The prestigious Westminster Dog Show crowned its 2015 Best in Breed winner—the 139th ever—this week. The prize went to 4-year-old Miss P, a 15-inch, little doll. Now she and her handler are in a whirlwind of appearances, including the Today Show and lunch at swanky Sardi’s where she dined on a silver tray, and she’s been booked to grace the stage of the Broadway musical Kinky Boots.
You go girl! You beat out the odds on favorites Matisse, a Portuguese water dog, and Picture Perfect the Old English sheepdog.
Truth be told, beagles hold a special place in my heart. I discovered how dear they are while doing animal rescue. Their friendly nature and haunting eyes melt my very soul. Of course, the ones I have met through rescue never had the advantages that have been showered onto Miss P.
The beagles in the rescue system have been discarded. Many were deemed worthless when the hunting instinct didn’t kick in. Their owners turned a blind eye to the gentle, friendly nature of the breed and surrendered them to high kill shelters. There are far too many beagles relinquished to this fate. Rescue groups comb the pounds pulling as many lost souls as possible. The lucky ones are vetted and sent up north where they get a second chance. That’s where volunteers like me come in. We wait for the transports to arrive. We offer gentle words and warm hugs to these broken souls in an effort to reassure them that they are worthy of love, acceptance and a forever home.
Such was the story of my very first foster dog with the endearing name of Snuggles.
When I agreed to foster, I was given a picture and a description of the little beagle mix. Excitement set in as I prepared for her arrival. I shopped wanting only the best collar, leash, harness, all in red, for the girl. That pretty face with striking honey-coin eyes staring back at me spoke volumes, including telling me that her perfect color was red.
Southampton’s Last Chance Animal Rescue (a 2014 Dan’s Best of the Best winner) holds adoption events every Saturday at local pet supply stores on Long Island and I was scheduled to meet my foster at just such an event. The Friday night before filled me with restless anticipation of her arrival. The clock screamed 12, 1, 2—I started the countdown. The cargo of dogs had to bear a 17-hour trip up from South Carolina before they would arrive at approximately 9:30 a.m. I pictured my girl in that transport, just one cage with others stacked over and around her. What was she doing at 2 a.m.? Was she hungry? Was she thirsty? Was she scared? What condition would she be in when we meet? These thoughts infiltrated my mind making it impossible to sleep.
I got up extra early, showered, dressed and headed for the pet supply store to meet my first foster.
When I arrived at about 9:15 a.m., I was told the transport had arrived early. A volunteer pointed to the pen behind me. I turned and there sitting quietly with those soulful honey-coin eyes was the most unassuming beagle-mix little girl. Conflicting feelings rushed in. I was angry with myself for not being there to greet her upon arrival and at the same time, I just wanted to get the girl out of that pen and outfit her in the new red collar, harness and leash. Yes, she looked just beautiful in red! I took her to the groomers at the store. I wanted this girl to get the works: shampoo, nails clipped, ears cleaned—all of it. “Pamper her,” I said to the groomers, “She deserves the best after where she’s been.”
The day was long, they usually are. People filtered in, some asked to see Snuggles. I was already protective of my little charge and found myself sizing up the potential adopters. I wanted the best home possible for her and to be perfectly honest, in the back of my mind, I felt I already had it. The week before, a lovely couple, Jean and Peter Hadcock, adopted an affable beagle, Sheldon, and expressed interest in adopting a second dog. It seems they were used to having two. Sadly, within a few months of each other, their other dogs had passed away. Both had been up there in age and very sick. The Hadcocks lamented their quiet home and longed to return to the kind of joy and activity that only beloved pets can provide.
As I checked their application for Sheldon, the Peter’s place of employment popped out at me. He works for the same company as my husband. What a coincidence! We realized we had even bumped into each other at the company holiday parties. The Hadcocks appeared to be very nice people, a fact which my husband fully corroborated later by enthusiastically proclaiming that whomever they adopt will have won the doggie lottery!
The Hadcocks had one hitch in their potential adoption of Snuggles. They had a conflict that Saturday, leaving them unable to attend the event to meet her, and Last Chance Animal Rescue’s bylaws do not permit holding a dog for possible later adoption. They want to provide a forever home with the first family who is approved and makes the commitment. It really is only fair to the dog and to the family ready to commit.
We agreed that if Snuggles did not get adopted on Saturday, the Hadcocks would come to our house on Sunday to meet her. Needless to say, I spent the day with fingers crossed, hoping to be able to introduce Snuggles to Jean and Peter the following day. I guess the stars aligned for Snuggles, for the Hadcocks and for me—she received some attention, but no one came forward to adopt her that day. At the end of the event, Snuggles came home with me.
At home, my doxie gang greeted her, especially Melissa Tulip who was thrilled to have a playmate a little closer to her age. The two became fast friends.
On Sunday afternoon the Hadcocks arrived as planned. My husband and I went out to their car to greet them and I noticed a big blanket covered the back seat of the car with a pillow propped up on one side seemingly ready to accept Snuggles.
It was love at first sight and a new family was instantly born. That night, Melissa Tulip searched the house looking for Snuggles. She even pushed the bedroom curtains aside hoping her new best friend was just playing a game of hide and seek with her.
I happened to bump into Snuggles, Sheldon and the Hadcocks not long ago. They are a happy family now—I could feel the love brimming over amongst the four of them. I gave Snuggles a great big hug and received numerous kisses of recognition in return. Funny, I had been thinking about the girl, wanting to see her again. My husband’s comment rushed to mind—he was right, Snuggles and Sheldon did win the doggie lottery!
Is anything really just left to chance or is there a greater plan?
Barbara Anne Kirshner is the author of Madison Weatherbee-The Different Dachshund. She is a regular contributor to DansPapers.com.