“There’s no place like home!”
This familiar quote from the classic The Wizard of Oz resonates so powerfully for this homeless girl, Stella.
I met my new friend Ellen through a mutual colleague. The three of us teach at Suffolk Community College and last year we started getting together outside of campus.
At dinner one evening, I shared my experiences volunteering at a local animal shelter and of the dogs that touched my heart. Ellen announced that she had just started walking rescue dogs at Smithtown Animal Shelter. She extolled the virtues of Stella, a pit bull mix, whom she had met recently. Ellen was so taken with Stella who was as sweet as they come. We commiserated about the virtues of this much misunderstood breed. Ellen had formed an undeniable bond with Stella and it pulled her to the shelter almost daily to visit her new canine friend.
Ellen’s enthusiasm for Stella was infectious, so when she invited me to meet this special girl, I immediately agreed.
The allotted day arrived, and as I pulled into the shelter parking lot, there was Ellen—her four-legged friend at her side, waiting for me just outside the shelter’s main entrance.
“This is my girl, Stella,” Ellen said.
I extended a hand under Stella’s chin letting her sniff. She must have thought I was all right, because the sniff was quickly followed by a lick, as if to greet me. The three of us started down a path that led to a fenced in area where Stella enjoyed a game of fetch with her new adoring partner. Ellen tossed the ball, Stella galloped after it, scooped it into her mouth and pranced proudly back to Ellen offering her largess then moving a few paces back, waiting for the action to continue. I watched as both enjoyed their special game.
After one final toss and return of the ball, Ellen suggested, “Want to go for a walk, Stella girl?”
Stella raced to Ellen’s side so her leash could be clasped in place and the three of us continued down the nearby path until we found a bench to stopped and rest. Stella sat between us, just one of the gals hanging out, enjoying this early spring afternoon.
Soon, we continued our walk. Stella was content as she felt a light breeze flip back her ears. Occasionally we were met with a gentle lick on our hands to which Ellen bent down toward her companion and responded, “Stella, you are such a good girl.” Stella responded with a flicker kiss on the cheek.
As the path curled around and brought us back to the shelter, the exuberant spirit that pervaded our walk turned somber and we reluctantly returned Stella to her cage. I glanced over my shoulder as we headed out of the area—there was Stella, nose pressed against the metal fence, trying to get a last glimpse of us as we exited. The expression on her formerly upturned mouth became a frown. My heart sank at the sight.
We happened upon one of the shelter administrators on our way out. Ellen extolled the virtues of sweet Stella. An uneasy thought entered my mind. I had a question that needed answering and I was very direct.
“Is this a no-kill shelter?”
“The administrator replied, “No, it isn’t.”
Ellen gasped and her eyes bulged as she asked, “Then dogs get euthanized here?”
“Yes, yes they do—when their time is up.”
“How much time do they get? How much time does Stella have?” Ellen needed to know.
The response was indecisive.
Ellen and I headed toward our cars in silence. I glanced at her and she had an expression as one who just received a mighty punch in the stomach. She shook her head. “I didn’t know.”
“I figured as much since I think that is the practice of most town animal shelters,” I said. “They only have room to hold the dogs for so long.”
Ellen looked at me with determination in her eyes. “I can’t leave her here. I’ve got to do something. I can’t believe those owners brought her to a kill shelter!”
And Ellen certainly did something. Monday morning when I got to campus, there were posters at my every turn with Stella’s sweet face staring back at me. Ellen wallpapered the halls, the teachers’ sign-in bulletin board, the student activity board and even the lampposts. No building at the college was left untouched.
But for some reason, Stella still sits in that Smithtown Animal Shelter and waits. She looks forward to visits from her friend Ellen, and she is oblivious to the fate awaiting her should there be no forever family to step up soon.
Stella is not alone in her quest for a loving family. There are far too many pit bulls in town shelters and too many of them never find their spot. How long will Stella have? We aren’t privy as to when her time will run out. But if you are ready to adopt your new best friend—a girl who will give loving kisses, a girl who will be your loyal companion, a girl who will walk beside you on life’s highway, and play catch with you—don’t delay. Go see Stella! She is still alive and well as of this writing. She is still at Smithtown Animal Shelter, on Middle County Road in Smithtown.
Please decide now before it is too late.