This is a story about a dog. She is a small to medium small dog, most likely rat terrier for the most part, but having a particularly Beagle like body, we suspect there is more to her ancestry than we can know… Truly Rivi’s head is too big for her rather large body, all packed onto short stout legs. She is mostly white like most rat terriers, but she is a red-head which we find especially attractive in the breed. Rivi has the most beautiful amber eyes and nose. It is what made me fall in love with her from just seeing her picture posted on the urgent list for our local animal shelter.
For sure most all rescue workers have seen it all, but in my case, the local girl I dealt with was truly over-worked, stressed out, you get the idea… she had no time to be kind or even explain the massive amounts of papers I was required to sign without even reading them… But to help an animal in distress, you will do anything… I still wonder what was written on those pages that they so desperately didn’t want me to read…
The picture I saw of Rivi was on a regular post for shelter animals that need homes. I noticed her right away because of the extra large pointed ears – clearly rat terrier. She did remind me of our oldest terrier, Abigale who is also a red-head. So I was hooked before the story even begins…
I got a text through to the local girl that runs a rescue here. They primarily do everything they can to get the animals out of the shelter into rescues before they are EU, which means euthanized. I don’t own a vehicle anymore, so I couldn’t drive out to the shelter myself. So I had to appeal to this lady for her assistance in getting Rivi out. Her very short terse text back to me was this: “No one can touch her, she’s biting.” That in shelter language means certain death asap.
I knew immediately that she was scared to death. Anyone who has ever owned a rat terrier will understand. They usually only bond with one, possibly two people, and that’s pushing it. They said that someone from Smithville, about 30 miles away, had dropped her off. No other explanations given. I told the rescue girl: “Get her for me. I will bring her back from hell.” Little did I know just how true those words would be.
First of all let me say that it was Rivi’s saving grace that they couldn’t get hold of her too well, because most of the vaccines and crap they inject into the animals kill them right off or make them so very sick they wish they were dead. I was basically devastated the first and last time I was there to see about 18 kittens and cats all piled up in one small glass enclosure all sick as could be. One darling Ginger cat looked up at me with the saddest eyes I have ever seen, then just laid his head back down in total surrender. I just hope he lived to see better days, bless his heart.
Protocol is blanket. They don’t have time to evaluate each individual animal when it comes in. They get better than a hundred in some days. It is just incredibly sad. Most of them are owner surrenders. People that for whatever reason couldn’t or wouldn’t keep the animal they first took home. If some of the animals die immediately after their vaccinations, then so what, I guess. Less of them to place and feed in the meantime. If I sound harsh, it’s because it is harsh. It is beyond being unacceptable. It is horrendous. If the animals that get into the shelter even live through the first few days, chances are it is only to wait for about a week before they are taken in and given the killing injection and then thrown into the gurney to be disposed of with all the hundreds of other cats and dogs. It will absolutely make you ill.
So anyway, I got lucky and so did Rivi. At the time I had the lady on the line her helper also called her and by the grace of God or the cosmos or whatever angel that was helping me that day, her buddy Jeremy was available to go get Rivi and bring her out to the farm and to my waiting arms. It took an extra day because they took her over to the vet and let him give her shots, etc. Who knows… but they sure didn’t give her a heartworm test. I went back later to get that done, and thank goodness, she is clear.
But here’s the sad bad news. Rivi, who was then called Misty, had this very large area of pink flesh, skin on the side of her neck where no hair will grow. I wondered if maybe she just scratched it, but since she came last spring this spot is still without hair. I am now pretty sure it was the result of an embedded collar, most likely jerked free and now the terrible scar remains. Who in God’s name could be so stupid and neglectful as to allow something so cruel and horrible to happen to an innocent puppy like sweet Rivi. I shake my head in disgust and sadness for the poor animals that this happens to, which is all too frequent evidently. How smart do you have to be to know when it’s time to get a bigger collar for your dog anyway? Jeez…
Also she was not even a year old. They told me that and the vet confirmed. Yet her whole stomach was swollen with milk, ten teats to be exact! Wow, I know! Not full rat terrier definitely. They only have a few. Clearly poor Rivi had mated with a much bigger dog than her, and had paid the price dearly for the delivery and birth of her babies, which must have been taken from her prematurely. Imagine what that would do to any mother even a mother dog. My heart was broken for her.
