How A Dog Saved Our Life

CNN and Palm Beach County’s Big Dog Ranch Rescue rang in the New Year with a mega puppy adoption gala, wrote Wendy Rhodes in The Palm Beach Post.

Photo: Big Dog Ranch Rescue

The event was right on trend to ring out the Year of the Pandemic.

… the hottest commodity during lockdown after toilet paper and sourdough starters turned out to be rescue puppies …

Venessa Friedman, NYT Styles Section

When we adopted our lab Kumba in February, my husband and I had no idea that we’d be on the leading edge of the upwelling of community kindness and care that opened hearts and homes to rescue puppies last year. As Emma Gray Ellis wrote in Wired, the organic surge in adoptions emptied animal shelters as people confined to their homes during lockdown sought companionship.

Or maybe it was the dogs who opened our doors, and then filled our hearts.

Lab rescue saved kumba

Kumba was left at an animal shelter in Puerto Rico in the summer of 2019 by a family that was leaving the island. As a pure Labrador retriever, he was tapped by the Labrador Retriever Rescue of Florida (LRRoF) that fall. In November, he received the necessary rabies vaccine, and he was flown to Ft. Lauderdale in December.

But he was a very sick dog. LRRoF’s vet, xxxx, said he wasn’t sure how Kumba was even able to stand. He weighed just 50 pounds, was desperately anemic, and required transfusions and two rounds of antibiotics before he stabilized. He began to recover at his foster home.

Lab rescue believed in us

Meanwhile, my husband and I were realizing that we were ready for another dog. It had been two years since the death of our beloved chocolate Lab Django, and the awful black hole of absence had morphed into an empty space that begged to be filled. The story of Levi, our friends’ Golden Retriever rescued from Turkey, inspired us to seek out the equivalent rescue organization for Labs. We filled out the LRRoF application, passed our home visit, and scanned the LRRoF website for dogs ready for adoption.

Lucky us: we were the first family to meet Kumba at his foster home in January of last year when our daughter and her Lab Pancho were visiting (LRRoF requires that their rescues meet existing family dogs). We thought this Puerto Rican dog would pick us because we spoke to him in Spanish, but that didn’t seem to matter to him. He was sweet and soulful and ready to be loved, Pancho didn’t care one way or the other, and Kumba’s foster mom approved. We came home and waited for Kumba to fully recover.

On February 2, we brought him home.

We believed in kumba

It was a rocky start. The first thing he did was pee on the antique chest of drawers my mother bought at the Rome flea market in 1961. Of course he did: he was all wound up from the car ride, and we brought him inside immediately instead of giving him a chance to pee outdoors. That never happened again. By the end of the day, we’d found our walking rhythm.

But Kumba was anxious, needy, nervous. He needed to be right next to us. This was easy to accommodate in our retired, homebody schedule, most of the time. But on the occasion when we both were out of the house, we returned to shredded newspapers and chewed up paperbacks. Voracious reader, you bet. We got better about picking up after ourselves. He got used to sleeping his swank dog bed outside our bedroom door. We got use to him lying on the couch.

Kumba was timid at first
Our rescue Lab, Kumba, was timid at first.

Then, on March 13, the country went into lockdown.

Kumba saved our lives

We were suddenly in enforced isolation, and the creature who needed us so began to give us fun and joy and variety. Kumba had increased our household numbers by fifty percent and our household energy by much, much more.

In a recent article for the Associate Press, Mary Esch wrote about how dogs are bringing comfort to isolated residents of a New York nursing home.

The love of an animal is incredible. It releases endorphins, reduces blood pressure, reduces anxiety.

Catherine Farrell, director of therapeutic activities, Hebrew Home

We had no idea a year ago how much we would need this dog. We think it’s probably mutual.

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