Love and a Six-Foot Leash

Give a little bit of your love to Catalina Stirling.

Co-Founder and Director of Jasmine’s House Rescue in Maryland, Catalina’s name entered countless American living rooms through Jim Gorant’s bestselling book about the Michael Vick dog fighting case, Lost Dogs. Catalina’s patient, loving work with Sweet Jasmine — the most shut down of the Vick dogs released to rescue — was neither the beginning nor the end of her involvement in dog rescue, but rather a pivot point.

Catalina spent six months on the enormous-yet-tiny task of coaxing Jasmine out of a hole in her back yard, and many more months celebrating baby steps together — always moving forward. It was a precious, rare, patient, selfless love. After Jasmine died unexpectedly in 2009, Catalina filled part of the hole in her heart by opening Jasmine’s House Rescue with partner Kate Callahan. They envisioned a safe and gentle place for…

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Dogs Aren’t “Just” Anything


I wrote a post about Lennox a few weeks ago. Since then, I have prayed and hoped that somehow, he would be saved. Americans offered their homes, celebrities and politicians got involved, and hundreds of thousands signed petitions.

Lennox was killed today. He wasn’t put to sleep. He wasn’t euthanized. He was killed. All because he looks like a breed he isn’t, and because a council dug themselves into a hole too deep.

I went to bed with tears in my eyes because we read that he would be killed today. I remember waking in the middle of the night, suddenly, jolting out of sleep. I noticed my husband was awake too. I almost reached for the clock to see if it was that dreaded hour, but knew it would turn my already-hormonal self into a weeping disaster. Instead, I cuddled closer to Fred, felt comforted by the feel of Angel on my feet, and let sleep blissfully take over.

But this morning, I cried. I cried for Lennox’s family, the one who has fought for over two years for their darling pet. I cried for their little girl, who called him her world, her best friend. I cried for my own little girl who isn’t here yet, because the world I am bringing her into is one I am ashamed of right now.

Mostly, I cried for Lennox, who spent two years alone in a cell, with no human comfort and no reason to wag his tail. He died on a cold table without his family, and no one could ever explain to him why, even if they tried.

If you have ever referred to someone’s pet as “just a ____,” you haven’t felt the unconditional love of an animal. I used to be like that. I remember having a dog when I was younger, but I didn’t let myself become attached. The day my mom took him to the shelter, I cried like a baby. She wondered why I was so upset over an animal I didn’t seem to care much about.

I think even then, I knew that I could become “too” attached. When animals were hurt in movies, I cried. When other people’s pets died, I cried. I didn’t want to become attached because at one point, you always have to say good-bye.

A lot changed before I met Fred, but the day I met him, I was lost forever. Lost in his eyes and wagging tail, completely overcome with the love I felt from him and for him. My view of all animals changed, and I felt like my already-too-big heart grew three sizes. If it’s possible, it grew even more with the addition of Angel.

Pets, especially dogs, aren’t “just” pets. My dogs will never just be dogs. I have felt more love from them than from a lot of humans I know, and no matter how many times I yell or let them down, they are always there to cuddle me and lie on my feet. Always there to lick away the tears and give me a reason to smile and laugh.

RIP Lennox. I’m sorry we failed you. Humanity should be ashamed of itself today. We would live better and happier lives if we could learn to be “just” like our dogs.