Brotherly Love

I met Posey when she first got to the shelter and was still in quarantine. A one-year-old border collie mix, she is black and brown and white and gorgeous and sweet and loving. Walking her was the high point of the highlight of my week: volunteering as a shelter dog-walker — Woofy Wednesdays, as my husband calls it.

Posey and I went for a long walk. She is well-trained; she sits, stays and listens. She also looks lovingly into your eyes and, best of all, hugs. Really. She is a leaner and a hugger, two of my favorite puppy traits. We chatted with a woman and her dog. She looked at me and said, “You have little hearts coming out your ears.” I couldn’t believe she could see them, too.

When I brought Posey back to the quarantine area, we were greeted happily by her bother, Dolby — a bigger, older, all-black version of Posey — who was residing in the booth next to hers. If he stood on his hind legs, he could see her and talk to her through the divider. Posey and Dolby were found together as strays and came to the shelter together.

I went home and told my husband about Posey and set about looking up her breed(s) to see if she could be happy in our sedentary apartment life. Border collies like to have a job and to herd things, I learned. “She can herd the beanbag chair around the apartment,” I exclaimed. (Yes, I have a beanbag chair.) “Probably not what they had in mind,” my husband said gently. And they need space and lots of exercise. Damn.

On the following Woofy Wednesday, Posey and Dolby moved up out of quarantine into the shelter, where each dog has its own spacious private room. They had come upstairs that very morning. We took Posey and Dolby on a dual walk, where they played with each other nonstop. When they went back to their rooms, however, all was not well. I sat in Posey’s room with her, and we listened to Dolby bark and cry and hurl himself against his door. Posey cried and barked and alternated between pawing at her door in response, jumping up to try to see him through the clear part of her door and looking at me with beseeching eyes. She put her paws on me, trying to make me understand.

I needed to leave to walk another dog. All I could hear were their cries — their literal cries — along with barking and a lot of thuds. I came back from my walk and nothing had changed.

The (human) dog attendants reminded me it takes time for the dogs to settle in and get used to their new surroundings. And, since the chances of Posey and Dolby being adopted together are slim to none, they need to adjust to being apart (please say you know someone to adopt these two perfect, gentle dogs together). Maybe if I spent some time with Dolby, they suggested, it would help him calm down a little.

I went in and sat with Dolby. He licked me and hugged me and climbed on me, but he never stopped crying and barking and scratching his door — nor throwing himself up against it to get to Posey. He was inconsolable. He climbed on my shoulders to get a better look out the clear part of his door, to see if he could find her. I hugged Dolby and stroked him and whispered over and over it would be OK, as tears poured down my face. And he threw himself against the door, trying to get to his sister.

4 Responses to “Brotherly Love”

  • Oh my goodness. This is heartbreaking. I have always wanted to volunteer at a shelter, but this is why I don’t. I would cry daily and only be happy if I had 5 acres and could bring home every sweet stray (or pair of strays) and give them a wonderful life. You are a brave woman, my dear and I admire your strength in giving your time to these sweet animals!

  • Hey Lauren, don’t forget the best part! The HAPPY ending of this story is that, not only did the two of them make it out with their wits about them – herding breeds can develop compulsive anxiety-related problems when sheltered for too long – but they both have beautiful families that are keeping up with their training, giving them an amazing, active lifestyle, and they have play groups TOGETHER to help ease their transition. Dolby did calm down, Posey did stop worrying, and two amazing dogs found their way home.

  • Thank you, Ariana. I am so used to the happy endings at Pets Unlimited that I take it for granted. And I’m so, so glad they have such wonderful families that let them have play groups together. Deep, happy sigh.

  • Lordy, I understand. It was sad to split such a great pair, but they got incredibly lucky to get out of the municipal system at all. And they’ll make their houses home in no time. But as a shelter, we are very lucky to have volunteers such as yourself who care so deeply about our pups. Thank you, Lauren!

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