Jeanne  Balsam Studio Site
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The Gift

Not long ago I received a gift ... two gifts, in fact. No, it wasn't John Beresford Tipton with a check for a million dollars and my future security. It was a gift for my heart.

The first was an e-mail from someone who adopted a rescue dog from me many years ago. Larry wrote that he and his wife Jeannie had searched me out on the web to tell me that Deuce had passed away and to thank me for "the best dog they ever had." In quiet tears, I responded ... to thank them for letting me know, and indeed, what a wonderful dog Deuce had been. I was so grateful that Larry and his family had adopted him.

It wasn't but three weeks later that the second gift arrived ... another e-mail. Jon and Diane also searched me out on the web to let me know that Spike had just passed away at 13, also to thank me for "the best dog they ever had." Again, I responded in kind.

For ten years I ran a rescue for, I believe, the most difficult dog to place - the American Pit Bull Terrier. I placed Deuce and Spike well over 12 years ago when they were just youngsters, and before e-mail. Although we kept in touch, it wasn't easy when one's lives were consumed with multiple jobs and, in my case, a demanding rescue on top of it. But the best thing about placing Deuce, Spike, and all the other `pits' I placed, was I never had to look back. I knew, through my extensive screening, breed education and adoption requirements, that these pups were now set for life. (Ask any of my adopters - they were grilled!)

Rescuing `pits' presented tremendous challenges; they are truly misunderstood dogs. Their history, their true temperament, their genuine love of people - what the public needed to know was not what they heard. Instead, they were slammed with horrific, isolated incidents where unstable and undoubtedly abused pit bull terriers attacked humans. As if there were no other news going on in the world.

Pit bull terriers were ... and are ...horribly abused, tortured, made insane and killed -- for not being good enough fighters. Imagine the worst ... they suffer(ed) much more. Some, still alive, were simply wrapped up in plastic bags and dropped in the garbage. Just not good enough.

My heart was broken more times than I can tell in saving these dogs' lives. So many were, and are, stable, loving and kind dogs, euthanized nonetheless for simply being born the wrong breed and being bred to excess.

Yet, as a rescue, I received so many gifts. I was truly blessed with people who came forward to help me save this wonderful dog no one wanted. Vets, trainers, foster homes, experienced rescue people to guide me in effectively screening ... all appeared. The pit bull terriers I had the fortune to know and help were themselves gifts I will never forget. But perhaps the greatest gifts, for both the dogs and me, were the truly caring and devoted people who took them in.

These rescue dogs lived long, healthy lives, and then I received one more gift.

An e-mail to let me know.

Note: This article was published in a national animal magazine, The Animal Companion.

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