Chronicle essayist Laurie Lambert of Red River and Austin won $25,000 for Stray Hearts Animal Shelter in Taos in the Petco Holiday Wishes Grant Campaign. According to the Petco Foundation website, throughout October, pet parents and animal lovers across the country submitted stories about how adopting a pet changed their lives, and in doing so, gave deserving animal welfare organizations the opportunity to receive a grant from the Petco Foundation. The Petco Foundation chose 53 winning stories from more than 3,000 stories and awarded $750,000 in grants from $5,000 – $100,000. Petco plans to post stories on its blog throughout the month of December.
My Gal Blue
I did not need a dog.
I could travel on a moment’s notice.
I could wear black without using a lint brush. A dog would only complicate things.
So what was I even doing at the animal shelter?
“I am only looking,” I told the kind woman as I signed in at the front desk. “I will not be leaving with an animal.”
And I really meant it.
I was already like a favorite auntie to a neighbor’s dog. I often took Scout running and spoiled her silly, then returned her to her human. I thought it was the perfect setup for a dog-lover who didn’t need to have a dog of her own.
Yet, something had prompted me to a rural shelter that day: a rough outpost at the edge of a mesa where the heroic staff works tirelessly to keep the place going.
I can only call it a nudge from the universe. Not that it was impulsive, mind you. In fact, I had spent the entire year with a simmering addiction to animal rescue websites. I was on a nameless mission without a clue as to the objective. I told myself that looking at orphan dogs was merely a hobby. In hindsight, that year was like tilling the soil in preparation for planting. I was preparing without even knowing it.
So there I was at the shelter, finally seeing real dogs instead of pictures on a computer screen. The barking was thunderous. Desperate voices crying, “Pick me!”
Dogs jumped, yelped, and clamored for attention as I walked past. It was predictably heart-wrenching.
Then I saw a furry body that was strangely quiet. She seemed to be focused on trying to melt herself through the chain link, as if that were possible. Her intent gaze could not be ignored.
“Could I see that dog?” I asked the attendant. The words tripped out of my mouth before I could retrieve them. Five little words that would change my life.
I sat on the dirt outside her cage as he fumbled with the latch, until out bolted 35 pounds of wagging happiness…straight into my lap.
I don’t know how or why, but in a single instant I knew that she was mine and I was hers. Needless to say, I left with an animal that day. It was the best forty bucks I’ve ever spent.
Blue and I are a team now. We run miles into the mountains. We swap stories without speaking. Our bond is so sacred that descriptions are inadequate. I have learned that the most extraordinary things in life often look very ordinary on the surface. That’s the thing about love.
I still wear black, by the way. To hell with the lint brush. I even still travel on a moment’s notice, but only if Blue can come along.
Does it complicate things? Just a little. Is it worth it? Oh, YEAH!
Because it turns out that I needed a dog after all.
Editor’s Note: Laurie Lambert fell in love with Red River in 1965. Her childhood dream came true in 1997 when the family cabin was finally completed. Throughout the year she can be found trail running, snowshoeing and devising all sorts of reasons to never leave the mountains.