Taking Big Steps and Overcoming Our Fears
I’ve been asked repeatedly, and for years now, to write a “Blog”. I’ve admittedly shied away, resisted, and downright avoided the idea of doing so. It isn’t because I thought it wouldn’t be well received, useful, or simply an outlet for all I witness and experience, no… in truth it is because I’m terrified. Put me in front of an abused, frightened, snarling and snapping canine and I’m fearless! But the simple idea of placing me in front of a piece of technology that I can appreciate but do not understand, and I find myself anxious, tense, trembling, sweating, and having a downright panic attack. Technology and I are acquaintances, but hardly considered ‘friends’.
HOWEVER, I have recently heard words coming from my own mouth that I have not truly lived up to. Specifically, “There are SO many things I have and will do for the dogs that I would NEVER consider doing for myself.” So today, I will overcome the imaginary barrier I have created that has prevented me from taking the step of creating and maintaining a “Blog” for the dogs. I suspect there will be times of humor, sorrow, joy, and frustration shared in said blog, and it is my hope that all of it will be read with the understanding that this is little more than a genuine insight of what animal rescue work is REALLY all about.
And so it begins…
It’s not uncommon for me to be praised for the work we do, nor to be criticized for not doing enough, but there is no greater impact than that of self-criticism in the face of hindsight. The multitude of “what if’s” and “if only’s” that I was faced with this past couple of days has been emotionally crippling. I’m speaking of our loss of little Jefferson. Jefferson and his bonded buddy, Eisenhower, were entrusted to us after their owner passed away. These two affectionate and playful pals became quick favorites here at Green Dog Rescue Project, and wiggled their ways into our hearts pretty deeply. It’s often challenging enough to find a home for ONE dog, much less a bonded pair! So you can imagine our joy when and absolutely WONDERFUL home presented itself on May 4th. The two boys went home with their new family and as they walked away many tears were shed that demonstrated our happiness that they were going ‘home’, as well as our sadness of realizing we would not have the pleasure of being greeted daily with their love and exuberance.
A few days after they were in their new home, a contractor arrived and opened the gate to the yard, not knowing there were new canine residents on site. Jefferson panicked and bolted out the gate. The new family alerted us immediately and we responded with a search team. Over the course of the following 4 days, sightings were reported and we narrowed it down to a specific area. It was terrifying to us to know that that “area” happened to be ON the 101 freeway. As you would expect, there was never a day that went by that search teams did not remain vigilant and active in trying to recover him safely in hopes of reuniting him with his new family and his buddy.
Early Monday morning I was returning from Oakland (delivered my girlfriend to the airport for a business trip) and when I arrived in the area where we had been searching for him I made the usual half dozen passes in hopes of spotting him. With no sign of him, I returned home. Within minutes of making it to my driveway, I received a phone call from someone who had just heard on the radio (thank you KZST) that a small dog matching Jefferson’s description was just seen on the freeway, EXACTLY where I had just been circling. I immediately started the car up and headed back to the area. It completely broke my heart when I arrived ONE car too late, and witnessed the vehicle in front of me unable to swerve and end his life.
It was an experience like that which makes me question WHY!? Why I didn’t see him during my earlier search? Why I didn’t stay and make a few more passes? Why I couldn’t have been just ONE car sooner!!? Why I didn’t grab my sleeping bag and sleep under the freeway the previous night? Why, why, why… Hindsight is a brutal thing.
After 2 days of feeling completely lost, emotionally drained, and dehydrated from crying so much, I’m finding my footing again in an effort to move forward and save other lives. I forget to rejoice daily with the lives we have saved… and too often get stopped in my tracks with the intermittent losses. It doesn’t stop the pain that comes with losing one of our charges, but it puts the purpose back into my daily activity.
It will take time to stop crying spontaneously… and I’ll likely never stop doubting myself for not staying longer or moving faster thinking the outcome could have been different… but in the meantime, I find myself innately putting one foot in front of the other, and doing the best I can to make a difference, despite my desire to hide under the covers, curled up in a ball with my own dogs offering support avoiding the world. I hope you join me on this journey. -Colleen Combs