Picture taken from site
Sugar is a dog. Sugar is a mother. Sugar was my purpose for one day.
Someone I know wisely observed how we often trade our time for money or experiences. This got me thinking and realizing that outside of making a living, I seriously got bored of all the shopping (the gratification is always too brief), sight seeing (which rarely leaves an impression on me) and TV watching. I thought I would take a chance and try something else entirely different for a change. So on one Saturday, I looked up a local Petsmart event for an adoption drive and signed up as a volunteer handler. I picked a dog event because I didn't have the heart to see cats suffer inside tiny cages all cured up and scared. I thought I had a better chance to come back in one piece with dogs.
So this is how it works. Foster parents and drivers bring homeless dogs from shelters and foster homes to the event, and volunteer handlers like myself would show them to potential adoption families. The strategy is to stand outside by the curb of the pet store giant and accost pedestrians for a chance to charm them. Each handler gets a dog and a bio sheet and then that was it, we go out there and hope for the best pretty much.
I stood in line among half a dozen or so volunteers and we waited to be matched with our dog. Big energetic pit bull mixes showed up one after another, but because I had no experience with dogs, they didn't think I could handle them. So I waited and waited, and just when I was beginning to think I was wasting my time because there was no more dogs to be had, one lady showed up with a Dachshund in the crook of her arm.
"This is Sugar. I need someone to take her, I have another dog to show." The driver lady said.
I personally do not love Dachshunds, I had my heart set on a bigger dog and so I hesitated in claiming Sugar, but I was next in line.
"She needs someone to hold her, she likes to be held." The driver lady added.
"Do you mind holding her for the day?" A very smily blond girl at the volunteer desk asked me. "She should be a breeze."
"Oh yeah, she is easy." The driver lady agreed.
So I stepped forward and took the dog into my arms. She had a surprisingly firm body, like she was entirely made of muscles. I briefly introduced myself to Sugar, she didn't seem to care and looked in the direction of the road.
"We'll be fine." I said to both the driver lady and the smily blond. They assured me Sugar was easy again, all I had to do was to keep holding her and they handed me her bio sheet.
With Sugar sitting awkwardly in my arm, I looked for a space to sit by the curb and found one between two pit bull mixes. Their handlers looked friendly enough and I squeezed myself between them.
"Oh what's this fellow's name? He is new. I had not seen him before." The handler to my right asked me. He looked young, maybe in his early twenties.
"Her name is Sugar. Let's see..." I was scanning through her bio sheet to get a good read on my new friend.
Sugar's blurry picture was at the top right corner of a 8 1/2 X 11 sheet. She was four years old it says, or so believed. Her personality profile was the usual: friendly, calm, good with kids, good with cats, loves cuddles, doesn't bark very much... But as I read on, something stood out in her history section.
"Looks like she was rescued from the puppy mills, she likely had dozens of puppies it says." I loudly declared.
The young man's face scrunched into a grimace, his pit bull mix did not look pleased hearing it either. Sugar however was not giving a damn, she looked like she had passed it all.
"Some people deserve to die." The young man says simply.
Right then the driver lady stopped by to check on us, and I asked her about Sugar's puppy mill background. "Oh yes, she escaped death over and over again this one. First she survived the puppy mill hell, then she was almost put down at the local shelter in South Carolina."
The next part she lowered her voice as if to avoid being heard by potential families. "She is not even toilet trained, she was likely locked inside a tiny wired cage her whole life. And the part about her not barking, I think it is because she was debarked."
"Debarked?" I asked. Then the young man told me it is a common practice in puppy mills, they jam a metal rod down the dog's throat to damage her vocal cords so she cannot bark.
"Some people deserve to die." This time it was from me.
Now, however horrible their pasts, the dogs all seemed to be in a jolly mood. All except my Sugar. She was perfectly calm in my arm, but she was listless, and voiceless. So I played the happy puppy part for her, I did my megawatt dimpled smile every time someone walked by. But no interest.
Some folks stopped and say cute things to the dogs, but most hurried inside the store like they wanted to avoid something awful. The dogs did their very best. They looked forlornly at anyone who paid them the slightest attention and they were on their best behavior. I don't know much about dogs but I had expected more aggression between them. I mean, if this was a fight for life situation for us humans, we would likely claw our competitors' eyes out. I thought the dogs were very neighborly, I would even say they had a sense of solidarity.
