I can’t really tell the story of how Tristan came into my life without telling you that my life was in a very dark place when I saw the picture of him cowering in the drain ditch at the Clinton County shelter. The fear seeped from him, his eyes saw no hope, his spirit was broken and his heart had been betrayed. In him I saw a manifestation of the pain I was feeling in my life. I connected with that and I could not get him out of my head. I checked back almost hourly to see if someone had stepped up to save him; surely someone would rescue this sweet dog. I couldn’t possibly take him, listing out loud all the reasons why it made no sense, running through them like a grocery list in my head over and over, yet I kept checking back. Refresh, refresh refreshing the web page. I kept looking at his eyes; the fear was undeniable, but what I saw beyond that was hope. I wanted to be the person that would not give up on him and who could show him that human hands could be for soft scratches and pats, not pain and abuse.
“Is Triste (the original name he was given) safe?” That was the question I wrote in an e-mail to
Shannon DeBra co-founder of Recycled Doggies late that night, the night before he was to be killed. The warden had already made the decision that he was “unadoptable”, and was heard saying “who would want a dog like this? Was he “unadoptable” because of his enormous fear? His looks? His heartbroken eyes?
“No” Shannon replied.
“I’ll foster him” was my response. It was a leap of faith, it was done with my heart not my head and it would prove to be one of the hardest things I have done.
I picked him up with my friend Ashley (god bless her heart!) from the animal hospital in the evening after work. I had no idea what to expect and what I expected could not have come close to what I found when I arrived. They warned me, they told me he was having a hard time and as they carried him into the room I was sitting in, he took one look at me and released his bowels and bladder out of sheer terror desperately trying to make himself melt into the wall not to be noticed. What had I gotten myself into?
The vet tech carried him to my car and once home Ashley and I managed to carry him from the car (he is about 70lbs) and up the stairs to a spare bedroom. He was terrified, and made himself almost lifeless. He would stay in that room for over a month. The first weeks he would not come out from the corner he shoved himself into with his head under the bed. I would have to crawl and shove my head under the other side of the bed to talk to him, so I could see him, try to comfort him. I would read to him (my favorite kids book “Tales of the 4th grade nothing”, and articles from the cooking magazine” Saveur” were some of his favorites…less howling during those selections) just to get him used to my voice. The terrified look remained. He was not sleeping, (which meant no one was sleeping!) he was howling and boy did he excel at the howling. Night after night I would drag myself into his room and lie with him. Then one night I was drifting off to sleep lying on the floor about 4 feet from him. I was half awake and then I felt it on my hand. It was that slobbery, kinda tickly feeling…I realized he was gently kissing my hand. I lie there motionless afraid to move, afraid to breath, with tears streaming down my face. That is the moment I fell in love with this dog.
The weeks turned into months which turned into years. It has been over five years now and Tristan has made amazing strides. He is part of our crazy family, he loves my schnauzer’s Maggie and Tully and they love him too! He greets me every morning with a wiggly behind, kisses and LOVES his breakfast! He plays and romps like crazy. He has overcome his fear of going outside and I often watch him in the mornings just sitting in the middle of the yard looking up and taking it all in, this new life he has found.
He still struggles with anxiety, new people and changes are a struggle for him. I am committed to making sure he lives a loving life with people who will never abuse or neglect him again. He is the reason I want so badly to succeed in this endeavor, he is the hope that I have for all dogs who know only cruelty, rage and abuse. He is the reason that we can no longer accept the reality that shelters across this area and most areas kill “adoptable” dogs that they deem unworthy for life simply because of lack of space or that they require a little more work. Tristan would have been killed in that shelter and no one would have cared had it not been for Recycled Doggies, loving volunteers and Carolyn Evans a professional photographer who volunteers her time to take pictures of shelter dogs in order to try to capture who they really are, which is so much more than just a number given to them as they enter the shelter. Had it not been for the picture of Tristan she took that day, capturing his sorrow, and hopelessness I am not sure I would have connected or responded the way I did.
He has inspired and healed me beyond words.
I am forever indebted to Tristan…
On October 28th 2011, the date of my late father’s Birthday, I officially adopted Tristan, in his honor. There is no one who could love him more then me and the schnauzers, we are so very blessed to have him with us! He will never know anything but love, kindness and treats from here on out!
Parent page: Tristan