The Heart of the Matter                                                                                                                                                                             September 1, 2010
“When we lost Kramer, we were devastated”. Kramer, an 11 year old bulldog had been a part of the Robertson  family for 10 years. In a way, he was a rescue, because Andy and Donna gave him a home when another family member couldn’t keep him. At the time they felt it was the right thing to do, never knowing the path that Kramer would lead them to or the impact that he would ultimately have on their lives. What started out as a simple act of kindness led them into the world of rescue, where unconditional love, loss and healing are lessons that are taught by four-legged (and 3-legged) creatures.

As bulldogs have a way of doing, Kramer became the love of Donna and Andy’s lives. He was an integral part of their family, which also included a young Shepherd mix named Mr. Bojangles. When Kramer passed away, Donna felt as if her heart was broken and that she would never be able to really open her heart again to another dog. But Mr. Bojangles was lonely, so she toyed with the idea.

Donna started looking into English Bulldog rescue. They, of course, had fallen in love with the breed and she just didn’t feel right about buying a dog when there were so many out there in need. Even though her friends at work

told her not do it, and begged her to get a puppy instead, she felt almost like it would be “cheating”. She decided that she would rescue a bulldog in honor of Kramer. Kramer was a very kind dog and she just knew this is what he would have wanted.

When Donna and Andy discovered Chicago English Bulldog Rescue they became obsessed with reading every adoptable dog’s profile and watching their on-line videos. Donna was saddened by many of the stories and wanted to adopt them all, but decided that the way to go would be to adopt the dog that really needed them the most. They came to a CEBR Meet-N-Greet at PAWS Chicago and met several of the dogs that were being fostered at the time. Donna was impressed by the candor of the volunteers who seemed more concerned with making appropriate matches for the dogs, rather than “selling” their attributes to potential adopters. She knew she had come to the right place.

It was at PAWS that she met Tyson. Tyson was a 5 year old bulldog that came into rescue with a broken hip and an improperly healed ACL injury. Tyson had been in severe pain for a while before coming into CEBR’s care. After consulting with our vet, it was decided that the only thing that we could do to help Tyson was to amputate his leg.

When Donna met Tyson at PAWS the only thing she saw was how much he needed her. She didn’t even flinch about the fact that he was a 3-legged bulldog. She felt that a lot of people get bulldogs for their looks and image. But that’s all that she could see was an adorable boy that needed to be in a home that would accept him just as he was.

When the day came to adopt Tyson, Donna panicked for a moment, but not for any of the reasons that one might think. It had nothing to do with taking on a 3-legged bulldog that was still in the process of healing from an amputation. It had to do with Kramer. By adopting Tyson Donna knew that she had to go into it wholeheartedly and give him all of the love that she could. This meant that she would really have to move on and finally say goodbye to Kramer. She told herself, “I have to make room for another dog that really needs me”. And Andy in his quiet and sensitive way, gave Donna a locket with Kramer’s picture in it. Donna wore the locket when they picked up Tyson and it gave her the courage to take the leap of faith which changed her attitude about the heart’s capacity for love.

She had no idea that she could possibly fall in love with another dog so quickly. Tyson brought the joy back into their home. Sure he was a bit slower than Mr. Bojangles, but he never looked at himself as a disabled dog. He loved his new life with the Robertson’s and they loved him. So it was almost unbelievable to Donna when four months later, Tyson became critically ill and ended up quickly succumbing to cancer. How could this be happening again?

But this time there was something different. The pain was no less intense and the heartbreak was crushingly real, but in his short time in their household Tyson had taught Donna so much. In a nutshell, Tyson had taught her that it was possible to love again and to open her heart. Tyson had taught her that there are no guarantees in life and she was grateful for every single minute that she had with him and she had absolutely no regrets. At the core of what she learned was “love is not about a length of time, true love is about doing what you can to make a difference”. And she knew that they had made a real difference in Tyson’s life and he in theirs.

Despite her friends who were now adamant that she must get a puppy, Donna knew in her heart that she wouldn’t do it. She needed some time to grieve, but she knew that when the time was right she would do it all over again and that the time would be right when another dog needed her.

And then along came Boss. Boss is a very big boy who came into rescue when his owner became critically ill. Boss was grieving over the loss of his family just as the Robertson’s were grieving over the loss of Tyson. They needed each other, and CEBR knew that Donna and Andy, with their huge hearts and their real commitment to rescue, were just the ticket for Boss.

Boss has been with Robertson’s for a bit over a month now and he is settling in well. Of course he is different from Kramer and Tyson, but he is building his own special place in their family and learning to trust again. And Mr. Bojangles finally has a playmate that can match his strength and stamina. Donna is waiting for that moment to come when she knows that Boss feels that he is “home for good”. She knows that every dog is different, but she sees the good in all of them. “Every dog deserves the chance to walk tall and regain their confidence after they’ve been hurt. All of them deserve to be safe and to be loved”.

And lucky Boss, and lucky Mr. Bojangles are at home and safe with the Robertson’s, true rescue angels. And as for Tyson, of course he now shares the other side of the locket with Kramer, and a place forever in their hearts.

Boss,Waiting for his Second Chance
Rescue Tales
Copyright 2010.  Chicago English Bulldog Rescue, Inc.  All rights reserved.