An Affair to Remember

Normally, Toot is not the sentimental type. However, yesterday, I caught her using my sleeve as a hanky while she clicked through an Internet photo album of our recent rescue dog, Miss Kitty. This glorious Grande Dame, sadly passed to the Rainbow Bridge a few months ago…way before her time. Toot logged onto our website to read Miss Kitty’s adoption story, and was stunned that I had not written one. After a proper Toot tongue lashing, I made my excuses about this and that…"short on time", "always on the rescue road"…"I’m about five hundred adoption stories behind, etc.” And she said, “Cut the crap, Denise…dictate and I’ll type. Miss Kitty deserves her story.“ Indeed, she does.

About a year ago, Diane Gonzalez and I were in the midst of planning one of our Dog Day Afternoons at the Vince Lombardi Rest Stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. It was the usual colossal mess, with new dog introductions, missed connections, and high volume, unmistakable Eskie barking as we moved our various car passengers into alternate vehicles like musical chairs. The best thing about Dog Day Afternoons are the fantastic homemade lunches that Diane brings to keep me out of McDonalds.

Casper, contributing to the conversation

On this day, we had Caspar with us…whose antics injected a level of chaos beyond our expectations. We were taking in a few new dogs before I drove Casper to his new Connecticut home. Mid-madness, I received an interesting call. A gentleman with a musical lilt to his voice called to express grave concern. You see, his dilemma was dire. There was a baby….now, I’m not a “baby” person, so I understood the dire nature of this situation immediately, and expressed appropriate concern. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” I commiserated. But, no, the baby wasn’t the problem.

As the story unfolded, I waited patiently for the point…which was long a-comin‘. The next details revealed were the German Shepherds. Ah…two German Shepherds and a baby…I could see a problem…..the baby might make a tasty snack. But no, the German Shepherds weren’t the problem. In fact, they were described as “big wussies” because they were woefully derelict in their duties to protect the baby. Since these folks, and the baby, live in a bad neighborhood, big wussie German Shepherds were not an asset.

Big wussies!! What would Rin Tin Tin think?

Diane has always been the master of chaos...

I inquired as to the nature of his call …“Is there a point on the horizon, or did you call to chat?” You see, I am doing my best these days to channel the essence of Diane Gonzalez, our “Queen of Nice.“ And, since I have been described as “acerbic,” I take a page from Diane’s book now, as I engage this type of intrusive, maddening phone calls when I am holding the reins on a big old dog sled of chaos.

The gentleman indicated that he desperately needed a Doberman puppy to protect the baby. Ok, we have a baby, two German Shepherds and an impending Doberman puppy….I could see the problem…but remained perplexed….”Where do I fit in,” I asked, one inch short of my wit’s end. “Ah,” he replied, “We have to get rid of our American Eskimo to make room for the Doberman puppy. We don’t have room for four dogs.” I’ll be damned…therein lies the point.

The problem.....Kitty

And so, he began to describe his Eskie, Kitty, to me. She was a miniature Eskie, of some girth, who was anti-social, and avoided the family by parking herself in the kitchen each day. She wanted nothing to do with the baby or the German Shepherds, and was pretty useless all around. One more mouth to feed. At eight years old, she was taking up valuable space, and she had to go. Ok…deep, deep breath. When you are hopelessly in love with a breed of dog, the casual discard of one…unwanted and unloved, creates a sickening stir in your soul. Clearly, Kitty had withdrawn from the pandemonium in her home, and just wanted some damn peace and quiet. I told this caller, that he should bring her to me immediately. As luck would have it…he was not far away.

Kitty arrived just about the time that Diane did…and at first, Diane was miffed that I had added another dog to the already unmanageable mix. She assumed that since I had agreed to take Kitty, that she would be expected to take an extra dog. Diane is always worried how hubby, Willie, will react to the constant influx of rescue refugees. Diane has been over her marital agreed-to limit many times, so that Willie is on a “need to know” basis to spare him the unwieldy rescue process. Despite our best intentions, Willie has been hoodwinked numerous times over Diane’s eight year rescue career, and no longer seems to raise much of a fuss. So, when Diane laid her eyes on this forlorn, chubby, girl, whose mangled coat had a Roman legion of fleas marching in formation across her back…she welled up with tears as she reached into her glove compartment for a packet of Frontline. Kitty went home with Diane that night.

Kitty with Diane's son and Eskie assistant, James.

