As they say, a photo’s worth a thousand words. To me, this photo is worth much more, but I’ve kept it to a tidy 567. Hey, we’re all busy this time of year. Busy decorating homes, addressing holiday cards, and shopping.
Our neighborhood is holding a holiday lights decorating contest; $100 for first place, $50 for second and $25 for third. My 8-year-old pleaded “Go big, Dad!” He doesn’t have a great sense of money yet and I don’t have the heart to tell him I already spent the equivalent of the first-place dough on extension cords. My wife asked if I knew what I was doing with all the cords and multi-pronged outlets snaked around the garage and front yard. I said yes with Clark W. Griswold confidence, but I’m also holding my breath when anyone plugs-in a hair dryer.
Two custom, almost life-sized gingerbread men (people?) we made for our front yard could push us into contention. Why buy inflatables, when you can spend far more time jigsawing, sanding, painting and sealing plywood? One of the cookie cutter figures needed minor surgery after a button eyeball I attached with glue slid halfway down his face, making him look more like a deformed Halloween decoration. The eye is screwed back where it belongs. We’re looking good now, ready to be judged.
The photo that caught my eye was one the SPCA posted on Facebook last week. It was the photo, plus the story behind it. I love everything about it. “Charlie,” the striking lab mix with a tuxedo coat, in a perfect sit. The surprised look from Darlenne, our all-star Outreach & Education Coordinator. The pops of holiday colors. And, of course, the shake.
Five-year-old “Charlie” was among the 27 animals we brought back from Butte County, during the early days of the devastating Camp Fire which left the area shelters desperate to clear space for incoming animals. To be clear, he wasn’t a fire evacuee and had no owners looking for him; he was in the shelter long before the fire began.
Since our initial response, we deployed a small team of SPCA staff to Butte County for a week to assist with animal sheltering and rescue efforts. They left behind their pets, families, and the comforts of home. They had long, hard days and nights…they skipped meals or had them on the go, encountered badly burned animals and experienced a level of controlled chaos we don’t see here. Our team met people who’ve lost everything. They also volunteered to go, as did many of their co-workers.
Around the time they returned, we made Charlie available for adoption. Darlenne had no idea he knew “shake.” She gave the command just for kicks and Charlie obliged. Our photographer was ready and caught her “What — no way!” look.
Our staff behavior specialists also learned about Charlie; they discovered he’s not wild about all other dogs, so we’re looking for a home where he’ll be the only dog. This process of taking time to evaluate dogs is critical for successful adoptions.
By December 15 — the night of my neighborhood’s holiday lights judging — I hope to be at least $25 richer. I hope we don’t don’t lose any more plastic eyeballs or blow a fuse. Most of all, I hope Charlie’s in the perfect home. We’ll do our part. Please help by sharing his photo and story.