Lizzie lessons

It was two weeks ago, because the Kauai Humane Society was overflowing with dogs and made a public plead for help, my wife and I adopted a foster dog, which I’m pretty sure we’re going to adopt for good.

Saturday, despite my wife’s doubts about the wisdom of this move, I brought home another foster dog. Whatever you want to call me — the saying “fools rush in where angels fear to tread” fits — I felt this particular dog needed help, and perhaps we could be the ones to give it.

Now, I should mention that I receive the KHS Pet of Week bios and pictures each week. And each week, I wish and hope this dog or cat is adopted. The most recent Pet of the Week, though, led me to want to do more than hope. I felt I needed to act, in whatever small way I could.

Here is what I read, and also what TGI published Sunday:

“My name is Lizzie. I am a 1 1/2 year old hound/whippet mix. You may have seen me on our KHS page because I’ve been at the shelter a long time, since December in fact. I’ve watched a lot of other dogs go off to their new homes including my best friend Floyd. I tend to bark in my kennel when people go by but that’s because it can be loud and a little scary to me. Once I’m out of the kennel I am very sweet, gentle and mostly just want to cuddle. I’m going to need a patient home that will help me learn about living in a house and learn to trust people. I get along with other dogs and would do best in a home with a calm, helper dog to help me build confidence and give me a buddy to play with! We get a lot of updates from people who have adopted shy dogs from our shelter. They always say what a great pet they are. I hope someone will take a chance on me soon and commit to giving me a true forever home. I know what a wonderful dog I will be to the family that loves me. By adopting just one dog you won’t change the world, but you certainly will change the world for that one dog. I hope that dog is me Lizzie!”

A few things about Lizzie cried out. She had been at the shelter since December. She had been separated from her friend. She was shy. She could use another dog around, and she needed a calm home where she could learn to trust people. I thought my wife and I needed to do something.

Our first foster dog, Haile, was another dog easily frightened by noises, sudden movements, a rustling leaf, a chicken — pretty much anything scared her to the point of leaping back wild with fear. She’s about three years old, mostly catahoula with a bit of pit, I think. In the two weeks we’ve had her, she’s gained confidence, ventures out from under the table more readily, loves morning walks and the beach, and is gradually, and I do mean gradually, overcoming her fears. She is becoming a good friend to us.

Lizzie came home with me on Saturday. She makes Haile seem brave.

It’s sad, really, how frightened she is most of the time. She doesn’t like to leave her crate. She cowers back in the deepest corner she can find. She crawls on the ground instead of walking. When she entered our house, she ran to the back bathroom and squeezed between the wall and the toilet. She curled up in the shower. Whatever she has been through, it’s not good.

But you know what? There is, inside this dog, a good heart. There are moments she seems to look gratefully at me. She and Haile have hit it off and love to fight and play in the yard and on walks. It’s been wonderful to see both of them come out from their shells and just be normal, goofy, carefree dogs. I love it when I walk up to Haile and her tail is wagging and she’s smiling. I hope to see the same in Lizzie.

I will tell you, and please don’t repeat this to the humane society folks, she has evaded death and injury three times already. They’re long stories about hanging too far out car windows, jumping down embankments, falling boulders and breaking free from her leash. I will be eternally grateful to Lizzie for surviving while in our care. She has been, already, a source of joy and laughs.

I won’t kid you. Looking after two troubled dogs can be a hassle. I never thought I would find myself cleaning up Lizzie’s backside, but I had no choice when she made a mess in her crate. My back is starting to hurt from picking up Lizzie when she decides she absolutely will not walk one more inch and has dug herself into the brush. And for reasons only she knows, she wakes up 2, 3 and 4 a.m.

I only recommend adopting dogs like these if you have an incredibly patient wife who supports all the crazy decisions you make and makes sacrifices for you. I’m blessed, because after all these years, I still do.

But this isn’t about me or my wife.

It’s about all the dogs out there who need our help.

When we can, we should give it to them.

•••

Bill Buley is editor-in-chief of The Garden Island. He can be reached at bbuley@thegardenisland.com

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