Sunday’s at the Rescue: Scarlet

So fellow travelers, I was at the rescue one afternoon a few weeks ago when it happened again.

That magical experience of watching a “gotcha” moment unfold.

With several new dogs transferred in from local shelters and the St Patrick’s Parade committee putting the final touches on the float for Saturday’s Parade, Friday afternoon was busy, even though this is not a transport weekend. I went to help with the afternoon feeding walks and chores. While I was there, several dogs went home with their new families, including adorable little pittie Jackson


Jackson is a local pup who came to HHDR  through our transfer program with the city’s shelter. He was found tied up in a garage with his harness embedded in his skin. *sigh*  human beings can be idiots. Jackson is a spunky fellow, fully recovered, just as sweet and loving as can be. I am not surprised he was adopted so quickly.

Jackson is the kind of dog who reminds me to focus on compassion, so willing to forgive and trust us humans again inspite of the cruelty they’ve endured. You cannot be involved in any kind of rescue work for long without a strong set of coping skills or you burn out faster than a match in a snowstorm. This holds true for “rescue” work with humans too as I’ve learned from my job at the local high school. Anger is a draining emotion to hold and it does nothing to stop the cycle of abuse. It’s a challenge to feel compassion for abusers and I admit most of the time the best I can do is a benign shroud of sadness for those who are in so much pain they are driven to inflict it on others. When I hold a trembling, terrified dog I often think if someone, maybe just one person had done the same for an abuser it would have made a difference.

Pretty little Scarlet was one of those frightened souls.  She arrived two weeks ago on a transport from Alabama and she took a while to stop shaking and come out of her shell. Her profile said she had been “found one day at a shelter,” which likely means she had simply been abandoned. Her foster family said she was very shy yet responded to calm quiet interaction. The experience of the long transport trip can set a shy dog back a bit too, so it takes a special adopter to see the potential in these dogs.

Scarlet’s special people came in yesterday afternoon, a soft spoken young couple looking for a quiet dog they could have in their apartment.  The young woman spoke earnestly with me while her husband was finalizing their application at the front desk. She explained, almost apologetically that they had to be careful of the breed mix not from personal preference but because their landlord had a list of prohibited breeds (*sigh again*  BSL : Breed Specific Legislation and its ignorant offspring of breed specific policies is flawed and misguided concept. However, that’s a topic for another post.)

 “We would take a pit mix if we could. We know so many of them need homes,” she told me. I assured her we understood and that was why the staff always speaks with landlords before giving a green light to an application.

As we talked, one of the volunteers walked by with Scarlet in her arms.  The young woman had seen Scarlet in her crate, but said she was curled up on her bed in the back and didn’t come towards the door.  Now, held gently in the arms of a volunteer she knew, Scarlet didn’t cringe when this young woman spoke to her.  In fact, I noticed her adorable ears perked right up.  I held my breath when, after asking for permission the young woman slowly and gradually reached over to gently touch Scarlet.

Scarlet did not shake or turn away. The woman’s husband joined us to happily inform his wife their application had been processed and they could start the process of selecting a dog.

“Oh, honey this is Scarlet.” she told him.  There was no mistaking the longing and love in her voice. She had not stopped gently petting the little dog, still resting in the arms of our volunteer. “She’s very shy but she’s so sweet!”

He leaned in ever so slightly, without reaching for her and spoke calmly “Hello, Scarlet.” Again, our shy girl did not flinch.  In fact she turned her head towards the young man and looked right at him, so he extended his hand, let her sniff.  My heart skipped a beat.

I asked if they would like to take her outside for a little walk. Usually prospective adopters take the dogs outside with some help from a volunteer to get to know the dogs a bit better.

“Wont she be too cold outside?”

It was as if the young woman instinctively knew Scarlet was not a fan of the vast cold outdoors. “Can we hold her for a bit?”  I held my breath again as the volunteer gently bundled our shy girl into the young man’s arms.

Scarlet sighed and settled right in. For a few minutes time stood still, the noise of dogs coming and going faded, the clatter of bowls being washed sounded like chimes marking the moment, that moment when three souls wound themselves together into one family.


Scarlet’s arrival photo on transport day.  Happy life sweet girl.


Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Editorial Note: Sunday’s at the Rescue is a series of posts about my experiences working with rescue dogs.  It is named for Sunday, a sweet young dog who came through the rescue where I volunteer, stole a piece of my heart (as so many of them do) and got herself adopted into a great home. If you like this piece, you can search the blog for other posts with that title.

Deborah H Rahalski

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