When many of your Facebook friends are animal lovers, rescue organizations or animal advocates in one way or another, you tend to run across some pretty heartbreaking stories.
Hopefully his previous owner somehow knows that Bum found a loving home. (Courtesy photo/Cheryl McCloud)
Posts about animal abuse, puppy mills or friends’ pets who die either from old age, accidents or illness are an everyday occurrence.
This morning, a post from a friend of a friend of a friend struck a chord with me. It’s a bittersweet story that brought me to tears, so I wanted to learn more and share with readers, especially this time of year.
Cheryl McCloud is the owner of Lake Haven Animal Rescue, which serves primarily Newaygo, Kent and Ottawa counties. As such, she has seen it all when it comes to people dumping off their pets, especially this time of year.
“Normally, I don’t get involved with the people who leave their pets; I just do the best I can to find a good home for the animal,” McCloud told me. “A lot of people this time of year decide they want to travel for the holidays and can’t take their pets, so they leave them at a shelter and don’t give a damn. I’m just concerned about the animal’s welfare.”
But one dog, dropped off last week, stuck with McCloud. His name is Bum, and he’s a 7-year-old beagle mix. The animal control officer who brought him to Lake Haven told McCloud the dog’s owner, an elderly man, was crying so hard when he brought Bum in that he could hardly fill out the paperwork to surrender him.
The man, who lived in a trailer park near Hardy Dam, was hooked to an oxygen tank and was forced to go live with his son in Rockford. The son, the animal control officer told McCloud, would not allow the dog.
“He’s a wonderful, wonderful dog,” McCloud said. “He’s housebroken, he’s good with kids, he’s good with cats, he’s good with other dogs. He’s just a great dog.”
It didn’t take long for Bum to find a loving home. After just a couple of days in foster care, he was adopted by a family with children. The family had taken a photo of Bum in bed with the kids and sent it to McCloud.
“This just really stuck with me,” McCloud said. “The guy obviously loved his dog, and the only reason he dropped it off was because he was dying. It just really touched me.”
Knowing how much it hurt the elderly man to give up his dog, McCloud wanted to ease his mind by letting him know Bum had found a wonderful home.
She managed to track down his contact information and called. No answer. After several attempts, a recording told McCloud the line had been disconnected.
She drove to the trailer park to meet the man and deliver the loving photo in person. The trailer was dilapidated. It was clear to McCloud the man had nothing, except for his loving dog. McCloud knocked on the door. No answer. She tooted her car horn in case the man couldn’t hear her knock. Nothing.
Finally, she went to a neighbor’s. The man had died last Friday, she was told. McCloud was devastated. She only wanted him to have peace with his decision by telling him about Bum’s new home and giving him the photo.
“I brought the picture because I intended to give him some comfort,” McCloud said.
“I cried all the way home.”
Since the neighbor was attending the service for the man, McCloud asked her to please place the photo in his casket. Hopefully, the neighbor followed through.
And hopefully, the old man with the broken heart knows that his precious dog Bum will live out his days the way he is supposed to — surrounded by love and in a home where he is a welcomed member of the family.
Shelters need your help
Because many people surrender their pets at this time of year, shelters are full and in desperate need of foster homes. If you are able to foster a dog or cat, even if only for a few weeks, please contact your local animal shelter or humane society to offer your help.
To contact Lake Haven, give McCloud a call at (231) 652-7507, reach her through the shelter’s website, lakehavenrescue.org or email her at email@example.com.