On November 22, 2014, Sheryl Handley volunteered to walk shelter dogs at our first Tails of the Trail outreach event. That could have been the beginning and end to this story, but that day at Cheatham County Animal Control (CCAC) changed the future for one rescue dog and the couple who adopted him.
We spoke with Sheryl recently about her experience these first six months after adoption.
Tell us about your first encounter with Reese.
I met Reese at the inaugural Tails of the Trail (TOTT) event with Cheatham County. Though I had been paired with another dog, I very clearly remember a fun-loving and still full of energy pup wagging his tail and licking the face of another volunteer after the hike at Hidden Lake State Park. Meanwhile, the sweet little dog I had walked was feeling a bit worn out but still grateful to be in the sunshine and fresh air. None of us were in any hurry to bring the dogs back to the shelter, so we hung out at the trailhead chatting and playing with the pups.
Little did I know that five months later I would be adopting that bouncy black and white dog named Reese.
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What was it that tugged you toward adopting him? Was it difficult convincing your husband?
Honestly, I didn’t think that I wanted to adopt a dog (or maybe I was just kidding myself). My husband sent me a text message “DON’T GET ATTACHED” while I was out on that first TOTT event.
But I did get attached. I continued to volunteer walking dogs at CCAC on my own. I loved the idea that I could do what I enjoy the most, that is exercising outdoors but now have an additional purpose of enriching the lives of dogs in need. I had convinced myself that this was the perfect world: volunteering provided the affection and companionship of pets without any of the responsibility!
How did you end up adopting him then?
It was just a matter of time. I studied up on dog ownership…what it takes to be a responsible pet owner…how much it costs in both time and money…what breeds to consider…having a puppy versus adopting an older dog.
But in the end, it was actually my husband who chose Reese. Since he was apprehensive about having a dog join our world, I knew that if I was going to adopt, it was very important that he picked the dog. He’s a big mountain biker so I sort of tricked him into walking dogs at CCAC on the way back from biking at Montgomery Bell State Park.
After a few visits he, too, became a fan of Reese. And because Reese was a pitbull terrier and also heartworm positive, we felt that his chances of being adopted from a rural, low traffic facility were limited. After all, Reese had been picked up as a stray and held at CCAC for over eight months.
What challenges did you encounter?
For me the biggest challenge is one that is all too familiar, time management. I promised that I would be the primary care taker and house cleaner. You can’t rely on others (your partner, children, or roommates) to assume responsibility for your pet, so I had to change my routine so my dog could have his routine. That means waking up early to feed and walk Reese and leaving right after work to head home to feed and walk him. I’ve had to switch up my social life and workout routine, but now I have many more doggy friends and find myself choosing dog-friendly activities and places. It’s sort of like having a permanent toddler in your life. Sometimes I wish Reese would grow up so he could take care of me when I get old!
What special things have you learned about Reese or yourself?
I’ve learned that there is nothing more gleeful than a pittie smile! My dog is always delighted to see me. It’s an instant pick me up when things in life may be less than perfect.
Likewise, Reese is always there to cheer me on in my greatest moments, too! He’s just a very happy boy and his emotions shine through in his facial expressions and body language.
Dogs are extremely good at communicating with humans and each other. It’s really important to learn how to read them. I’m betting that many “problems” occur because people aren’t being perceptive to what their pet is trying to tell them.
Advice for shelter volunteers or future adoptive families?
Bringing a dog into your home is a huge commitment. You have to consider: How does this animal fit into my life now? Am I willing to keep this commitment for the next ten years or more?
Volunteering provided me with the opportunity to learn about dogs and what kind of dog would best suit my lifestyle. I got the chance to not only bond with so many different dogs but also to connect with other volunteers and the wonderful staff at Cheatham County Animal Control.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for the shelter dogs to be socialized and exercised and what a rewarding experience it is to get involved! I still visit CCAC when I can and help out. I am so grateful that Tails of the Trail opened up a whole new world of adventure to me.
Thank you to Sheryl and Paul for their story, photos, and most especially for allowing Reese to rescue them.