Sunday, July 11, 2010

Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend and AARF Icon

We lost a member of the AARF family this week. And more than that, we lost an icon of what AARF is, why we do what we do, and what we believe.

Bocelli was about 5 years old when he came to AARF. He was at a local county shelter, and was overwhelmed and terrified. Bocelli had more to overcome than most dogs - he was blind. An evaluation of his eyes by a specialist showed that he was almost certainly born blind. Bad and unethical breeding often results in birth defects, and Bocelli's blindness was likely caused by the breeding practices of an unscrupulous backyard breeder.

Bocelli also faced another challenge. He had severe separation anxiety. It was literally impossible to keep him safe in a house, even in a crate. Somehow, he would figure out how to get out of a crate, out of closed bedroom, even out a locked house. He just wanted to be with someone who could make him feel safe. So, we had a dog that couldn't be contained and was so stressed out when he was alone that he would get out of anywhere, and literally wander off blindly.

Bocelli was with AARF for around a year. And along the way, so many people wanted to give up on him -- vets, trainers, fosters, potential adopters. But we were not willing to give up on him.

Our motto is clear - "creating a world where every pet matters." And pets like Bocelli matter. We knew that there was someone out there who would be the perfect match for him. He would have the life he always deserved, and his new person or family would have one of the most loving, gentle and loyal dogs we had ever met.

That someone was Carroll. If ever there was an example of an absolute connection, Carroll and Bocelli were it. Bocelli picked Carroll, and within just a few hours, Bocelli and Carroll both knew he was home.

Over the years, Carroll worked consistently with Bocelli. He learned to feel comfortably staying alone, and his separation anxiety was markedly better. She took him to training, and he even passed his Canine Good Citizen test. Bocelli and Carroll became the motivation behind and faces of Silver Paws. They attended Kids N Kritters events and Silver Paws presentations at senior centers.

Over the past few months, Bocelli's health declined dramatically. He began to have seizures, and developed cognitive dysfunction. His arthritis progressed rapidly. But he continued to be the sweet and loyal Bocelli we all knew.

Over the July 4th weekend, Carroll knew it was time. Bocelli's quality of life had declined dramatically and his joy in life seemed to be gone. She made what is often one of the hardest, and most compassionate, decisions we can make as pet guardians. She let Bocelli go in the most loving and kind way.

Today, I am honoring the memory of this wonderful boy and his loving human companion. I hold both of them dear to my heart, and I have learned so much from them over the years. I know what it looks like to live in a world where every pet matters, because I watched them. Their lives together are the vision of what I want for every pet, and for every person that loves that pet.

Sleep well, my sweet friend. And know that your legacy will live on for years to come. Because of you, because of your life, and because of what you mean to what we do, many more lives will be saved.