Lizzie and Tammy

For those who have read Virginia Grainger’s piece about Tammy in the Volunteer Blog, Lizzie’s telling of Tammy’s story brings you behind the scenes to the amazing amount of time and love that went into Tammy’s adoption. Here is Lizzie’s story:

I love my job at the Marin Humane shelter where I am a vet assistant.  Every day, we get to help the animals that come into our care, often needing all the assistance it is possible to give them.  When things work out well for them – as is usually the case – we shelter workers get a feeling of pleasure and achievement that is hard to describe.  Let’s look at some of our recent arrivals.

Almost five months ago, Tammy was brought to the shelter – a senior with a lovely soft tan coat and a sweet, open and inquisitive face.  I am a sucker for Chihuahua/Terriers like Tammy – and I liked her from day one.  But my co-workers and I knew right away that it was going to be very difficult to find her the new home and the new family she needed so much.   


Tammy soon showed us that she had some serious behavioral challenges and was going to be a hard sell.  Probably the most difficult one to deal with was her dislike of being touched by strangers or even by some people she had come to recognize.  It looked like a deal-breaker.  How could the shelter adopt out a dog that recoiled in fear at the slightest touch?  People like to feel a connection with a possible pet.  They like to pet and caress them before making up their minds.  Tammy just wasn’t having it.

But there was something very special about her and I felt myself warming toward her every day.   Taking her out for walks around the shelter campus was something I looked forward to.  She enjoyed getting out and about too.  One day I decided to have her sit at my desk during the day to give her kennel relief – and that turned into months of her hanging out with me.  I started feeding her all her meals.  We spent so much time together and grew to really love each other.

Tammy rocking a colorful scarf

When I tell people I work at an animal shelter they often ask me how I can do it without wanting to take all the animals home.  It’s a good question!  I wish I could adopt them all but I have gotten used to the fact that that isn’t realistic.  I suppose it is like being a nurse or an emergency care worker in a hospital.  You love all of your patients and do your very best for them but there must be boundaries.  You do everything for them – and then they leave.

But every now and then there’s an animal that really means an extra something to you and you REALLY want to take them home! Tammy was that dog – but I couldn’t do that for her, sadly.  I was feeling very worried about Tammy because it seemed no one wanted to adopt her with her quirky ways.   Visitors looked at her and admired the pretty little dog – but Tammy still refused to warm to them.  It wasn’t working.

Although she got used to her routine at the shelter and overall did quite well considering she was there for so long, she still wanted to love someone. I could always see the sorrow in her eyes when she had to go back into her kennel at the end of my shift, or when I left for the day.  I hated leaving her.

Tammy and her new family #happyendings

And then one day, a wonderful couple came to the shelter and they were totally OK with it when we explained Tammy’s special needs.  They were willing to take their time with her. They were super patient and understanding, and they accepted that they literally wouldn’t be able to touch Tammy until they had built a good, solid relationship. They came several times to meet her and had many discussions with me and my awesome coworker, Laura Anderson, who also spent a great deal of time working with Tammy.

After much time, patience and discussion they took Tammy home the other day!   Tammy actually jumped on her new Mom’s lap right after they signed the paper work.   I couldn’t be happier for Tammy and her new family. They see in her what I always have – a very special, sweet dog who deserves to live out her golden years in a loving home.  We miss her, but we are so happy for our little Tammy.

Another day at the office – and another little bundle in need of loving care!  Mina, also a Chihuahua Mix, recently underwent bilateral knee surgery for severe luxating patellas (when the kneecaps move away from their proper place).  She is on cage rest, snoozing the day away as she heals, going outside for quick potty breaks only.

Mina and her stylin’ wheels

However, she still loves to get out into the fresh air and sunshine – so we take Mina out in her stylish stroller just like any other Marin County baby doing a wheel run.  She loves it.  So much so, she probably prefers riding the stroller to walking!

Patches looking like a model for BARk’s Smiling Dogs

Getting out into the world with Mina has been Patches  who is also recovering from issues – both physical and psychological.  Patches came to Marin Humane as a stray who was reportedly hit by a car. He was lucky because road rash was the extent of his injuries.  It could have been far worse. He has done well under vet care.   

When he arrived, he was very fearful of people in the shelter and it took a few weeks to get him to be comfortable enough to even let us leash him up for a walk. After Patches started getting out more and making friends, he starting losing his defensive fear – as many shelter animals do when they get TLC treatment – and he has slowly blossomed into a friendly, active, happy guy.   

Lizzie and friends

Mina and Patches were both long time residents of the shelter clinic, and both required extra special attention in their own ways.   Patches is in one of our wonderful foster homes – and I have just heard that Mina is being adopted.  Walking them on stroller patrol has been fun for them and fun for us too.  As I said at the start of this blog – I love my job.