A dog?s tale: finding a forever home

For as long as I can remember, I have been a dog fan of epic proportions. My family has always had dogs. Even most of my extended family are dog people. In fact, my passion for dogs is so great that I asked for an encyclopedia of dog breeds when I was in elementary school, and yes, I have read that thing cover to cover at least twice!

Between working full-time and living in town on my own now, it isn?t wise for me to have a dog of my own; although I wish to the moon and back that I did have one. Though, to get my dog fix, I don?t have to go very far. My aunt, uncle, and my cousin all have dogs and live locally. My brother and his wife, who live in Denmark, Iowa, also just got a chocolate Labrador puppy named Reese.

Two of my most favorite dogs on the planet, however, are Baxter, a black Lab mutt, and Brutus, a purebred Rottweiler. A friend gave Brutus, who belongs to my sister, to her as a Christmas present. Baxter, however, was a present to my entire family.

Baxter came into our lives at somewhat of a difficult time. Jazz, our family?s former Golden Retriever, passed away before I entered my first year of high school. She had been my brother?s dog since he and I were young children, and old age had finally caught up with her. Several months after her death, my family decided it was time to find another four-legged family member.

Living on a farm with kids, horses and heavy equipment, we needed a good-natured outdoor dog that would fit in with our active lives in the countryside. When our family of five decided we were ready for another four-legged friend, my mom started scanning local newspapers for dogs that were up for adoption. After some searching, she saw a newspaper ad for a ?black lab mix in need of a good home?. The dog was residing at a local veterinary clinic, so one afternoon after school, I took a trip into town with my mom to see if this was the pet for us.

Immediately, we both fell in love. At the time, Baxter (who was nameless until after we adopted him) was thin, over-protective of his food and skittish around people. It was speculated by the vet taking care of Baxter that his former owners might have been abusive to him. After some coaxing and trust-building, however, he had no qualms with lying at your feet for a pat on the belly or playing with you via a toy rope. He had an inner sweetness to him that we connected to almost immediately.

The gentleman who brought Baxter to the vet clinic was also a dog lover, and had spotted Baxter wandering on the side of the road outside of Burlington. With no collar and clear signs of malnutrition, the man took pity on Baxter and coaxed him into his truck to get him some help. This man, a local businessman, was a single guy of wealth and had no kids of his own. He simply loved animals.

And while Baxter?s rescuer had a particular love of dogs, his busy job prevented him from adopting yet another animal, so he took Baxter to his local vet. This man paid for Baxter?s needed medical care, food, shelter, and even paid for the newspaper ad that my mom and I replied to.

When my parents inquired about how much Baxter would cost to adopt, we were told the man who had rescued Baxter had even offered to cover a large portion of the adoption expenses. That day, Baxter found his forever home with the Kelly family.

Since being adopted, Baxter has gained weight and muscle mass, and is now a big, black, bear-looking creature. And despite his large stature, he couldn?t be more of a gentle giant.

A lover of kids, Baxter lives for running around the yard with my nephews and our nearby neighbors? grandchildren. In fact, our neighbor?s grandson, who was afraid of dogs for years, has learned to love dogs after spending countless weekend afternoons running around outside with Baxter. Now, the young boy will often spend hours playing with and talking to Baxter in his grandparents? backyard. Needless to say, Baxter will be his pal for life.

Famous wildlife preservationist Roger Caras, once said, ?Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.? For me, that statement rings pretty true.

The reason I tell you this story, other than the fact that Baxter?s adoption date just recently passed, is to tell you the importance of pet adoption. Baxter?s story is just one of many. According to the American Humane Society, each year, an estimated three to four million animals currently wait in U.S. shelters for someone to adopt them into a loving family.

If you are on the hunt for a new pet, be sure to inquire at your local vet or humane society about animals that are still waiting for their forever home. You just might find the perfect companion for you and your family through pet adoption.

And, if you happen to see animals that might need your help, be like Baxter?s rescuer and ask yourself what you can do to be that animal?s hero. Maybe, your kindness will benefit a family like mine down the road.