Since February of this year, I’ve volunteered with Houndhaven Rescue, a dog rescue group in Lake County, Florida.
In January, I lost my job. I‘ve been wanting to volunteer for a dog rescue or shelter for years, so with the extra time on my hands, I took the leap and started volunteering on Sunday evenings.
Houndhaven is a great facility. There are air-conditioned kennels, several fenced-in areas for the dogs to play, and toys and treats for the dogs, most of which are Labrador retrievers or retriever mixes of some kind. Every Sunday, we put some of the dogs out to play in the yards, walk others, feed them dinner, administer medications, and love on them. The whole process takes about three hours, after which I am dirty, sweaty, and happy.
A dog came in recently that has touched my heart. Her name is Cecilia. She’s a yellow Labrador thought to be 10 years old, and was brought in as a stray. I met her the first few days she was at Houndhaven. She was tired, weak, missing fur on her back and hindquarters, belly sagging — she had obviously had multiple litters of puppies on her own. Those first couple of weeks, she stayed on her bed, not able to get up and stand on her own for much longer than a short trip outside for a potty break.
It’s been a few weeks now, and Cece has improved vastly. She’s been spayed, and is resting comfortably. She is eating well, though sometimes you have to hand-feed her (I suspect it’s because she loves the attention). But the best part is that she can go on longer walks now, stopping to sniff. She loves Milkbone treats. And that big tail thump! She is so happy to see the volunteers come her way to take care of her, because I suspect this is the first time she’s been loved on so much.
On my way home last night, after some quality time with Cece, I cried. How is it that she could have such a terrible life on the streets for so long? How is it that she had to care for so many puppies on her own, and did they even make it? And how lucky is she to have finally been rescued and cared for?
And then I thought about myself. While my journey has been nowhere near as harrowing as sweet Cece’s, it’s admittedly been a rough few years for me.
Since early 2011, I have been laid off or let go from a job 5 times. Yes, FIVE. Why? Budget cuts, in some cases, but in other cases I just wasn’t a fit. In 2014, I lost my dad, suddenly, to a devastating lung disease. That same year, I lost a bunch of weight, only to gain it back in 2015, and then some. I’ve been battling some health issues here and there. I’ve also battled financial issues, continually digging myself out of debt, encountering setbacks, then digging at it again. And the cherry on top has been issues within my family.
I have to wonder if it’s just bad luck.
At some point, it has to end, this string of bad luck. And I believe it will, shortly. Because this string of bad luck has taught me so many lessons that will only better equip myself for the future. For instance, I’ve learned that healthy is a lifestyle, not a 6-month-long marathon. I’ve learned that I belong in the media, and that agency life isn’t for me. And I’ve learned that losing a parent hurts, but it also makes you stronger. And finally, I’ve learned that giving back through an organization like Houndhaven is vital for me and my psyche — these dogs are rescued, but they’re also rescuing me. Because of this, I believe that good things are in store for me.
Cece, meanwhile, only has good things ahead of her. If you’re in the central Florida area and interested in adopting her, you can visit houndhaven.org and fill out an application.