Frankly I didn't expect any of it to work. I had good conversations with the other handlers, we were thrilled to be doing something good, but we steered clear from discussing the dogs' futures. The afternoon wore on and nothing. People passed by but neither the pit bulls or Sugar had any luck, and the handlers were growing a bit despondent. The dogs themselves had more hope, or wisdom, the pit bulls licked their handlers in perfect intervals, but my Sugar was spiritless. She didn't seem to care what happens to her.
A young attractive couple appeared looking around and they had a dog with them, a little black one not much bigger than Sugar. I seized the opportunity. I put her on the ground and led her to them. Sugar perked up and she sniffed the butt of the couple's dog.
"Oh she is pretty." The lady said.
I smiled mega huge, "Oh yes, she is so beautiful and calm. A lovely dog you can take anywhere under your arm."
"Yes and it seems she likes Ken." The lady said.
"Is that your dog's name? he is adorable." Sugar was trying to be nice to Ken, but Ken wouldn't have any.
"Oh Ken, be good now. She looks so much like you, she is the same color. She looks awesome with you doesn't she?" The lady asked Ken.
The driver lady came by and the two women talked. And I thought it was promising because at the end of their conversation the couple assured us they would come back before the event closes to get Sugar. Then they walked away with Ken still giving my dog the cold shoulder. Little mutt!
"That's a good sign." I said smilingly, feeling relieved. But the driver lady didn't look as pleased.
"Some people just want everything matchy matchy." She said with her eyes rolling. I suppose she understands dogs better than me, but then I realized it wasn't so, she reads people better than me, and she didn't like this family for Sugar. I went back to my space by the curb with her tucked in my arm again, not sure if I should be glad or not. The other handlers congratulated me, they said it was a good sign.
I should say that I was less anxious after the couple, or maybe I just didn't have the tenacity to grieve over someone else's life for a sustained period. When the event was drawing to a close and I saw no sign of the couple returning, I sort of resigned myself to an enlightened sense of failure, I adopted Sugar's devil-may-care air.
Twenty minutes before the event closes a woman showed up with three little girls and a little black dog.
"Oh my, look a long haired Dachshund! Wow look at that face, those eyes, she is a beauty!" The woman exclaimed. The girls petted Sugar.
"Casper, look how gorgeous she is." The woman said to her dog. Casper the dog went up to Sugar and licked her in the face. I swear I almost swooned from joy.
"Oh Casper is from this same adoption event, we got him a year ago in this same place." The woman explained to me while looking serenely at her happy family.
"You have a beautiful family, are the girls sisters?" I asked
"Oh they are triplets, not identical though." She said, then she asked her girls "You girls want a girl dog right? You will fight over where this dog sleeps won't you?"
So this was how Sugar found her new family with three little girls and a black dog name Casper. The woman was not fazed when we told her Sugar was a puppy mill mommy and she needed to be toilet trained.
"I am a doctor, I have handled much worst. Casper was not easy either but look at him now. Sugar will be spoiled for the rest of her life." was the woman's answer.
The girls were eager to buy something pink for Sugar, I offered to watch her until they were done with their shopping.
When all were settled, and we had a happy ending, and the other dogs went where destiny led them; I realized I hadn't bothered to get to know Sugar this entire day. I was so eager to find her a home and playing God with her future I forgot what an experience this was for the both of us. I was grateful I was given this little extra time, and I looked her in the eyes and I talked to her. I told her I was sorry for her life in the puppy mill, I was sorry for her lost babies, I said her life would change and I wished her the best. I thanked her for letting me be a part of her life, even if it was only for a little while. I spoke slowly and repeated the same sentences over and over, and in the end, for the first time, she looked at me and nuzzled up to my face. We said our goodbyes.
The woman and the girls came back with a pink collar with fake diamonds on it and a cart load of doggy things. Sugar looked smashing in her new attire.
"Pink bling, you weren't kidding!" I joked. The woman laughed and she puts Sugar in the shopping cart, then everybody seemed to be talking all at once, a family figuring out their new life together. I waved my goodbyes unnoticed and left with my husband.