The Dog Blog 9.11.12
PennVet WDC

Going Full Circle

The Lady: “We were out of the house at 3:30 this morning and on the way to PennVet WDC for their opening event. We were an important part of the show. Well, not us, but we were carrying an important part – Socks.

With the notable exception of the traffic (can ANYONE make it from Valley Forge to Center City in less than an hour??), the drive was a pleasant one. We just didn’t talk much about what we were there to do. On arrival at PennVet, everyone – from the lady in the guard house and the volunteers at the hosting table to the other guests, volunteers and foster families – did whatever they could do to make us feel valued and important. And oh, my, what they have done!

Socks’ foster “dad” was one of the first people we met. She took to Craig quickly – and he to her! – even before Amie, his wife, arrived. We knew in a moment that she was placed well. These “parents” were going to give Socks all the love and discipline she was going to need. They were also providing Socks with two big sisters. How’s that for hitting the lottery?

The facility is top notch. The pups have a beautiful environment for their “nursery school”. Socks christened the spongy floor by upending her water bowl and playing in the puddle. While I was cleaning THAT up (with the help of one of the countless volunteers), another staff member came by and added something to Socks that made it very clear that her life was going to change. She got a vest. Bright red, chest straps and embroidered with the PennVet Working Dog Center’s logo. It was only one of the moments that brought tears to my eyes. There were many more.

The program attracted a very large crowd – several hundred people and countless press and photographers were there. We met two dogs who worked at the WTC on 9-11 and the days that followed – Kaiser and Bret. We met Morgan who worked at the Staten Island Landfill where Socks Lavoie for whom OUR Socks is named worked. It was described as very difficult work where the dogs worked through sifted debris to find remains of the dead. More tears.

We heard from members of the University, Homeland Security and even a TV celebrity. Those evoked some tears, yes, but also laughter.

We saw the two empty white chairs on the stage. They were decorated with ribbons, one red, one blue. And we saw the coiled leash on one of the chairs. They were there to remind us of the lives that were lost – human and canine – on that dreadful day. We saw the portrait of Sirius. Many, many tears.

There was a formalized process for handing off the puppies to their foster families. One by one, the puppies were walked down a catwalk…..well, maybe we should call it a dogwalk for this purpose. Jack picked up Socks and we walked onto the stage. Craig and Amie followed. Jack handed Socks to Amie and we moved aside together to allow the next puppy a moment in the spotlight. As we watched, Amie stood next to me with Socks, Jack and Craig standing behind us. With all the commotion, it was probably more than a little stressful for the pups. As Amie cuddled Socks close and whispered to her, Socks reached out and put her paw on my chest. I wanted to believe it was because she still needed me. I suspect it was more because she thought I needed consolation! Dogs, even young puppies, can be very perceptive.

Among the most emotional moments was the hand over of the pups named after those three hero dogs that were on stage. There’s a new Kaiser, a new Bret and a new Morgan. Just like Socks and the other dogs in the class, they all carry the name of dogs who worked when they were needed.

Jack would tell you I was a camera hog. Not true! I just happened to be holding the cutest puppy there. He might also say I was pretty tearful. Well, that’d be true. I sure wasn’t alone. Cindy Otto cried, too. I saw her.

This is a longer post than normal. The event deserved it.”