30: ShoeShine was one of ELEVEN dogs pulled yesterday by rescue groups at the last minute. Thanks to their hard work, there's a little bit of breathing room at the shelter - at least for a few days. ShoeShine headed to Shreveport, LA along with a Chihuahua named Josh, where they will be fostered - and hopefully adopted out - by Animal Welfare, Inc., a Shreveport-based rescue group.