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Talking to Dogs MAG
He smells really bad. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it is sort of like garbage that has been soaked in muddy water. He looks up at me; those big, mournful brown eyes seem to be pleading with me, but for what, I don't know.
“It's okay, bud,” I promise, “they will love you!”
I hope nobody sees me reassuring a dog. His name is Roscoe, and he's a mutt that has somehow found his way into the SPCA and my heart. I was hoping that this warm Saturday afternoon would be Roscoe's last day here at the shelter.
I had spent most of my four-hour shift trying to brush through the gnarls that riddled his coat. Sitting on a bench in the hot sun, praying for someone to see beyond his stench and unpleasant appearance to the great dog beneath, I felt like I was wishing for a miracle that would never come.
Roscoe had been at the shelter for weeks, and I knew his days were numbered. At that point, I was considering breaking the number-one rule my mother had given me when I began volunteering here: never try to adopt an animal. Luckily for Roscoe (and my mother), he was spotted by a family and adopted. Apparently they were impressed by the fact that he could shake hands – something I had taught him. For me, Roscoe was a minor miracle, a little blip of hope in a world filled with abandoned animals, a world that can seem pretty devoid of hope sometimes.
Honestly, I began volunteering at the local animal shelter for selfish reasons. I needed service hours for school, and spending time with puppies seemed like a good plan. My first day, I went home smelling of dirty pets and had mysterious stains covering my shirt. Yet, despite the grossness of it all, I felt like I had done something, however small, that made a difference. In the weeks and months to come, I found myself returning as often as possible, and I began looking forward to those odd smells and stains. I spent hours cuddling puppies and cleaning cages.
I formed relationships with the people who worked there, people with college degrees who decided to forgo a financially successful career to take care of animals for a barely livable wage. I also saw a side of humanity that is not often talked about, a side that can leave a dog to starve in a backyard or can throw kittens in a trash can.
Roscoe, the lovable but unholy-smelling dog, had also been abandoned, dumped on a country road like so much trash. Yet, to meet him, you would never know it. His tail still wagged, his eyes still smiled, and he still wanted to lick everyone in his path.
Roscoe's capacity – and that of all animals – to forgive has always amazed me. No matter how many times a human lets a dog down, a dog will never let a human down.
Roscoe never knew about my obsession with Harry Potter or of my love for the piano. He didn't know that I despise math with a passion or that I have an uncanny ability to say the wrong thing at just the right moment. He certainly never knew that I have a weakness for chocolate or that I usually have to plan everything 30 minutes in advance because punctuality and I don't get along.
Roscoe never knew any of this about me, and I have a feeling that if he had, he wouldn't have cared. All he knew was that I was a fellow being trying to help him, and I like to think that he loved me for that. Dogs like Roscoe are great teachers; he taught me that I should try to find the good in others, no matter how malodorous they are.