When I got her inside my bedroom finally, I just set the kennel carrier down on the corner of the bed and let the older terrier Abi come and see. I opened the door to her kennel and just left it open and I was nibbling on something good, and was placing tiny pieces on the edge of her carrier. She was plastered to the back of the kennel scared beyond comprehension. So I just continued to ignore her and pass out bites of chicken. When I got up from the bed and went for a drink or whatever and came back, I noticed that the bites were gone and she was now outside the kennel, on the bed right up next to it, watching me like a hawk. So I just sat down friendly but not overtly so, and Abi, the old matriarch of the family, came up and greeted Rivi with a sniff and a smile then just laid down beside her smiling. I think Abi liked Rivi right away. That was very good for Rivi.
After feeding her decent protein instead of horrible dead dry crunchies like they feed at the shelter, she was really coming around. At night I would just gently massage her stomach knowing that in time her milk would dry up and she would be looking and feeling so much better. I just kept telling her that her puppies were fine, they were okay. I hope she believed me. I hope it helped.
Now Rivi, who was Misty first, then Misty River, then River, then River Rat, now just Rivi, she loves her life. She has friends. She has freedom, she has learned to bark and act like a real dog. I think she was most likely chained her whole puppy-hood and when she did get loose, she got pregnant way too young. After the puppies were barely old enough to sell, I’m sure the previous owners just decided to leave her at the shelter as she was just too much trouble for them. Sad, stupid, uneducated people with no business having any pets at all.
If I could even speak to her previous owners, here is what I would tell them. Rivi is happy now. She is loved. Every animal here loves Rivi and now me being the only one in residence at the moment, I love her dearly as well. We all love Rivi. She is friendly always, she always smiles and she always has more than enough love and hugs whenever you need them. She is a dear dear soul and I am so very thankful and blessed that she came into my life. No matter what ever happened to me here in the future, I would make sure Rivi went with me. I would never ever leave her behind, and I’ve told her that. I think she finally believes me.
Her stomach now is lovely. All the swollen mammaries have gone back to normal size. The big spot on her back that was eaten down to the raw skin is all healed. She eats well now, she loves her meal time but is so mannerly and polite. She waits patiently to hear her name called and then she goes to her spot and waits with that lovely smile and those unforgettable amber eyes.
I am sure if you asked most anyone, I had absolutely no business whatsoever getting another dog at the time. One friend I knew actually started laughing at me on the phone, not a pleasant retort, but an obvious condescending sort of terrible insult. That man is no longer my friend, for a number of reasons after that. That particular incident was the first clue, his first strike… If you are not a rescuer, you just won’t understand.
I used to have a friend from Pakistan named Bushra. She was just in horrors at the thought that I would sleep with a dog at night. Since I no longer have a husband, and I enjoy the closeness and affection, damn skippy I sleep with my dogs. Not the bigger ones mind you; I only have a twin sized bed. But we make room for Miss Rivi. She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. She also doesn’t have a clue what a ball is or what you’re supposed to do when someone throws it for you. I’ve worked with her alone and with Summer, the catahoula/aussie mix, who is Rivi’s idol. They are now quite good friends, close in fact. Before Rivi came home, Summer had no friends at all, only her brother. She was stiff and scared and totally traumatized by her first two months as well, before I was able to get her to come home with us. But now Rivi and Summer are best buddies and it warms my heart no end to see those two interact. Summer is funny in her stand down type of attitude with Rivi, who never stops with the goofy antics. She is so grateful to be rescued and now in a home where cruelty does not exist on any level. Not on my watch. Not in my home. She still totally freaks out if you attempt to put a collar on her neck. But slowly we’re coming around with that. It will take months maybe even years before she can let go of that fear. I bet it’s hard to forget hour after hour, week after week, month after month of choking pain and agony from a collar cutting off your air and your ability to even eat. But those days are gone and all we have to show now is the old scar. It will never go away, and that’s okay by me. She’s a beautiful dog in every way, even though her overallconfirmation is a little odd.
While my other dogs rest or sleep, Rivi is always at my side, always ready for a kiss. She does love to kiss. Never had a dog that did that. But because it’s Rivi, I allow a quick sneak of a kiss from time to time, because it is just so darned cute when she does it… sorry Bushra, well, actually, I’m not sorry.
