Gertrude had been abandoned, pregnant, and near starving when she was rescued by Jeannie, founder and director of DAPS. This amazing organization is invested in saving and bettering the lives of animals in Dixon and the surrounding areas. Our story, how Gertrude came into my life, is a memorable one.
Jeannie found Gertrude under a neighboring trailer. In the late winter of December, a few days after Christmas, Gertrude (named by me after none other than Gertrude Stein) had six puppies, five of which died due to lack of food and the bitter cold. By the time Gertrude was rescued, unbeknownst to Jeannie, there was one surviving puppy still underneath the trailer. When discovered, that puppy was heroically rescued by DAPS President Judy Pearson with the help of Jeannie's husband Bob and daughter Hannah and their loyal rescued German Shepherd Trina (with hotdogs in hand! Judy, not Trina). Remarkably, she was in good health and happily placed in a loving home in Dixon. But before the young puppy was found and rescued, Jeannie had posted an ad in town seeking a home for Gertrude, herself still a puppy, about a year old. No one stepped forward to adopt her. Sadly, Jeannie knew she would eventually have to take her to the Espanola or Taos shelter. Because Gertrude is possibly a staffordshire/lab mix, but looks all 'pit', Jeannie knew her chances of adoption from the shelters were slim, and Jeannie, who already has ten dogs, knew she could not keep her.
Enter a woman with MS, a red car, and a desire to help the animals; a woman who cannot run, but can drive! On that fateful day, I called Jeannie and volunteered to take Gertrude to the shelter if no one adopted her. Not imagining in my wildest dreams that I could or would ever own a dog given my particular limitations, I did not consider myself a viable candidate as an owner. The day came, though, when I was supposed to take her to the shelter. That morning when I called Jeannie to pick up Gertrude, whom I had not yet met, Jeannie said, "I can't do it, she's too sweet. We just can't take her to the shelter, they will most likely put her down." I said, "What can we do?" Jeannie said, "Let me call the vet to see if they can take her today, and if they can, can you take her there? We'll get her spayed and I'll keep trying to find her a good home." Yes! I could do that.
That morning I met a darling yet frightened puppy. I had brought some treats, and she eagerly took them. We then loaded her into the passenger seat of my car. She was a very sad, dejected looking dog; the air was palpable with her trauma. She would not look at me on the thirty minute drive to the vet, for surely she felt she might be on her way to being abandoned yet again. She was scared. I kept my hand on her back telling her she was safe and loved, and that nobody would leave her again. How true it was! Little did I know that nobody would be me. The rest is herstory: I picked her up three days later, gave her a warm bed, good nourishing food and witnessed, and continue to witness, her transformation into a healthy, confident, loving dog. Moreover, as you might imagine, she is slowly forgetting her past trauma of abandonment, near starvation and the loss of her pups. Gertrude gets me out the door and into my enclosed yard to play with her, thereby exercising, and perhaps more importantly, getting me to forget the daily concerns of living with MS.
We have now begun service dog training in Santa Fe with Assistance Dogs of the West. As most of you know, currently I cannot walk Gertrude any fair distance to exercise her due to my limitations. This was a major concern as regards adoption, but it was brilliantly rectified by the help of so many people that need mention here.
First, Jeannie of DAPS had generously offered to pay to enclose my yard with a fence. I was overwhelmed with what that could cost knowing DAPS relies on donations and has limited funds. But the magic surrounding Gertrude had only begun. My landlords, dog lovers themselves, agreed to the yard's enclosure, and donated all the fencing materials. Thank you Adam and Steve! But who would put up the fence? Two other angels appeared: the husband and friend of my friend Jennifer-- Greg and Wes-- donated many days of their time and labor to enclose the yard. Thank you Greg and Wes! But the story would not be complete without mention of Jennifer, my friend and cohort in all things dog and animals. I met Jennifer through Jeannie. She had also volunteered her time to assist DAPS in rescuing animals, she herself raising three dogs, a horse, a couple of goats and chickens. When she heard that I had MS but really wanted to adopt Gertrude, yet was concerned about how Gertrude would get exercised, Jennifer and her wonderful twelve year old daughter, Leela, showed up at my door five times a week, leash in hand, ready to take Gertrude on long walks. Jennifer continues to walk Gertrude when she can, because, well, she too has fallen under Gertrude's charming spell. Thank you Jennifer and Leela!
And finally, but not lastly, my heartfelt gratitude goes out to Jeannie of DAPS, without whom none of this would have been made possible. Jeannie's love and respect for animals, their lives, their sufferings, and their well being is what brought Gertrude into my life. Thank you, Jeannie!
And thank you to all the friends and family who have listened to our unfolding story from the beginning, encouraging me to keep Gertrude and take on the Service Dog training together.