Mikey came into the Long Island shelter as a stray with his sister more than a year ago. His sister, a smaller breed, was adopted right away, but in Barbara’s words, “Mikey just shut down.” The shelter can be stressful for any dog, but Mikey took it hard; there were days in the beginning when he was so miserable and crestfallen he spent the entire day sleeping, hoping perhaps he’d wake up somewhere else.
For a long time, Mikey was too distraught even to take treats from the volunteer’s hands. The day he finally accepted a treat from Barbara’s outstretched palm is one she’ll never forget. For the first time, he made eye contact with her, as if to say, “I’m so happy you’re here.” In that moment, she says, “My heart burst.” For a second, she even thought she might have imagined it.
Now, as soon as Barbara enters the building, if he can hear her voice from rooms away,Mikey perks up. He’s showing the first signs of real joy and playfulness; he gives kisses, rolls over for belly rubs.
But for all the progress Mikey’s made, he’s also losing hope. A part of him understands the fact that no one has shown any interest in adopting him. The other day Barbara came into the shelter to find him lying down, his whole body shivering. “It wasn’t because he was cold,” she says. It’s because he’s aching for a home. His body can’t handle the anxiety.
“He’s giving up,” Barabara confesses. She then falls silent, taking a minute just to cry. There are some cases, like Mikey’s, that hit even the most experienced volunteer where it hurts the most. That searching look in Mikey’s eye is fading. In the shelter, Mikey is constantly panting from the stress, and the shelter staff wish for “the day when he finally takes a breath.”
Mikey is housebroken, which suggests he was once part of a family. However, Barbara explains, “Nobody ever came looking for him.” The thing about “invisible” dogs—dogs who have been overlooked for so long— is that although they might be hard to find, they never lose sight of the real meaning of unconditional love. If Mikey finds a family to call his own, that family will never spend another day without a wagging tail, a gentle kiss, an overturned belly. When Mikey loves you, says Barbara, “It’s the best feeling in the world.”
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