Thank You for Surrendering Your Dog: A Love Letter

Two years ago today, with a leash in his hand and tears in his eyes, an older gentleman walked into the Inland Northwest Humane Society, and walked out without his best friend.

We know that man was in poor health. We know his sight was worsening. We know because of those vision problems, he was unable to fill out the paperwork himself. We were told he cried when he surrendered the animal he referred to as his “friendly, nice roommate.”

We also know the tri-colored beagle/basset mix barked, characteristically, incessantly that night, alone in a cage, surrounded by dozens of other loud, howling, baying dogs. We know he stood, waiting, on the concrete floor. Being a scent hound, his highly sensitive nose was probably flooded with the smells of urine, nervousness and fear.

He may have tried to make sense of what was happening – where he was, where his human had gone, why there was so much chaos around him. We know he barked, and kept on barking. He used his voice as much as he could. He may have been asking his questions so loudly, yet no one answered him.
 
The next afternoon, at a dog park across town, I started talking with a woman I had never seen before. She was a volunteer at SpokAnimal. While our 7-year old beagle, Bartlet, sniffed and stretched his furry legs, the woman told me about a beagle who had been brought into the center the day before. The dog she described had the characteristics we had been looking for in a friend for Bartlet: 3-5 years old, a boy, tri-colored, beagle or beagle mix.
 
Within minutes Bartlet and I were home. I went to the website. I looked at the dog named Snoopy. I called to make sure he was still there. And then I got back in the car and drove 30 minutes across town to meet him.
 
The next day I went back and took Bartlet with me.
 
Later that day I made the trip again and my husband came along.
 
The following morning I went back one last time – to pick up our new family member.  
 
One day I was looking through his paperwork, learning more about his personality, his previous health issues – trying to get to know him better – and I saw that his former owner’s name was written under a thin layer of White-Out. Of course I scratched it off, and of course I Googled him. Initially I wanted to reach out to him, to let him know his Snoopy is okay. We decided it was best that I didn’t contact him. So instead, I wrote him this letter.
 
Dear Charles,
 
Thank you for surrendering your Snoopy.
 
When you knew you could no longer care for him, you did the most responsible thing you could have done. By taking him to the shelter, you kept a roof over his head, food in his belly, and you gave him a chance at another life. And, I say this selfishly, you also gave us the missing member of our family. Your act of love and care for his well-being made it possible for us to be together. I want you to know he has a safe, healthy, happy, loving home here, with devoted parents and a kind four-legged big brother.
 
His name is Draper now. He’s named for Don Draper, and he seems to have some similarities to his Mad Men namesake. He is incredibly smart, and can be manipulative when he wants to be. He’s handsome, he has a strong need to be physically close to people, and he’s funny without even trying. I suspect another thing the two have in common is that our Draper’s current life is probably quite different than his previous one.
 
He isn’t tied to a 30-foot rope in the yard these days. But he loves to lie on the deck and sun himself in the spring and summer. He also enjoys sniffing the wind. I think that’s from spending a lot of time outside when he lived with you. We try to get him to the park or on a walk every day. I believe it helps with the nervousness you mentioned.
 
During allergy season he takes medicine now for the reverse sneezing. It seems to help him feel better. He also takes a little something for his tummy. You may have known he had pancreatitis and maybe a food allergy that causes him to vomit sometimes. We’re still working to get his diet in a place where he feels better all the time, but he’s okay. We keep a close eye on him, and he has attentive, thorough, caring doctors.
 
That excessive barking referred to in his paperwork – I think he was telling you a story. Maybe it was about what he sniffed while he was in the yard. Or maybe about what he saw out there. He has a great view at our house – he enjoys sitting on the couch or perching in bed and looking out over the miles of evergreen trees and rolling hills and watching the world go by. And he also really likes to tell his Daddy about it when he comes home from work. His whole body wags fiercely as he howls and jumps up to have his head rubbed.
 
He scratches on the door when he wants to go outside, just like you said. It’s precious and also annoying at times. You mentioned he understands the command “sit,” only all he ever really does is bounce like Tigger from Winnie-the-Pooh. He is the most affectionate dog I have ever met. He makes me giggle each and every time he presents his belly to be rubbed. By now I’ve gotten used to the drool, and I try to keep tissues in my pockets just in case.
 
He brought some of your habits with him, I think. He likes to eat early and go to bed early. The first night, the first few months really, he went to bed promptly at 7:00 p.m. He also likes to sit on the couch and watch TV. We wonder if you did that with him. Oh, and he really enjoys Auburn football. Are you an SEC fan?
 
Charles, it makes me so, so sad to think of you walking into the shelter that day, knowing you were saying goodbye, and knowing your Snoopy would face an uncertain future.
 
But I understand why you did it.
 
If you still miss him, and I know I would, I hope this helps you sleep better at night. He is doing well.
 
Draper is a good boy, and I’m sorry you had to give him up. But I also want to thank you for surrendering him responsibly. At night, before he goes to bed with his soft puppy-printed fleece and his NASCAR quilt and his stuffed Snoopy, we sing him a song and I hold him. I hope sometimes he dreams of you and he knows you’re okay and that you love him. And I hope he knows he is safe here. He is adored here. And he is home here.
 
He completes our family, Charles, and we have you to thank for that.   
 

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