Diane swung into action with the bath and brushing and was able to rehabilitate Kitty’s terribly matted coat without the dreaded weed whack job. There is tenacity born in love of the breed that fuels our determination to restore the mutilated Eskie coats that we often see as the result of neglect, and crappy diet. Rarely do we opt for the easy shave job. Diane would rather spend five hours plucking, tweaking and raking than have a groomer do a sheep shearing. Indeed, there is a visceral pleasure in restoring the visual look of a magnificent dog, taking the first step toward her spiritual and behavioral transformation. As a result of Diane’s handiwork, Kitty’s photos were lovely as we posted her on our website, and soon we had potential adopters. Jim and John were moved by Kitty’s plight, and were smitten with that face. Their hearts were open to new love, after their Eskie, Madison, had passed sometime before.

There is a unique quality in people that pulls them toward the older, “sadder, but wiser” dogs. So often, people seek out puppies for selfish, misguided reasons, and older dogs are passed over. Certainly, the life expectancy of an older dog is shorter, and, the inevitable end seems imminent. But, when someone has the magnanimous spirit to rise above one’s own limitations of grief and fear, and when one can treasure the quality of time…over the quantity, they have a rare gift. Jim and John have this gift. It was not long after their beloved Madison passed, and they faced the tragic end, that they released grief and brought Kitty into their lives…and she was the best healing gift that they could have given themselves. The gratitude of the older dog, and the love that they bring into the lives of those lucky enough to give them a shot, is profound.

Diane facilitated Kitty’s adoption, and we felt deeply moved by this loving pair who were eager to make Kitty their darling Diva. Often, I am haunted by the Universe’s random manner of designating some dogs for neglected, miserable lives, while others seem destined to live like royalty. Our rescue process plays a small role in correcting some of these injustices, but I don’t think we have righted a wrong with such panache, as we did with Kitty’s adoption.

Kitty’s life was transformed. She became Jim and John’s constant, treasured companion on countless travels. Whereas she had been a sad soul relegated to a dingy kitchen….an unwanted afterthought …a nuisance…in her owner’s lives, she had become, MISS KITTY, the canine incarnation of Miss Ethel Merman…“There’s No Business Like Show Business.“ She was experiencing the sights and sounds of the world like never before. She lived her life to the fullest, enjoying boat trips, camping, hikes and she celebrated every holiday in true Diva style, always in the appropriate wardrobe. Jim remarked to me recently, “I don’t see how her former owners could have not known how wonderful she was,” “She was so full of personality and so interactive…she loved everyone, and everyone loved her.” Well….so it goes…one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Miss Kitty’s boys took amazing care of her, and when she was treated for thyroid disease, they made sure that she lost weight and did their level best to maintain her health. They became concerned that Miss Kitty might have some weight related self esteem issues, and after they shaved seven pounds off her tiny frame, they made sure that she felt pretty in her Halloween princess costume, replete with pink tutu. At the Halloween parade, Miss Kitty was interviewed by a local reporter and photographed for the local paper. She channeled her “Inner Ethel” and became a local celebrity. The frequent updates from Jim and John showed a joyous Miss Kitty, interacting with the world and loving life. Her personality lit up like a camp bonfire, and she reveled in the attention that she attracted. She was Queen of the condo complex, and everyone loved Miss Kitty.

After a glorious year, Miss Kitty took ill unexpectedly. Apparently she had an internal tumor that ruptured and spread aggressive infection through her system. She passed away before any medical intervention could be made. It was a shock for Jim and John who had only begun to shower Miss Kitty with the love and attention that she had been denied in her life.

This saga has been a source of personal inspiration. Living life in the moment, and making every second count is Miss Kitty’s legacy. If she had to bow out at only nine years old, she went out with style, deeply, deeply cherished. Her funeral viewing hosted many family and friends who loved her dearly, and her final send off was worthy of the grand soul that she was.

It has been a few months now since Miss Kitty passed, and Jim and John have opened their hearts to another rescue dog, our Daizy. Rather than mire themselves in grief…which is so easy to do, these amazing men opened their hearts to another dog in need. Our Daizy is another, unappreciated, sad soul, dumped by lackluster owners…who is now in for the ride of her life.


Rest in Peace, Miss Kitty…your legacy lives on in all of us whose lives you have touched.

Many of our beloved rescues have passed to the Rainbow Bridge lately -- now that we are in our thirteenth year of rescue, time has a way of marching on. We dedicate this story to all the dogs we’ve lost, loved, and helped live better lives.

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© 2010 Eskies Online/Denise Gareau