Please, I urge you all reading this post, never go out and buy a dog. There are so many forgotten pets left in shelters to die in pain and agony. Fear mostly. They know they’re screwed the minute they get thrown into a cement cell and hear all the other dogs barking frantically for attention to get out. No wonder she was biting. But honest to Pete, not one time has this dog ever hurt me, by biting or otherwise. Not even if I offer a treat from my fingers, she is so careful not to hurt me. She’s just a peach.
When animals endure and survive the shelter experience, they do come with baggage and anyone considering an adoption should be aware of this. They are most likely not going to be perfect animals and will require a lot of attention and love in order to come around. It’s all about trust and knowing that no matter what, you will never strike them, or do anything, for that matter, that would harm them or leave them tied, neglected and forgotten.
I write these words tonight because tonight I was very depressed. My long time best friend and roommate of 14 years let a drug problem end our relationship and his addiction caused him to clean out my bank account by taking my card, which I am sure was pre-meditated, because I was catching on to his issues and he did not want me to know, because huge sums of money were involved and he was paying no rent. Just helping me. Tonight, I opened up my heart and my soul and asked for help to feed these pets I have. With no transport and no friends who will help me out in the neighborhood, as I live in a rural place, I need to order some clean water and food to get us through the month, thanks to what happened to my bank account right after we got paid.
Now I am alone, I’m older than I care to admit, and I don’t like being alone. But really I’m not. I’ve got Miss Rivi, who is right beside me as I type, sleeping like the sweet baby she is. Taking up far too much room for my liking, but that’s okay too. I’m just glad she loves me. Cause I love her too. L O V E — it is an amazing gift that can take many forms. Rivi and my other loves give me unconditional love anytime I am smart enough to take the time to notice. My cup really does runneth over.
I do not know if any one will help me out with a few buck for food and water. But usually the universe, God, source, whatever you call our maker, He most usually always provides. It may not be exactly what we were wishing for, but it’s always enough. So no more worries tonight about how to get through this month. I am just happy to be 59 years old, still alive, and with so much promise and fun planned for this summer and the future. No longer am I afraid of the future and what it could hold, because I have grabbed onto it with both hands, and I am in charge, as part of the huge majority of chronically poor individuals in America.
Tonight we are sending love and hugs out to all the very kind people who do help animals, every single day. We caused this over-population of unwanted pets. Our government has caused the massive suffering of entire families now left homeless to start over from scratch to re-build their shattered lives. And the animals shelters directly reflect the tragedy. So if you are considering you might be ready for a running buddy, or a lapdog, as the case may be, please go investigate your local shelter. Sure you will see cell after cell with a sad and frightened pitbull mix. The shelters are always full of those poor souls. But among these guys, you will always see that one blessed soul that speaks directly to you. You can’t walk away and you can’t forget them. And if you spring them from the terrible doggie jail, they will be forever grateful and loyal to the end. They might not be perfect, as they most definitely will carry some scars, physical as well as emotionally and spiritually. But once you both fall in love, all that tends to fall away, and what is left is one beautiful loving friend, that you just couldn’t imagine life without.
So to the kind rescue girl that last week told me I was too old and too poor to take on another rescue animal, is no matter. I will still help in my own ways, and I will love the ones I do have here, the ones we did save, forever and a day and beyond even that. It is not hard to do at all. Once you feel their gratitude and understand the amazing progress they have made, to have come from such terribly sad beginnings, you will be changed forever, for the better. I believe that the animals are sent here to teach us, to be our companions, until we no longer require their wisdom or guidance, and then they are taken back to the place from whence they came, call it heaven or what, it most likely is! Here is a little picture of River. Now you tell me she’s not the most beautiful dog ever brought into this world of ours. And if you do, I’ll just laugh and shake it off. Cause to me Rivi is beautiful inside and out, like a lot of my friends. And I wouldn’t trade a one of them for anything. Not even a million dollars — hahaha… if you knew me you’d see the humor in this statement. Here’s to all the rescued puppies and kittens that have endured most all of their nine lives already. Thank you for coming into our lives, and bringing us so much unbridled joy for life. I should have named her Joie! Good night America. Tomorrow do something to help another person or animal. Do it without even thinking and without any expectation of a thank you. Do it cause it is the right thing to do, and you will then know the true joy and happiness that comes from such love. Namaste’ good people! And thanks for reading The Story of Rivi!