Sixty days ago, the Animal Rescue League of Pittsburgh took in Serena, a 2 1/2 year old pit bull. Sadly, the fact that she’s been there sixty days isn’t completely abnormal. She’s a pit bull, after all.
However, this is different. Serena has a lot of fears, which unfortunately for her, keeps her at the shelter, seemingly unadoptable.
When you walk past her kennel, what you see is a brown pit, who obviously had puppies at some point, scars on her nose and sad eyes. She sits there with her ears tucked tight, head bowed down, eyes looking up. Will someone choose me? Will today be my day?
One day after I ran with a few pups, I sat in a kennel alone, door closed and looked around. I lasted a whole five minutes before I was bored beyond belief.
When people enter the kennel and they see dogs barking wildly or panting or jumping up, immediately they think, “I can’t adopt that. That’s a crazy dog.”
Sit in a kennel for sixty days and tell me how you’d act when a human comes walking past.
But Serena doesn’t jump up. She just sits there. Staring. Waiting. Wondering.
Serena was brought in as a stray. She has scars on her nose. There’s no proof she was abused, no absolute facts of the rough life she’s had for the past 2 1/2 years. Because of what may or may not have happened in her life, she seems sad. She’s not good with kids, cats, other dogs, or anyone who rides a bike.
Who would adopt that?
I don’t know.
When we had the kennel clean out last week (where I subsequently adopted Beau,) there were only a few dogs left behind. Serena was one of them.
It was posted on the Dog Walker page that Serena was still there, and we all collectively felt horrible for her. I thought about her all night. I felt absolutely heartsick. Even with all the volunteers that took the other dogs home, Serena was still there. It wasn’t because the volunteers didn’t want to take her, but because all of the volunteers had either another dog, a cat, or kids.
I would describe Serena as incredibly shy. However once she warms up to someone, she is the most loyal pup. She thinks she’s a lap dog, knows her manners, is very gentle, and mostly chill.
Today Matt was off work, so instead of going to the gym, I decided to finalize the paperwork for Beau at the shelter and take Serena for a cage break to the riverfront trail for a nice long jog.
I’ve run with a lot of dogs since starting with the Dog Jog program at the shelter and Serena is probably one of my top five all time running partners. She keeps a nice pace, doesn’t weave back and forth, only pulls if she sees a person riding a bike or another dog, and is extremely focused.
We ran up the trail, to the island, up the island trail a little and when we got to the tip of the island, she stopped and sniffed. We walked back towards the foot bridge and when we got there, she saw something across the river, and we stood still for a solid three or four minutes.
I honestly have no idea what she saw. But I wasn’t going to rush her. She has been told what to do for sixty days, and has had very little freedoms. I wanted her to feel in control, even if for a few hours. So we stood there, silent. The only noise was the distant city traffic and her breathing.
Working with shelter dogs is wonderfully rewarding the majority of the time. Sometimes, though, you see a wonderful dog with barriers sit in a kennel for days on end and there’s nothing you can do about it.
What I can do is give her small freedoms, her favorite treats and road trips. I can run with her and let her take her time when she needs to. I can pet her behind her ears and let her fall asleep on my lap.
And I can cry a little as I bring her back to the place that isn’t home to her at all. But she walks obediently back to her kennel, because she knows where it is.
Because she’s been there sixty days.