A Feel-Good Adoption Story That Will Lift Your Spirits

Short of finding a cure for cancer, or sowing peace throughout the warring parts of the globe, about the best and nicest thing you can do in life is adopt a pet from a shelter. Shelters are overflowing with adoptable pets and the life of a pet in a shelter is anything but pleasant or certain. Adopting a cat or dog from a shelter increases the overall level of happy in the universe, and could very well save the life of a pet just looking to find a forever home.

My own dog adoption story, while it involved a dog coming from a hospital and not a shelter, is what I am going to share with you today.

When my wife and I worked as veterinarians in Maryland, a tech who worked with us and also at another hospital told us of a sweet Rottweiler-Lab cross who had been hit by a car and had nerve damage. His owners were unable to pay for his care and had surrendered him to the hospital. Through a complex series of negotiations that to this day I still don’t quite understand, my wife and the tech were able to come up with a scheme that somehow ended up with Rocco, as he was called, becoming our dog.

He had mostly recovered from his injuries, but the accident left him with no use of his left foreleg. It dangled in front of him painlessly and he tripped over it when he walked or tried to run. We waited six months for the nerve to grow back, and when it did it was pretty clear that it would never function again. Realizing it was an impediment to Rocco getting around, we arranged to have it amputated by a surgeon friend of ours.

The day after surgery, he ran like greased lightning and you could pretty much hear him thinking, “Whee! I can run now!” Also, “Where’s the kibble?”

Rocco has the intellectual capabilities of a brick of processed cheese and a heart of purest gold. His tripod (or tri-pawed) status doesn’t keep him from getting around well enough to knock everything in the house over at least once daily.

When he dreams, I am sure it is of lame and slow rabbits happily cavorting about in an dogfood landscape as unicorns frolic in avalanches of marshmallow fluff and bacon clouds drift slowly by.

We are very similar in that respect.

A couple of years ago he completed the certification process for Therapy Dogs International and is now a card-carrying and tag-wearing certified therapy dog. He spreads his particular brand of sloppy, dumb-happy love to sick and infirm two-legged (or less) people. One of the things we love to do is have kids read to him at a local women’s shelter.

There are lots of kids who freeze up when they have to read something to their peers or an adult — seems they have an episode of the panics, and are afraid of being judged. A dog, particularly one who is as agreeable as Rocco, presents less of a threat, so their reading skills can blossom.

Hospitals and retirement homes round out the itinerary of our visits. We really love spreading his gift of love with those in need. And, I think, Rocco loves it, too!

Who knows — maybe he will learn to read.

Please share your experience with adopted dogs or cats in the comments section below.

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