7 June 2011

“She’s really pretty… for a rescue.”

— An unintentionally backhanded compliment that revealed the speaker’s biases, and revealed how few rescues he’d actually gotten to know. Perhaps he expected all rescues to wear the scars of their past on their bodies, to be mangy, to hobble, to recoil and piss all over themselves at a stranger’s touch. And while there are certainly plenty such heart-breaking examples out there, even “pretty” dogs frequently end up in rescue, too.

I sometimes feel strange calling Bowpi a rescue, because her situation didn’t seem dire enough to warrant the label. She was never on a shelter’s kill list, she didn’t come through any rescue organization, and she didn’t seem physically abused. She hadn’t been left on the side of the road to die slowly of some skin condition resulting in numerous festering, open wounds. She hadn’t been abandoned as a puppy wearing a collar that slowly cut into her esophagus as she aged on the streets. She hadn’t been debarked and bred heat after heat in the literal heat (or other weather extremes) of an outdoor puppymill kennel…

At worst, she had been neglected by her previous owner. Her overgrown toenails and dull fur, paw pads so soft she couldn’t walk on a normal sidewalk without damage, crusty ear margins and shutdown personality clearly told us that much. And she had been bounced around, so much so that we’ll probably never know where she came from, as all those records vanished along with the sentimental bonds that should have given her some stability and security.

When we found her on Craigslist, she was simply a Basenji that needed a home. I didn’t think of her in terms of “rescue,” but almost rather a prize. As the Doggy Daddy put it, “They [her previous owners] lost. We won.” She was pretty from the moment I first imagined her and even prettier now that she’s with us. No ribbons or trophies are needed to make this true.