In the fog of Sonoma County, Maeve sat in the front seat as Kelly shook a ring of keys. Kelly selected a key with an orange plastic band then ran her other hand through short dark hair. Jason and Sara waited in their car, trying to keep warm.
“Time to go in.” Kelly grabbed her backpack.
“Ready,” said twelve-year-old Maeve. She zipped her jacket, eager for her first day at Pine View Animal Shelter. Out of the car, they walked toward a one-story cinderblock building. There was no light on so the entry was dark. Maeve wondered if she’d imagined something near the doorway.
“Grrrr…” A dark shape moved in the shadow of the entryway.
Kelly warned, “Step back.”
Another growl. Maeve jumped back. Her foot landed on Jason’s boot. She fell sideways but Jason put on his hand. He helped her get her balance back. “Are you OK?”
Maeve twisted to look at him. “Yes. Thanks.”
Jason said to the dog blocking their way, “Who do we have here?”
Sara offered, “I have some chicken treats.” She tossed one toward the dog who still growled a low warning. The animal stopped long enough to gobble the treat then rested his back against the double doors.
Maeve asked, “How’d he get here?” She stood behind Kelly, shivering in the cool foggy morning. “Why’s a dog here all alone?”
Kelly said, “It happens sometimes.”
“It’s sad. Some people dump their pets and leave.” Sara bounced her pigtails, shifted position and stepped slowly on the lawn. Hunkering down, she turned sideways to the dog. She held a chicken treat out.
As Maeve’s eyes adjusted to the dark entry, she wondered about the short-haired mutt. He was knee-high with a wide muzzle like a pit bull. One overly large ear fell forward giving him a comical questioning look. He stopped growling and sniffed toward Sara’s outstretched treat. He inched forward, body stiff, tail straight out, then froze halfway between the entry doors and Sara, obviously hungry and scared.
“You all wait here,” said Kelly. Kelly stepped toward the doors and stopped each time the dog looked her way. After about five minutes, she managed to unlock the doors and motion them inside. Sara stayed on the lawn.
“But what about the dog?” blurted Maeve. “Will he run away?”
Jason whispered, “Don’t worry. Sara will leave a trail of treats. He’s so hungry and cold, most likely he’ll follow us.”
When they were inside and the lights were on, Jason showed Maeve a locker in back for her things then stowed his own book bag. After greeting a few cats in crates with a scratch on the head, he pointed. “You will start with me. Sara to plans teach you about our dogs. After lunch, Kelly will show you the way we run our shelter reception office. You’ll help bring dogs in. Each dog gets an hour to greet guests and be with office volunteers.”
“Great. Can I keep my jacket on?”
“Sure. It will take a while to warm up in here.”
“Can I see the rabbits?” Maeve had always wanted one. Jason took her to a hallway with built-in crates. There were a half a dozen rabbits, eating, drinking or sleeping on newspaper. Each had a litter box.
“You can help me later with cleaning their rooms, if you like. And some like to be handled and petted.”
Maeve grinned. “Love to.” I’m going to take care of dogs and rabbits.
Barking erupted from the front. Maeve hurried down the hall to peek at the entry reception area. The abandoned dog was now inside. A fold out, flexible metal pen encircled him. Sara and Kelly stepped back.
He barked at the fencing, turning to face and test each side. The sections did not fall over as he jumped at them, attempting to escape.
Jason had followed Maeve. He asked, “Should I get the loop?”
“Not just yet.” Kelly turned to smile at Maeve. “We’ll let him be for now. It’s hours before we open for visitors.”
“But what will happen to him?” Maeve wrinkled her freckled forehead.
Sara said, “I’ll explain later. Kelly and Jason have to start their paperwork. And we need to get to the kennels, clean up each dog and feed them.” Kelly walked over to a set of chairs against the wall then said to Maeve, “Come sit for a minute.” The abandoned dog lay down on the cement floor and chewed the rawhide stick.
Maeve asked what would happen to him. Kelly said, “It depends.”
“On what?” Maeve wondered if the dog would bite if she went near.
“We’ll search for a microchip, or owner ID. Put a listing in the newspaper in case someone’s looking for him. Then if a person doesn’t claim him, he’ll get health and temperament checks, shots, and a kennel.” Kelly said, “Jason and I will get him in a room to see if he’s interested and social with people. Then we’ll see.”
-to be continued-