“Ugh! I’ve been kissed by a dog! Get disinfectant!”
– From A Charlie Brown Christmas
It was only a bell’s jingle before Christmas when I burst into a revised version of a Katy Perry song while driving home from Toronto Animal Services (North Region): “I kissed a dog and I liked it!”
There’s nothing terribly odd about that, given the fact I’ve traded in a normal life to rescue appreciative beagles. Kisses have been plenty. But this particular kiss will go down in beagle rescue history as the one that mattered most. It’s not because the dog delivering the kiss (she kissed me first) happened to be our 100th beagle rescued since Big On Beagles (B.O.B.) began its work a decade ago. I didn’t make that observation until later.
What made this kiss so special is how it gave me the reason I needed to keep the pet repair shop open for beagle #101.
On Dec. 8, I received an email from the shelter asking if we had space for an approximately 12-year-old beagle riddled with suspicious lumps. She clearly wasn’t adoptable to the general public. Heck, she wouldn’t be adoptable at all if any of the lumps proved malignant. Accordingly, she was an ideal candidate for B.O.B. We have this thing about coming to the rescue of the Charlie Browniest of dogs, i.e. the seemingly hopeless.
But we already had our quota of hopeless hounds. A few days prior, we’d taken in two beagles that had lost their elderly owners. Ten-year-old, grief-stricken Beowulf had been deposited to the Barrie SPCA. Winston, aka Winnie the Pooh, had been home alone with only the neighbour to feed him.
Our foster homes were officially bursting with beagles. I couldn’t possibly take another. Or, was there hope for Miss Hopeless? Catherine, founder of Sheba’s Haven, could fit in one more palliative care beagle for us if needed.
Off I went to the shelter to see if she fit the bill. Of course I got lost first, after taking the wrong exit, but eventually arrived – albeit in a Charlie Brown woe-is-me kind of mood. That changed quickly once I got the whole scoop on lumpy lady.
It had been a cold night in early December when the animal control officer came to her rescue. She’d been left tied to a shopping cart in a mall parking lot.
I hear such heart-tugging stories all the time and had begun to wonder whether my heart was willing to be tugged at any more. Apparently it was. It gave way as soon as she walked through the door. With all her lumps, she looked like a four-legged Christmas tree with ornaments hanging from every limb. But those lumps didn’t weigh down her beagle tail! With every wag, I felt an equally exuberant tug.
The intention was only to assess temperament, gauge the extent of the health concerns and return to home base to ponder the next course of action. But within seconds of my inspection, I was scooping her up into the beagle-mobile while proclaiming her ‘Clementine’ in honour of the season.
The way home was filled with my usual one-way conversation. But when we stopped at a street light, something better than words happened. Clementine had been backseat-wagging in polite response to my nonsensical chatter. I turned to whisper yet another sweet nothing in her ear when she gave me a shy little kiss. I kissed her back and started to sing.
Clementine had her surgery a week before Christmas removing the worrisome lumps. Two were likely malignant but with any luck, gone for good. Her heart will need monitoring though. An ultrasound confirmed mitral valve disease, but thankfully no evidence of congestive heart failure. Paws crossed, there’s plenty of time for more kissing!
On Christmas Eve, I introduced Clem to her foster parents at the Belleville Dog Park halfway between our farm and Sheba’s Haven. Despite her post-surgery cone-head, my darling Clementine marched up to her foster daddy and planted a kiss on his face. That’s when I knew she was going to be just fine.
One hundred beagles saved should be worth celebrating but for every 100 you save, there’s a thousand more you can’t. While we’re seeing positive change in the plight of homeless pets, there’s still so much more to be done. It can make you feel hopeless sometimes. That is, until a pathetic-looking Christmas tree with barely any needles left on its branches nudges you away from your pity party.
I watched the Charlie Brown special over the holidays as I always do but this time, I really got it! Poor Charlie Brown was in search of the true meaning of Christmas. He might have given up entirely if not for rescuing that silly old tree. Lucy and the gang laughed but for some reason, they decorated it anyway. In the end, it was the most beautiful tree of all.
Thanks to Clementine and Charlie Brown, I’ve learned it’s okay if you don’t always see the forest for the trees. Taking on one seemingly hopeless little tree at a time is far less complicated – just like a dog’s kiss.
Clementine is the 12-year-old beagle that kissed this dog rescuer back to life! Of course, she’s got a lot more life-saving kisses to give! Clem and I thank the staff at Toronto Animal Services (North Region), Catherine and Bill of Sheba’s Haven (www.shebashaven.petfinder.com), and the generous supporters of B.O.B Rescue (www.bigonbeagles.ca) for getting us to 100 beagles.