Only Then Did I Really Know

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I grew up in the city with my parents and all focus was on my education.
We lived in a high-rise and I never dared ask to have a pet.
After High School, came college and I focused my attention even further on my goals.
I moved to Ohio at the age of twenty-five and my life was going just as I planned.
Settled into a nice apartment, I had all that I wanted: a nice home, a great career, and good friends.
I did not know that anything was missing.
I discovered a lot was missing and my journey to finding this out originated from the request of a co-worker.
She was a volunteer for an animal rescue and was asking around the office if anyone would be interested in fostering a tiny Pomeranian who had just been rescued from a cruel and neglectful owner.
When she approached my desk, I continued to look straight at my computer.
After about ten "um,hums", I finally turned to face her.
Looking directly at me, she asked me to name one reason why I felt I could not be of help.
I thought, and thought and quite honestly could not think of one legitimate reason other than my own selfishness.
The words came out of my mouth before I knew what was happening and the next thing I knew I was setting up appointments to have my home inspected for safety and signing papers to accept my foster dog.
I didn't have a lot of experience with Pomeranians or any dog for that matter; and I simply thought of them as cute, little happy creatures that barked and needed to be fed a lot.
I had a lot of learning to do.
I was asked to pick up a Pomeranian, named Oreo, from a shelter on the outskirts of town.
I was told that this was a kill-shelter that the dog was in and that time was of the essence.
When the phone call came in to tell me it was time for me to go, I quickly sat up from my sofa and was on my way.
I was told what kill-shelters were, and I didn't give it a lot of thought as I knew I was going to just be picking up Oreo and taking him home.
The drive was rather long and my eyes grew weary as I finally came to the end of a long street.
All I saw was a dirt road and checked my directions again to make sure I had not taken a wrong turn.
I was indeed in the correct area, and I slowly drove up the dirt road and came upon a building.
Small in size, with a chain fence in the back of it, it seemed ready to fall over.
Leaning to one side, paint peeling off and with cracked windows, had it not been for the sounds of some barks I would have never known this was a shelter.
I slowly approached and I was stopped dead in my tracks.
The fact that this place was called a shelter was a malicious twist of the word; Out in the back, a man was pulling the bodies of dogs out of a smaller structure; one, two, three, four, five...
he was piling them on top of one another.
I almost fell backwards when the reality hit me of what I was witnessing.
A million people could have told me what a kill-shelter was, however only at that moment had I really understood.
I looked at the emotionless face on the man...
and only then did I really know.
A woman came quickly out of the front door of the building and hastily ushered me.
We made introductions and then she brought out Oreo.
I was told to expect a dog that was malnourished and in need of loving care.
The Pomeranian that was brought out to me seemed to be a living miracle.
His bones stuck out of his body; and his torso was so tiny that his head looked huge in comparison.
He had enormous brown eyes that seemed to pop from his face, he looked at me with pure sorrow and the glaze on his eyes spoke all the words he would have ever had to say at that time.
It did not seem possible that he was still surviving.
Each breath of the dog made his bones even more noticeable and I felt physical pain just looking at his suffering.
All images I had regarding severely malnourished dogs were whisked from my mind.
I looked at Oreo, saw his skeletal body...
and only then did I really know.
Taking Oreo and hugging him carefully, I left and followed the plan just as I had been asked to do.
Brought immediately to a vet, he was found to have Heartworms, an infectious cut on his paw and, of course, he was in great need of nutrition.
With medicine and detailed orders from the veterinarian, I brought the Pomeranian home.
Oreo was so timid and I felt helpless as I saw him slowly walking into the house.
He was not afraid to come in; he just hung his head low as if he was going to accept any fate dealt to him.
I offered him immediate comfort, a blanket, toys and a treat.
Oreo sat there, staring at me.
He looked at my offerings and then back into my eyes.
I thought all dogs would not think twice about grabbing a tasty treat or a toy.
I did not know that some dogs never had been given anything out of kindness.
Oreo simply did not know what to do.
I picked up the treat and slowly brought it to his mouth.
With one last look at me, he cautiously took it.
Oreo's behavior made me realize that my perception of dogs was never correct, that there were many who were never treated as creatures of God, never given an ounce of love.
All dogs were not the same; I looked at Oreo chewing on his treat...
and only then did I really know.
Each day with Oreo brought new experiences.
With vet checkups, medicine and plenty of healthy food, Oreo was thriving; He began to trust me; bathe time became a favorite activity, as he let his shyness leave and he would dance around in the bubbles.
Afraid at first to make a wrong move, after a couple of months Oreo would run happily though the yard playing ball with me.
Jumping into bed with me one night, I held back the covers for him without even thinking about it.
As Oreo snuggled next to me, I thought about how months earlier I had believed I had everything I wanted and needed.
I was indeed missing something all of those years and I knew I would be picking up the phone in the morning to tell the rescue I wished to have Oreo become a permanent family member.
I never knew I could love a dog so much.
As I lightly touched Oreo's forehead, I felt such an overwhelming feeling of peace come over me...
and only then did I really know.
This is one dog story I lived though and hopefully you will never forget this particular dog story
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