It takes a courageous heart to love a grey muzzle. This morning as I write this, my heart is aching for my friend Sharon who has loved and recently lost two precious grey muzzles. I, too, know all to well the pain of opening one’s heart to these precious gifts from God, to watch them blossom after years of neglect, only to lose them much too soon. They often come to us with guarded looks of fear, they are hesitant to be loved, some have known love in their former lives only to be condemned to death row in high kill shelters simply because they are old, left to sit for days scared and alone in a cage not understanding why they have been abandoned, others have never known love. I’m not sure what is worse, those that have known the love of a family and then are thrown away so carelessly, or those poor souls who waited patiently throughout their lives waiting for someone to love them in return as they so freely gave their love.

My journey to loving and saving these amazing creatures began the day I saw my beloved Miss Daisy almost four years ago. I didn’t think my heart was ready to love again after just having lost my precious Sophie Bear, a 10 year old ‘chowbador’ to cancer, but one look in Daisy’s eyes and I knew Sophie sent her to me. I’d never adopted an older dog before – the love and pure joy she brought to my life in a very short time is hard to put into words. I could write page after page of the moments we shared together in seven short months and still not be able to adequately express all she gave me, quite simply she filled my heart each and every day. The day that Daisy went to the rainbow bridge was the day I knew my life calling – to love and save as many of these precious souls as possible. The night before she left me, we sat quietly on the couch and Daisy gently put her paw in my lap and stared into my eyes with a love that is hard to describe. After she was gone I realized she was telling me that all was well and to keep my heart open, she had to leave me but she knew she was loved and cherished and that was all that mattered.

Today’s post is dedicated to another very special grey muzzle, Jake and his courageous forever mom, Sharon. Breast cancer survivors are warriors who wear pink, I’m beginning to think that those who open their hearts to a grey muzzle should be known as warriors who wear grey – and wear it courageously! Sharon is one such warrior.

Sweet Jake

Sharon adopted Bella, her first Daisy Dog (a foster dog with Daisy’s Place Retriever Rescue). After fostering Bella for several months, she knew she couldn’t let her go and thus became, what we in rescue lovingly refer to as, a ‘foster failure’. Bella was a big exuberant grey muzzled black Lab mix (the canine equivalent to Mae West) who captured the hearts of all she met! I say ‘was’, because sadly Bella went to the rainbow bridge at the end of last year.

Now Jake on the other hand, was not exuberant by any stretch of the imagination. I first met Jake when he came to us from a small rural shelter with his ‘brother”, a beautiful yellow Lab. Jake was ‘just a big old black dog’, definitely part Labby, most likely mixed with some chow and various other breeds. It was clear that Jake had always lived in his brother’s shadow, he was shy and timid and very slow to warm up to people. Of course, Jake melted my heart immediately. One day a very wealthy lady came to one of our Daisy adoption events and met Jake’s brother, she later called and said she wanted to adopt him and had heard he came into rescue with another dog, (he was in another foster home as we didn’t have any available that would take them both) and that she would adopt him as well. My heart soared thinking that these two sweet old souls would have such a great life together for the rest of their days! And they did, for a short time. They lived on a large estate and were ‘living the good life’ for all intents and purposes. Until the day I got a phone call from someone at our vet’s office telling me that Jake’s adopter wanted to put him down. Apparently one of the staff at Jake’s new home had given bones to the two dogs along with a small dog who resided on the property – and then left them all alone. Anyone who knows dogs, knows that giving dogs (especially large and small together) bones and then leaving them alone is a recipe for disaster.

Jake was blamed for attacking the smaller dog and going after the bone. I was outraged that this had happened and most of all that the adopter had not called me as it is stated in the adoption contract that Daisy Dogs are never to be put to sleep without first contacting the rescue. I immediately went and picked up Jake and this was to be the beginning of the ‘real’ good life for our sweet boy!

After several weeks in a temporary foster home, Jake went to live with Sharon. She was only ‘fostering’ she kept telling me, but of course, we both knew that Jake had found his forever home. Bella welcomed Jake with open paws, and with the love and patience he received from Sharon, Jake began to slowly come out of his shell. It started with a little bounce in his step and over time he began to literally dance with joy whenever he saw his mom! This big old ‘black dog’ had finally found the love he deserved and he was no longer scared or timid – he lived life to the fullest and filled Sharon’s days with love and joy. Jake was finally ‘home’ and he knew the real meaning of the word for several blessed years.

Last Friday Jake jumped out of the back of Sharon’s car after a routine trip to the vet and gave out a small yelp of pain. Sharon took him back to the vet on Saturday morning where he spent much of the day under observation. He was presenting a variety of symptoms and at first the vet thought he might have a spinal injury. He wasn’t eating and was having a hard time standing. Sharon took him home armed with IV fluids and kept a careful watch over the weekend, with our wonderful vet calling and checking in via phone throughout.

Yesterday, just four days after the first indication that there was something wrong with Jake, I was at our vet with one of my grey muzzles, Magnolia, who’s being treated for Lupus. Our vet told me that Sharon was on her way back in with Jake as he still wasn’t doing well. I went out to the parking lot where Jake was sitting in the back of Sharon’s car while they drew blood – I joked about the ‘curbside’ service that he was receiving and Magnolia went up to give him a nose nuzzle. Jake actually stood up to greet Magnolia and I took this as a very good sign. Sharon and I stood there chatting for a bit with the vet techs and she decided to have some xrays done to try and determine the cause of Jake’s discomfort. At that point I had to leave as I was running late for a class and still had to get Magnolia home. I gave Jake a hug and kiss and told him to stop scaring his mom – then I hugged Sharon and told her to call me as soon as she had the xray results. It never dawned on me that this would be the last time I would touch Jake’s soft fur or look into his big beautiful eyes, so filled with love and trust.

An hour later I checked my phone while sitting in class – and there it was, a text from Sharon telling me that the xrays showed a large tumor in Jake’s liver and that he had joined his sister Bella and my beloved Daisy and so many other grey muzzles at the rainbow bridge. My heart filled with sorrow – and anger, anger that he was gone so soon, anger that these amazing creatures wait so long to tell us when something is wrong and yes, anger at myself for leaving. And then I realized that my heart was also filled with gratitude, gratitude for Sharon and all the others who have the courage to love these precious grey muzzles in their golden years – and gratitude to Jake for teaching us all that it’s never too late to open our hearts to love.

Run free dear Jake, although you are gone from this earth, you’ll always live on in our hearts – especially in the heart of your forever and ever mom, Sharon.

many blessings,