The Story of Dale; Who Rescued Who?

[From CILRA: Dale’s original family loved him very much, but realized they were no longer able to give him the care and attention he deserved. They reached out to CILRA for help in finding him a better home, and were patient until the perfect adopter came along. That perfect adopter was Amber C., and this is her tale of hearts.]

The Story of Dale, Who Rescued Who?

Every “Rescue” has a story behind it. CILRA volunteers asked if I would share my very personal story about my recently rescued Labrador, Dale. I really didn’t think my story was anything special until I saw the tears in that volunteer’s eyes when I shared how I knew Dale was “the one.”

AMBER – First, I must share some of my story. Being raised in a farm lifestyle between my parents’ and grandparents’ properties, I have always had lots of different kinds of animals in my life. I was taught to care for them properly so they can fulfill their purpose. A dog (or five) was always a necessity to help with the cattle work, hunting for food, or just to be a companion when the day was spent out in a field to work on a fence or doing barn chores for hours by yourself. My dad raised Saint Bernards for a little while when I was around 4 years old. My husband and I had rescued greyhounds from the tracks when they were sent into retirement. When our children grew older, we began fostering during adoption transitions, and transporting them all over the state and surrounding states. The airport staff knew us well as we pulled into the cargo hangers with our big suburban to collect the special “live animal” shipments arriving from Florida. In short, my life always had a dog of some kind in it until our Rat Terrier passed a few years ago. The intent was to rescue another dog and give it a good life. A series of life changes and events were happening and prevented the option to consider getting another dog with all these commitments. Looking back, God knew this was not the timing when I would need a companion the most. When would I even have time for a rescued dog that needed extra attention?

Just as life started feeling somewhat back to normal, my husband of 30 years was diagnosed with colon cancer during a routine colonoscopy. I was devastated, I had just gone through this with my mother. She beat the odds, so I stayed positive that he could fight and do the same. The diagnosis was stage 4. This was not the news we had prayed so hard for. Together we went into the treatment plan with positive attitudes and hopeful outlooks despite the diagnosis. His journey was one with many painful obstacles and he continued to overcome them one by one until there was nothing more that could be done. He passed in September of 2022. My life was completely upside down. How would I move forward? Then I thought back to a conversation we had in the recent weeks before his passing. He shared that when the time comes for him to leave this Earth, he wanted me to get the dog I had been waiting so patiently to rescue. He said a dog would provide some daily company, love, and would protect me when he could not. He said he would send me a good dog and I would know in my heart that it came from him…“it will be a golden one – I promise”, he added.

DALE – Now that you know some things about me, let’s talk about Dale. He’s really what this story is about. Once things settled for me a bit, I started getting a feeling that it was time to start thinking about my future dog. At the very least I wanted to figure out what breed of dog would be best for me. Someone suggested I start with a “pet finding” app that asks questions to help you determine the best match. I tried a few different apps as suggested and all of them said the same thing… Labrador Retriever. Well, that is one breed I had never had. Several of my friends had them and had always talked about what great dogs they are. Okay, let’s just see how this app works, I thought. It matched me with 89 dogs. So overwhelming, how would I choose? I wanted to save them all. The third one was a dog named Dale. He was a beautiful large yellow Labrador. I kept scrolling through the photos and bios and eventually I went through all 89 dogs, and nothing was hitting me as “the one”. Let’s try another app. It matched me with 58 dogs. Again, there is that “Dale dog” in the “best choice” category. Let me say that no other dog from those 89 in the other app even came up. I started thinking about that a little bit. Let’s try one more app. It matched me with 73 dogs. The number one choice was this “Dale dog” again. Everything was leading me back to this dog that had been waiting for his forever home for a lengthy amount of time. What is it about this dog that it keeps matching to me? I had tried to schedule a visit with some other dogs, and it wasn’t working out for one reason or another. So, I decided to see what this “Dale dog” is about. I read the bio over and over trying to decide if I wanted to make this leap just yet. I stayed up late a few nights researching and trying to justify moving forward with this quest. Once you start the adoption process, you really should make sure you are ready to follow through with the search. From my own experience I knew the volunteers put a great deal of time into this, and I didn’t want to waste their time. I called some friends who had this breed and asked questions. One friend said, “You want the golden ones. They’re the best of the breed.” “Golden one”? Wasn’t that what my husband had said, “I will send you a good dog – it will be a golden one”. Yes, it’s time…I had convinced myself this was a sign from my angel to check out Dale more closely. I completed the application before I changed my mind, had a phone interview a couple days later to discuss things in detail, had the home visit to make sure it was safe for adopting a dog, and “boom” I had just scheduled a visit with “Dale” who was almost 3 hours away. I took the day off work to go on this visit. On that day the entire drive was in snow and icy weather. As I drove, I thought I must be out of my mind driving in this bad weather for 3 hours to see this “Dale dog”.

I arrive at the foster home where Dale was staying. I told myself as I was walking to the door not to get my hopes up because the dog must choose you. It could take a few visits with different dogs to decide which to adopt. As I walked in, this 100lb. dog is coming full blast at me tail wagging and jumping with joy to see another human come through the door. Having been around large dogs most of my life and caring for horses weighing near two thousand pounds, I was not uneasy about his size or high energy. After a few minutes, he was comfortable enough to come to me in a more relaxed state and check this human out. They said I was the 26th application they reviewed trying to choose the perfect forever home for Dale. He was intent and listened. I could see the potential in him as he looked up at me tongue hanging out with a huge doggy smile on his face. He just wanted to be loved, needed a job, and wanted a home where he could do all the doggy things Labradors like to do. I could see that his heart was as big as his hundred-pound body. I felt a familiar hug as I wrapped my arms around him.

This is “the one”. He was chosen for me and I for him. He was waiting all this time for me to be ready to be his human. It only took me a few minutes before I committed to adopting Dale. I knew I had a big project with him, but someone needed to do this for him and I was able.

My head was spinning the entire drive back home. I was getting a dog…the dog… I prepared in a frenzy for the next few days before for his arrival. I was buying the things he needed, installing fencing in the bad winter weather, doggy proofing the house, and just making sure he was going to be safe and comfortable for his transition. Then, it happened, the big day was here. He was certainly a handful when he arrived. He knew some basic commands to help get me through the next few days as I worked with him on the leash. He didn’t know how to play with toys, he had not slept on a bed with a human (he does now), his socialization needed work, and he needed to get some exercise to get his weight where it should be.

I work from home and am so lucky to get to spend lots of time with him during the day. I’m sure he thinks he is my supervisor as he takes his place in his special corner of my office. We take our daily car rides, go to the family farm, run outside for hours at a time playing, and recently started obedience school to refresh his skills. He is definitely a “super chewer”, we were going through the doggy toys like his treat biscuits. He now has a subscription to get his monthly box of goodies and toys. He watches for the delivery driver every day and meets him at the end of the sidewalk. The driver not only has Dale’s box, but a treat for him as well. He might be a little spoiled. We live near a state park and our next adventure after the obedience training is in place is to do some hiking, camping, and just have fun living our best lives. He has adapted well in his new home. I thank my angel every day for sending this dog to me. Dale is my “golden one” for sure.

The question I still ask myself, “who saved who”?