My sister Melanie called me today. “Go to my new website,” she said. “Check out the rescue story.” I keyed in the link and found myself looking at the landing page of Melanie’s latest project–a rescue organization for German and Belgian Shepherds.
Regular readers here will remember the posts about Allie, and about how she needed a “high-riding bitch” to come to her aid–and about how, in searching for Allie, Melanie wound up rescuing Phoenix instead.
I didn’t blog the ending to that story because it made me too sad. After his initial rally, Phoenix lost his struggle with heartworms and a virulent systemic infection he had contracted while he was lost. “I’m sad I couldn’t save him,” Melanie told me, “but I don’t for one second regret trying. He gave me so much in the short time I had him.”
Phoenix was one of those dogs that just seems to grab your heartstrings and not let go. Even the vet clinic staff wept when he lost his fight for life.
My dad was many things, but one of the things I remember best about him is that he taught us all to use whatever means we have available to meet the challenges of life. I learned to change tires without jacks, to patch punctured oil pans with chewing gum, to use pieces of pipe for leverage when I wasn’t strong enough to turn a wrench. In some ways, Melanie is very much our father’s daughter.
Losing Allie–whose real name is Geneva, by the way–and then watching Phoenix die brought her face to face with a largely hidden epidemic–the epidemic of lost and abandoned pets, often sick, injured, and starving, in her part of Hawaii. As I said, Melanie is in some ways very much our father’s daughter. She’s a fixer.
She’s also rational. While she would save all of them if she could, she knew that was impossible, so in honor of some of the dogs she has loved and lost she founded Geneva’s Phoenix Rescue Organization, to help German Shepherds and Belgian Malanois Dogs who are lost.
What is perhaps equally typical of Melanie is that her first two rescues–Roxy and Rusty–weren’t members of either of her target groups: Roxy is a chocolate lab; Rusty is a golden retriever. And that’s one of the things I love most about her. She’s a smart woman. She knows how to focus her energies to achieve a goal. And she knows when to abandon her plan, grab the dog treats, throw open her truck door, and invite a filthy, stinking, frightened chocolate lab onto her nice new upholstery. She knows to take it home, wash it, shoot a few pictures, and get the word out.
And when the owners who had lost their pet (and her accomplice–you really should go read the story on Melanie’s website) called her, overjoyed to have their pet returned to them, she knew to take them out to the old rock quarry where she had seen the dogs to begin with, and help them look until they found their other dog.
Melanie knows those things because she knows how to love, and when you know that you understand that you don’t always get to choose who needs your help, or what form that help might need to take. The only choice you have is whether–or how–you will respond to that need. Melanie has chosen to respond with dog treats, an open pickup door, a camera, and a website.
Whether she knows it or not, Melanie has become the “high-riding bitch” that she wished she had been when Geneva needed her to be. Because of Melanie, Rusty and Roxy didn’t wind up dying alone, like Geneva did, or being rescued only to die later from the irreversible affects of his ordeal, like Phoenix. They’re home and safe, with the people they love. I can’t think of a better way of remembering Phoenix, and Geneva.