What Can We All Learn
from “Comeback” Animals?
By Allen and Linda Anderson
Most people have never been knocked down as hard or cruelly as the animals found in shelters and rescue organizations. While trying to survive, these animals have wandered down country highways or city streets, cowered and hidden in basements and buildings, and run away from those who tried to help them. If animals wrote memoirs, theirs wouldn’t be stories of recovering from addictions. They would tell of the humans who betrayed them in loathsome ways.
So how do abandoned and abused animals react when a human holds out a hand in kindness?
People who rescue animals often write to us with stories of animals who have transcended suffering, loneliness, and mistrust. Somehow, in spite of all they have been through, these animals love again. Their resilience is astonishing. After a person gives an abused animal a good home, that good deed often comes full circle and returns the gift in remarkable ways.
Take Maggie, for instance. Her story was published in the July 24, 2005 Angel Animals Story of the Week.
Maggie couldn’t have gotten off to a rougher start in life. When Pinky, an office manager for a family-owned business in Maryland, rescued this border collie-mix, she had been one of twenty-two physically-abused dogs in a puppy mill situation. The man, who had the dogs, eventually committed suicide. Maggie was trapped inside his house for a week. By the time the humane society rescued her and the other dogs, Maggie became one of the few survivors even though she was severely underweight, dehydrated, and frightened.
Pinkey met Maggie at a pet supermarket adoption fair. She says, “A dear, skinny, longhaired pup lay curled up in a ball, shivering inside a baby’s playpen. When she looked up at me, I noticed she had one brown and one blue eye. It was love at first sight. I leaned in and picked up this puppy. She clung to me like she never wanted me to let her go. It was like a sign, a plea. At that time, I knew nothing of her past. It was just a feeling I had that this puppy needed me.”
From the time Pinkey listened to the story of Maggie’s background, filled out the adoption forms, and brought her home, the puppy never left Pinkey’s arms. (Fortunately her sister was driving that day.) All the while, the dog gazed at Pinkey with a pitiful look in her eyes.
It took a few years for Maggie to fully adjust to being in a loving home. At first, whenever Pinkey would lay Maggie down, the terrified dog would freeze in that position. Pinkey says, “She was like a China doll and had to be handfed for a week.” Even today, the dog can never bear to be left alone, so Pinkey’s mother keeps Maggie while Pinkey goes to work.
At last, life is good for this comeback animal. She lives on a thirty-acre farm, plays with her canine sister, and enjoys her stuffed toys. Maggie has learned an array of verbal commands. She walks with her head held high and doesn’t look scared anymore.
Pinkey says, “Maggie no longer sleeps in a cold, wet, overcrowded cage outside. She sleeps in a warm bed at night — mine. She has her forever home with me. Maggie has turned out to be my best friend. She is the sweetest, most loving animal I have ever encountered. The bond with Maggie is one I never had with any other animal.”
The Cat Who Appeared in the Right Year
Lisa wrote about her experience with a “comeback animal” in the July 16, 2005 issue of Angel Animals Story of the Week. A kitten began inhabiting Lisa’s apartment’s garage during the disastrous year of 2001. Several days before the 9/11 tragedies, Lisa’s father had died. This was right on the heels of her father-in-law’s open-heart surgery. By the time Lisa watched the World Trade Center shatter, she felt emotionally devastated.
For a couple of weeks after Lisa first noticed the cat, whenever she went into the garage-basement area, the cat hid from her. Being a volunteer for her local animal shelter, Lisa knew she couldn’t let the kitten suffer. She finally got a good look at the cat when she brought food and water. Lisa says, “This was an adult cat but so skinny that her ribs stuck out. She only weighed three pounds. She was very weak and could barely struggle. I immediately decided we were going to adopt her because instantly, I felt compassion and love. She would be my cat now. I named her San-dy after a close friend who is always there for me.”
A trip to the veterinarian with Sandy revealed that the cat had been bitten by a wild animal and wouldn’t have lived much longer. After Sandy tested negative for feline AIDS, the vet gave her a clean bill of health.
Over the coming months, Sandy turned out to be totally trusting of Lisa. Waves of love poured from her every time she is near her rescuer. Lisa writes, “I now realize that Sandy is an angel sent from heaven. I believe she was a gift from my father to help keep me going during that dark year of 2001 when I almost gave up. Dad’s message to me through Sandy is, “I am here for you, then and always.”
to Know One
One of our favorite people in the universe is Holocaust survivor and human being extraordinaire, Bianca Rothschild. Our first encounter with Bianca was when she sent us an amazing story, “The Quality of Mercy.” It was published in our book, “Angel Animals: Exploring Our Spiritual Connection with Animals.” In this story, Bianca told of being imprisoned as a teenager in a concentration camp, during World War II. On the morning when she fainted from starvation and exhaustion, a German shepherd dog defied a guard’s command to kill her. Instead, the dog licked her cheeks until she revived and saved her life.
From the end of the war and throughout her entire life, Bianca worked tirelessly to give love to people and animals. She spoke at Duke University, and her courageous accounts are memorialized in the Holocaust museum. Because Bianca knows what it feels like to be beaten and starved, she has a special empathy for animals who have endured the same fate.
When we visited Bianca in California, she sat in her apartment with her little terrier Gigi in her lap and spoke quietly about her experiences. She said, “Many years ago, my veterinarian called and told me I must come to see a dog he had found. This was how we met Gigi. My husband and I took her home. She hid from us for a long time. Once she crept behind the stove, shivering. Only a plumber could get her out.
“Gigi had been severely abused and was terrified of people. It took an entire year for her to work up the courage to bark and a very long time for her to show love to my husband and me. But eventually Gigi learned to trust us and our children. For years, she was my constant companion. And all the years of love and patience were worth the effort.”
Are you seeing the common themes in these stories?
The above are only three of the hundreds of stories we have received. Rescued dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, ferrets all seem to have traits in common: Humans have treated them terribly, but they have loved, trusted, and forgiven our species. Their gratitude seems to know no bounds. Often they return the gift by emotionally or physically saving the person who befriended them.
Shelters and rescue organizations are filled with comeback animals. Wouldn’t you like to have a comeback animal in your life?
Allen and Linda Anderson are founders of the Angel Animals Network and authors of New World Library books, “Angel Dogs: Divine Messengers of Love” (October 2005) and “Rainbows & Bridges: An Animal Companion Memorial Kit” (September 2005) and three other books in a series. They are seeking stories for “Angel Horses: Divine Messengers of Hope.” For details, please go to www.angelanimals.net/angelhorses.html .
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