Big Dog Rescue Tallahassee FL
Millicent was a one-year-old, purebred black German Shepherd Dog when she came to Tallahassee Big Dog Rescue. She began her life in the home of an elderly woman in a nearby county. As the story was related to Tallahassee Big Dog Rescue, Millicent's parents were AKC registered German Shepherds, purchased by the owner's children to aid her in daily living. Reportedly, Josephine, Caesar, and their beautiful and elegant daughter Millicent had been trained as service dogs. Over time, it appears the elderly owner became incapacitated. At last, and due in part to the neighbors' perception that her many animals were being neglected, the authorities were called. Sadly, the result was that the owner was forcibly removed to a nursing home, and the animals-some 40 to 50-were confiscated and euthanized because there was no room for them. An exception was made for Josephine, Caesar, and Millicent. Due to the reports that these dogs had been trained as service dogs, and the fact that the two parents were not only purebred but AKC registered, they were spared. Happily, Caesar was adopted from the tiny shelter in his home county. Josephine and Millicent did not fare well, and languished in the shelter for a month. The shelter was no longer able to justify keeping them alive. In desperation, the shelter contacted Tallahassee Big Dog Rescue. After hearing the story, the president of our organization, Dee Ann Maxfield, agreed to take them, sight unseen. On Saturday, September 29th, 2001, she drove over 100 miles to save them. That day, a staff member of North Florida Animal Hospital stayed an hour and a half past normal closing time, just to receive Josephine and Millicent. On Monday, October 1st, Josephine and Millicent were spayed. Both were in heat at the time, making it a more difficult surgery for both doctor and patient. Both also had hookworms. Josephine, the mother, was open and friendly. Millicent, although she was physically healthy if a bit underweight, was depressed and listless. Millicent knew her name, and when I called her, she looked up, but never moved from the corner of her kennel. The same week, Tallahassee Big Dog Rescue was invited to set up a booth at an event called Equestrians Unite For America. The event took place on Sunday, October 7th, at The Farm on Meridian Road in Tallahassee. The equestrians in our community came together to hold a benefit for the Red Cross, in response to the September 11th terrorist attacks. The celebrity host of the event was Jill Henneberg, a Silver Medallist on the 1996 United States Olympic Equestrian Team, and it was Jill who invited us. We did not expect any adoptions that day, but we were grateful for the opportunity to expose our organization and our animals to a group of people we might not otherwise reach. We took a "sampling" of dogs and cats to the event that day. Bright and early at 8:30 that morning, we arrived and set up our table and tent in a corner of the pasture nearest the main drive leading from Meridian Road, far from the horses, so neither group scared the other. It was a postcard kind of day. It was cool in the early morning-in the upper 50's-and in the low 80's by mid-day, clear and sunny. Everything was bright and colorful, from the blue sky to the yellow lemonade stand to the shiny red fire trucks and the gleaming horses. With short periods of rest, Millicent and I roamed the grounds all day long. She was oohed and aahed over by the Sheriff's Department K-9 unit. Children petted her. She came face to face with a donkey, a goat, and a llama. Given the opportunity to run a bit more on a fish-line leash, she floated over the ground, with that peculiar and distinctive German Shepherd gait. Hard to believe, since only five days earlier it was obvious she had never worn a collar or been walked on a leash at all. She also seemed never to just have had fun. She was a serious and dignified dog, who didn't know what to do with a ball. At last the day came to an end. At 6:00 P.M., as long shadows began falling across our pasture, we began to break down our tent and pack up our crates. It had been a good day. As we had hoped, large numbers of people had been introduced to us. Better still, Toby the chocolate Labrador and Birdie the pointer mix had been adopted. As the day wound to a close, Millicent and I took our Red Cross donation box to the raffle area to turn it in. Though I had been walking the grounds all day, and I wore a Big Dog Rescue name badge, something clicked with the volunteer to whom I turned in the donation box. She said, "I've seen you walking all day long and I knew you were with Big Dog Rescue. I've been admiring the dog, but I never dreamed this dog was up for adoption." It is no surprise this kind woman thought the beautiful purebred German Shepherd must be a personal pet. Yet Millicent is not an exception to the rule. By some estimates, 25% of all dogs found in shelters are purebred, and are often classic examples of their breeds. "I have to go tell my daughter", the lady said. I returned to the area of our tent but within minutes, the woman appeared with her daughter, who was none other than Jill Henneberg, the Olympic Silver Medallist and celebrity host of the event. Jill was mesmerized by Millicent. With her was her tiny Jack Russell terrier Buster. As Millicent lay in the grass, Buster came up to her and laid his head on her side. "I have to have her, " Jill said. She went on to talk about the kind of life Millicent would lead. "Buster goes with me everywhere", she said, "and so will Millicent. When I travel around to horse shows, she can stay in my trailer if they won't let her in the hotel. When I go to all the farms around the county to teach riding, Millicent will always be with me. She will make 20 new friends a day, whether it is a horse, another dog, or a person." Millicent would be going from a life of neglect and depression to a dog's fairy tale. Quickly the paperwork was completed, and it was time for me to go. As Jill held Millicent on a leash, I walked down the fence to the gate, then through the gate to the drive, and across the drive to the area where my car was parked. I turned once, to see if Millicent could still see me as I got into the car. "Don't look back!" the small crowd at the fence, including Jill's mother, called out. "Her eyes have never left you!" As I drove away, I could see Jill leading Millicent out of the pasture, and her head was turning left to right, searching for me. I tried to drive away quickly, since I was afraid she would recognize the sound of my car. As happy as I was for Millicent, I was afraid for her too. I had seen this sensitive and intelligent dog in the kennel, with a lost and dead expression. I was afraid she would feel abandoned-again. What happened later is best told in Jill's words: "After everyone left, I stayed at The Farm to help clean up, keeping one eye on Millicent all the time. About two hours after everyone left, Millicent suddenly slipped out of her collar and began running toward the front of the property, toward the road. I had to jump a fence and I raced after her. When I caught up to her, she was standing still in the corner of the pasture where Big Dog Rescue's tent had been." She was looking for me, in the last place she had seen me. Jill's reaction was, "I thought that just showed how smart and loyal she was. I knew if I could ever get her to bond with me, I would never have to worry about her again." Jill sat down in the grass of the pasture and called Millicent's name. Millicent hesitated, as if the wheels were turning in her head. It was as if, Jill said, Millicent thought "I guess they really are gone, and my only choice now is either to run, or trust you." After a few tense seconds, Millicent trotted over and sat at Jill's feet. From that moment, Jill and Millicent (and Buster) have been inseparable, and Millicent has exactly the fairy tale life Jill promised. One week later, Jill and her mother brought Millicent to PetsMart where we were holding our normal bi-monthly adoption booth. I exclaimed over Millicent and couldn't wait to touch her. I stroked her face, but she seemed not to recognize me. As I turned away to talk to Jill and her mother, I felt something on my left side. Millicent had jumped up and put her paws on my shoulder. She was wagging her tail furiously and was reaching up to lick my face. Though it had taken a minute, she had recognized me after all. After that brief greeting (maybe a "Thank you"?), she had eyes only for Jill. At last Jill and her mother said goodbye, and Millicent trotted away adoringly beside Jill, with never a backward look. People often ask us how we can do what we do, keep the dogs in our homes, grow to love them, and then give them up. Frankly, it's hard, but hopefully this story shows why it's worth it. I wish to thank Jill Henneberg, the adoptive parents of Toby and Birdie for taking them to a new and special home on that sunny October day, and all our other adoptive parents. They too are celebrities to us and to their dogs.