Room F was dubbed the “lost souls” area of Chicago Animal Control by the few who ventured in. Unlucky canines awaiting court cases, dogs labeled as prisoners’ property, biters, and scarred fighting victims sharply voiced their frustrations or just sat resigned, awaiting their fate. I walked this oppressively hot room with the assistant director, Tom. He had fallen in love with a three-time returnee named Bella.
We stopped. Two close-set, gold eyes atop a long, slender nose peered directly at us. Her wavy hair shone in defiance of her circumstances, and she pranced in her box. Tom just slipped a leash on her and motioned to me. My stomach lurched as we left her comrades behind.
I was among the first volunteers allowed into that massive shelter. In those days adoptions were few and certain breeds never left through the front doors. I often scouted on behalf of breed rescuers looking for good dogs but unwilling to make the trek to Chicago’s south side. My personal taste ran to big, broad-headed dogs. My favorites were Rottweilers, mastiffs, and beefy types that came with their own saddles. This dog was different.
We stood outside, behind the loading bay in the tall grass. Bella leaned against Tom as kennel workers sweated in rubber boots and silently piled up large, black garbage bags awaiting disposal. Tom turned his back to them and stroked the dog’s neck. He confided to me that each day at lunch he snuck her out to the local burger joint, Bella riding shotgun, and shared a half-pounder with her.
Read the entire article in the December 2011 issue