A “Tail” of Two Doggies
by Carie Broecker
While Connie Shelstad was viewing the local news one evening three years ago, she did not know her life was about to change in a wonderful way. She watched the story of Hope, a 3-month old Chihuahua mix, who was left in the night drop box at the City of Hollister Animal Shelter, along with her mother, Charity. Hope had been born missing her two front limbs. She had little stumps where her legs should have been. Shelter workers assumed that Hope was the product of backyard breeding. Charity was most likely turned in with her because she could not be bred anymore for fear of producing more “damaged merchandise.”
Fortunately for Hope and Charity, the shelter night drop box turned out to be a better alternative for these two than euthanasia by the breeder’s veterinarian, which certainly could have just as easily been their fate. The shelter staff called Vivian Kennedy from All Creatures Great and Small Animal Rescue, an all-volunteer nonprofit animal rescue group located in Hollister. To find a home for Hope, Vivian alerted the press about the special pup’s need for a home. The local news stations did a story on Hope that was picked up nationally and aired on the Today Show. Vivian soon had close to 100 applications from dog lovers all over the country whose hearts went out to this three-pound bundle of love and kisses. Connie was one of the 100 people interested in giving Hope a forever home. After careful screening, Vivian decided that Connie was her choice to provide a fabulous home for Hope.
Before adoption, Connie was gently warned by well-meaning animal lovers of the hardships of caring for a special-needs dog like Hope. Connie, an eternal optimist, has never once considered caring for Hope a hardship. Hope has full run of the house, is trained to potty on a puppy pad, loves to go on long walks riding in a front pouch enjoying all the sights, sounds, and smells of the outdoors, and she even hops up a flight of stairs on her own.
Connie has lots of soft surfaces in her house for Hope: fluffy rugs and carpeting and even a carpet runner out to the grassy area on the back patio. This is to protect Hope’s little stubs from getting rubbed and irritated by rough surfaces.
In May 2008, Connie was perusing the website of Animal Friends Rescue Project (AFRP), a Pacific Grove-based animal rescue group where she volunteers. A little dog named Scooter caught her eye. Scooter was a 4-month old terrier/Chihuahua mix that had been surrendered to the City of Salinas Animal Shelter because she was missing her two front legs. Connie contacted AFRP with an offer to foster Scooter. Connie soon took her home, changed her name to the more dignified Becca, and introduced her to Hope. The two connected immediately and started to play right away. They were perfectly matched and could wrestle for hours together. They nibbled on each other’s ears, wrapped their necks around each other playfully, and rolled around until they fell asleep curled up together. Connie realized she would never forgive herself if she didn’t make Becca a permanent family member. These two special doggies had to stay together.
Connie says living with Hope and Becca has been nothing but rewarding. They don’t know they’re different. They don’t know that someone, somewhere only saw them as a commodity that could not be sold and did not value their lives enough to provide them the loving home they deserved. These two only know the unconditional love that Connie has for them and that they show her on a daily basis.
It’s hard to say who gives more to whom in this situation. Connie “rescued” Hope and Becca and will give them a loving home for the rest of their lives, but Connie says that what these two joyful spirits have given to her in return far exceeds any goodwill she has shown them.