This week our family adopted a rescue dog. I’ve wanted this dog since mid-January when I first saw her at a local animal shelter. She came in on a southern transport to the northeast. A number of organizations bring shelter dogs from the south, where many healthy and beautiful animals have to be euthanized due to lack of funds and other resources, to other parts of the country where these animals are more likely to be adopted.
The animal shelter named her “Summer.” Then she was known as “Latte.” We just renamed this dog “Sunny” to represent her sunny personality. So from here on out I will refer to her as Sunny. Thank you to my husband for suggesting we call her Sunshine or Sunny.
The first day I saw this face, I knew I wanted her to become part of our family.
When I first saw her, she had just come into the shelter the night before on a transport, so she had not been examined by the vet yet. The shelter told me she would probably be assessed that afternoon or evening and to come back the next day. So I did. When I returned, she had not been examined since they had so many dogs come in on the transport. They told me she would be evaluated later that day and to come back the next day. So I did.
The third day I came back to adopt her, there was a sign on her cage saying she had been adopted. I was heartbroken! I asked the shelter staff how this could happen since I was not given an opportunity to fill out an adoption application on her and I had returned when the shelter opened each day. They told me after her assessment she was chosen to go to a prison training program called New Leash on Life. The young man working at the shelter suggested I contact New Leash on Life to see if I could adopt her once she completed the program.
I went home and emailed New Leash on Life to explain that I had seen this dog at the shelter and wanted to adopt her when she completed their training program. One week later I had no response, so I emailed again. Two weeks later, still no response. So I went to their website and there she was, pictured along with their other adoptable dogs. After I put in an application to adopt her, I found out New Leash on Life never received either of my emails. When I went to look for my sent emails, they were nowhere to be found! This certainly was not New Leash on Life’s fault, but I worried that someone else had already become interested in her.
Two other families had already filled out adoption application forms for Sunny ahead of us. Through each stage of this whole experience, I kept praying that she would become our newest family pet. I had faith that if she was meant to be ours, she would eventually come home with us. At times it was hard to keep my anxiety and disappointment that she wasn’t in our home yet at bay. I kept being reminded to trust God with this and that what was best for Sunny would happen.
We went through a number of meetings with Sunny and our old dog, Pogo. Pogo can be dog aggressive at times, so I didn’t know if he would be able to adapt to a new dog. We met with New Leash on Life’s lead dog trainer for a doggie meet and greet assessment. New Leash on Life did a home visit to make sure we had a suitable home for Sunny (pretty standard practice for rescue groups). We had waiting periods of weeks between meetings to give Pogo and Sunny a doggie break before furthering doggie good will between them. Our kids got to meet Sunny on yet another occasion in the process. Then, 5 days before Sunny graduated from the prison training program, we were told she would become ours after graduation!
Our whole family was elated! We went through a lot to adopt the dog I fell in love with through chain link fencing 3 months earlier at a shelter.
But the story doesn’t end there.
Tuesday was Sunny’s graduation day from her prison training program and we were invited. My husband was at work so I went alone. I knew I would meet the inmates who trained Sunny but I had no idea that the inmates were also graduating. They were getting out of prison that afternoon or the next day. After I arrived at the graduation site and received a program listing the order of activities for graduation, it became clear that Sunny was part of something much larger than I originally thought. The Mayor of Philadelphia would be speaking. The founder of New Leash on Life would be speaking. The warden of the prison welcomed us and started the festivities. Some of the inmates would be speaking. Other important people involved with this program spoke as well.
As I sat and listened to each of these people speak to the group of adopters, New Leash on Life volunteers, and staff, inmates and their families, and a number of important people involved in the criminal justice process in Philadelphia, I cried numerous times. It became abundantly clear to me that this was how things were supposed to play out. We were supposed to wait for Sunny because she served a purpose beyond our family before we adopted her.
Sunny gave 2 female inmates an opportunity to acquire a new skill to be used upon their release. They learned how to work with dogs. They were empowered to do something positive for an animal in need and were eligible for jobs or internships in area animal shelters and programs.
I met a married couple who sponsored Sunny during this program. Their son adopted a dog from New Leash on Life 4 years ago but he died tragically, so now his parents choose one dog to sponsor during each new class of dogs in their son’s memory. Sunny won their hearts and allowed them to do something beautiful and productive with their grief by having them sponsor her. in the program.
As I walked around with Sunny after graduation, a number of New Leash on Life volunteers and prison staff told me how much they loved her! She brought real joy to them and they told me how lucky we were to get her. She was practically a canine celebrity!
But the best part of the graduation experience was meeting the 2 female inmates who trained her. They were able to tell me a number of things about her personality and behaviors. They clearly adored her and told me they felt good that she was going to a loving home. And the full circle, give you the chills moment I experienced was when one of the inmates told me she was starting an internship in 2 weeks at the same shelter where I first met Sunny. I may go back to that shelter not to adopt another dog, but to see how she is doing and to encourage her.
When Sunny first arrived at the shelter in January, she was dehydrated and had heart worms and giardia. She has since been treated and is a healthy, STRONG dog! During her time in prison she learned basic commands, was potty trained, crate trained and socialized. None of those things would have happened before we got her had she not entered the New Leash on Life program. So in hindsight, I definitely see that things worked out for the best. She was definitely worth the wait!
What have you had to wait for in your life that was worth the wait? Please share in the comments below!
Your Gentle Nudge: What have you been forced to wait on in your life? It could be something big, like a wonderful job, an amazing significant other, a child or grandchild, your dream car, a vacation to a place you’ve always wanted to go or a home you love. Or it could be something smaller, like a fun day trip, the perfect date with a loved one, or that great pair of jeans you found that you adore. How did you feel when you were forced to wait? And how did you feel once you got what you wanted? Write down your gratitude for these things so you can go back and look at it when life gets frustrating or challenging. And be thankful every day for things that were worth the wait!
If you happen to be in the greater Philadelphia area and want to adopt a dog, please consider New Leash on Life. It is an amazing program! You can see their adoptable dogs at New Leash on Life or at the New Leash on Life Facebook page.