Awhile ago, I wrote a blog about a book entitled Saving Gracie by Carol Bradley. Without knowing anything about that book when I purchased it, except that it was about puppy mills, and I had a dog who was a rescued stud from a puppy mill, I opened the cover and began reading. Within pages, I was weeping. Not only was this book about puppy mills, but it was about Pennsylvania puppy mills. Not only was it about Pennsylvania puppy mills, but it was about the Chester County SPCA, the same wonderful organization who had rescued our dog Smokey from the same deplorable conditions I was reading about in Saving Gracie. After finishing Saving Gracie in a weekend, I took out my checkbook and wrote a check as big as I could manage to the Chester County SPCA. Along with my check, I enclosed a three page note of thanks and current pictures of Smokey.
Well, Smokey is gone now, and he left a hole in our hearts that needed filled. We’re German shepherd people, always have been, always will be, but the SPCA was clear out this time, so we got onto Petfinder and Panzer (f/k/a Daniel) fell into our laps.
Panzer has been with us for about three months now. He may look like Smokey, but he is decidedly not Smokey, which is just fine with us. Panzer’s origins are mostly unknown, but he has behavioral issues and scars, emotional and physical, just like Smokey. After four shepherds in half as many years, we feel like we are equipped to deal with the tough behavioral issues and medical conditions that one can sometimes encounter with a rescue dog, and Panzer has really blossomed in his months with us.
On Saturday, Joe and I went to Barnes & Noble to look for some Christmas gifts, and as usual, I found myself perusing the pet section. I scanned the titles for books that I hadn’t yet read (the selection is getting few and far between these days) and was deciding between Ian Dunbar’s book and a book on therapy dogs when I saw the title Little Boy Blue. I pulled the hardcover copy out and saw a puppy on the front that looked very similar to a dog I’d met when I was on vacation in Canada visiting a friend of mine.
I scanned the jacket quickly and saw the book was about the dog rescue effort in the United States and decided to take a break from my exhaustive training reading and come back to Ian Dunbar’s book at a later date in favor of this new tale of rescue work.
Within pages, I was marveling at how I managed to find these books that so fit the dogs in my life. As I read excerpts to Joe while he worked on his RC car in our kitchen and the dogs lay at my feet, I found tears welling in my eyes once more.
Kim Kavin, the author of Little Boy Blue, could have been talking about my Panzer instead of her Blue, their stories were so similar. Panzer, like Blue, was a dog from the south (Panzer’s Washington DC to Blue’s North Carolina). Panzer, like Blue, had an unknown backstory that may have involved horrific events. Panzer, like Blue, was saved by a grassroots organization and transported north. Panzer, like many of the dogs chronicled in Kavin’s wonderful book, was placed in a northern foster home where he awaited his forever home in Pennsylvania. Panzer, like Blue, was advertised on Petfinder, where I found him. And I, like Kavin, had no idea how many pieces were at play, all in an effort to save my dog’s life.
I found Kavin talking about places that I knew. She talked about an organization in Chapel Hill, NC, where I went to college for four years. I had no idea the organization existed and never recalled seeing their facility, though I can picture every building on every street in the small, college town. She talked about an animal rescue organization/veterinarian practice in Exton, Pennsylvania, just 15 miles from my home. Exton is also the home to one of the training facilities I’ve frequented with my own dogs.
Joe sat there and humored me and then found himself tearing up and saying things like, “How do you find these books?” I shook my head and kept reading.
I devoured the book. I could barely put it down and even considered taking it outside with me while I walked the dogs. When I finally finished the last pages Sunday evening and set the book down, I looked at Panzer, curled up on my lap, and hugged him closely. All I could think was, “We’re not the only ones who love you.” I know, of course, that his foster parents love him dearly, and I make sure to send them pictures and updates when I can (one update was sent midway through reading Little Boy Blue, just to let them know how much I appreciated all that they’d done for him). But then there was this absolutely huge network of people in place, positioned to save his life, many of whom have never met him and never will. Still, even though they may have only seen his picture, he matters to them. He isn’t just another statistic. He isn’t just a profit in a street fighting enterprise (which is where I am convinced Panzer came from before he was discarded at a starving 47 pounds to wander the streets of Washington, D.C.). He is a living, breathing soul that people – strangers – care about.
Little Boy Blue and Kim Kavin have humbled me, yet again. I have once more found myself in a place where I have overwhelming gratitude to strangers that I may never be able to thank. I have found myself in a place where I am confounded by what people can do when they band together to promote one cause. I am staggered by how so many little pieces can fit together into this grander tapestry of goodwill and positive change.
And yet, there are darker moments in Little Boy Blue. Not every system can be perfect, and not every person in Kavin’s book is black and white. There are no “good guys” and “bad guys”, there are just people, who are trying to do what they feel is right. There is no universal truth in the world of dog rescue, no written rules or codes of morality which people must ardently follow. There are only the personal morals and the desperation and the courage of the people who desire to save the lives of dogs, dogs like Panzer, and dogs like Blue.
Little Boy Blue comes highly recommended from me, mainly because I feel that it is an inspiring tale of what the dismal yet necessary truth can encourage people to do and what knowledge can make a person become. I have always advocated supporting rescues. We donate money frequently to various rescues, the Chester County SPCA, and Panzer’s rescue, All Shepherd Rescue, among them. We also put our money into Petsmart and Petco charities, and I send regular donations to the German Shepherd Rescue of Southeastern Pennsylvania (click on any of the organizations’ links to make a donation). Every year, right around Christmas, and this year, right after Smokey passed, we brought in bags of toys and leashes and collars for the Chester County SPCA. But Little Boy Blue made me want to do more. I haven’t quite figured out what that more is yet, but I’m thinking.
In the meantime, I encourage everyone to go out and purchase a copy of Little Boy Blue and do some thinking of your own. There are many, many deserving causes out there, but when I look into the eyes of my dog Panzer, I intrinsically know that this is one of the ones for me.