By Cindi Scholefield
She was medium-sized, pure white and long-haired, with startling deep brown eyes, almost black, but the picture was marred by the ugly splashes of black tar on her back and legs. Someone had obviously thrown it on her, but fortunately her coat was heavy and thick enough to stop it burning through to her skin. However, she was very scared, and understandably so. How was she to know I wasn’t someone else coming at her to douse her with hot tar, or even worse?
It didn’t take her long to realize that not only was I not going to harm her, but my arrival meant all kinds of affection, and for maybe the first time in her life - treats. She didn’t know how to take a biscuit from my fingers, but soon caught on to that too, and when I felt she was confident enough, I took out my tools to work on the clotted black lumps. To my surprise, most of them separated quite easily in the teeth of the comb, and I didn’t have to actually cut off much of her fur. All through this, she was quiet as a lamb, turning to look as I pulled gently at them, till I could smooth out all of her beautiful white coat.
Now that the mess was gone, she was quite spectacular looking, and though she was painfully thin, her whole demeanour had changed. Her tail was up and wagging, her eyes were bright and I could almost hear her singing, out of West Side Story, “I feel pretty, oh so pretty...”
In British Columbia, there is a rare and almost mythical creature called a spirit bear. I used to think of Snowdrop as a spirit wolf – her run was low-slung, with her nose very close to the ground, no matter how fast she was travelling (I was so fascinated looking at her running beside me, I nearly ran into a car once in the car-park), and she had a no-nonsense way about her. It reminded me very much of a wolf following a scent, even though she might have been following something as innocuous as a shred of fallen chicken meat from a KFC wrapper.
Soon she began to fill out, and just as I was thinking she had probably reached her peak of good looks, I went one day to find her all brown and smelly. It wasn’t hard to put two and two together and realize someone had tried to hose out the feces in her cage, and sprayed it all over her. She was distressed, and I knew I couldn’t leave her like that, so I took her out, washed her down and we galloped around in the sun to dry her off. The very next day I heard that she had been adopted, and I wondered if they would have given her a second thought seeing her the way I had found her that morning. Later, I was fortunate enough to be there as she was being led out to her new owner - he turned out to be a small man with a large van, who had also taken another dog.
I liked the idea that she would have company, and the two were standing quite companionably by the side of the van as I approached. The little man must have thought I was some kind of wacko, as I kissed her goodbye and made him promise to take good care of her, but he smiled and said he would do his very best. I couldn’t ask for more.
I wonder if he knows about spirit bears and wolves...
For several years after leaving her regular job as a translator, Cindi Scholefield volunteered every day at the local animal shelter in Kingston, Jamaica. Out of the hundreds of dogs she rehabilitated (and fell in love with) came a collection of stories, some sad but the majority with a happy ending. For the most part she wanted to show people how forgiving dogs are. No matter how badly they are treated, no matter how much they have suffered, with patience and kindness they can make miraculous recoveries, both physically and emotionally. She believes we humans can learn a lot from them, not just about forgiveness, but about love, trust and unparalleled loyalty. Cindi shares her home with 7 dogs rescued from the streets, and one husband (not necessarily in that order).
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