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It really did not take that much effort to change three lives

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By The Staff

Last summer I applied to the Bedford Humane Society to be a foster family for a dog. For years the statistics about euthanized animals in shelters and the “Good Home Wanted” posters plastered about businesses saddened me. It was all so overwhelming. What could one person do?

I found out. In late September, Rascal arrived at my home. A rangy, 7 year old mixed breed he immediately made himself at home in my yard. My dog Misha accepted him as a guest.

Rascal was not a particularly handsome dog, especially at that point. He had been turned over to the BHS completely matted, and now sported a close clip. My guess, because of his age and looks, is that he would have been one of the more than 500 dogs euthanized at the Bedford government-run pound in 2007 if he had been dropped off there. Many people leave their pets there; Rascal’s family gave him up because they no longer had time to care for him.

Fortunately, his family was able to place him with the BHS foster program, which serves cats as well as dogs. Fortunate because only a half dozen families volunteer to fill this vital need.

It does take some adjustment to fit a new animal into your life. Rascal was full of energy and enthusiasm, and would jump on me. He pawed off pieces of the lawn to eat the dirt below. He readily ate anything, from cupcake wrappers left on the roadside to deer excrement, in the blink of an eye. He pushed aside my dog whenever I tried to pet her. One time at 4 a.m. he relieved himself in my loft; it wasn’t until I sleepily shuffled barefoot downstairs for paper towels that it dawned on me that he had relieved himself against the railings in the loft, in effect creating puddles in two places with one shot.

And then there was the front porch. Three weeks before Rascal came, I had finished the laborious task of staining the porch. It took several coats. Within three weeks of his arrival, the stain was all scratched up from his running back and forth on the wood and using it as a launching pad to chase squirrels.

The first month, I exclaimed “Oh Rascal!” an awful lot.

Rascal’s write-up on the BHS Web site attracted a few comments at first. A family visited him but decided his rambunctiousness was not a match for their toddlers. A woman pronounced him “butt ugly.” By October’s end, there were no comments at all.

We settled into a routine. I taught Rascal how to get into a car and climb staircases; previously he lived outside on a farm, and was not familiar with the finer points of suburbia. Misha accepted him as being an extended houseguest, and as such she allowed him to take her favorite spot in the car.

Eventually, the “Oh Rascals!” turned into “Such a good boy!” There was no getting around it; Rascal had a joyful, lovely personality. He adored human company and craved playing with other dogs. He even coaxed my staid Misha into spurts of play. In the evenings, there was nothing he enjoyed more than being petted and cuddled. If he were smaller, he would have been a terrific lap dog.

Rascal began to fit into all facets of my life. He became a welcomed addition to my group of dog-walking friends. He calmed down and grew a striking coat of fur. He traveled with me during Thanksgiving week, offering himself as the perfect guest as we rotated between three different households. He was part of the family.

And so it came as a bit of a shock when in March two couples called to visit with Rascal on the same day to see if they would want to adopt him. I soldiered through the interviews with the two families. There was no doubt that either would be highly qualified to adopt Rascal.

Both immediately e-mailed their adoption applications to me. Not only would I lose Rascal, but I would have to make a decision that would affect him for the rest of his life. I would have to tell someone no. It was an incredible responsibility.

There was a lot of soul-searching and crying until I selected the family and until Rascal left. The night before his departure, Rascal’s friends, both human and canine, held a going-away party for him. The next morning his new family arrived, and I gave them the card signed by his friends, and a photo album started with half a dozen photos of Rascal’s life in his foster home. His next family could continue to fill the album with images of his new life.

As Rascal was led down my driveway to his new family’s car, he stopped and looked back for a second. Then he continued to follow his new people. He readily jumped into their car. The last I saw of Rascal was his tail sticking out of the cracked window of the backseat.

Misha, much relieved by being an only dog again, immediately curled up in the yard and slept deeply for two hours. The next time we went for a drive, she reclaimed her spot in the car.

A week later, Rascal’s family e-mailed me with happy details. They had joined a private dog park so he could run free and make friends. He had toured a pet store and selected his treats. He visited friends of his new family. Everybody loved this dog who once lived outside and was given up. “We are blessed,” wrote one family member.

One dog’s life saved. A household blessed. What a great return on taking a chance.

The Bedford Humane Society provides foster families with food, medical expenses, pet beds and toys. People interested in volunteering to foster, those interested in donating beds or food, and those interested in adopting a foster animal can go to www.bedfordhumanesociety.petfinder.com. Or you can call 540-58-6100 and leave a message; a BHS volunteer will return your call.