A Cinderella Story

By Suzanne Gassner

Allow me to tell you the story of Annie. Annie is a mixed breed of undetermined heritage, probably part sheltie, maybe a little spaniel. Annie’s story begins, as so many of the amazing animals I have had the honor of assisting, with cruelty. She was a victim of severe beatings, starvation, disease and extreme neglect, chained outdoors in freezing weather with no protection. She was also full of intestinal parasites, very anemic and pregnant.

When I first met Annie, any attempt to touch her sent her screaming a heart-wrenching cry, running and digging at the floor in a vain attempt to escape pain. What had this poor dog been exposed to? As Annie trembled in fear I tried to reassure her that her painful days were over. Her deep brown eyes defied her body language. It seemed that Annie was fighting an inner battle: the unconditional love that is such a part of the beloved canine had been betrayed and she was unable to trust.

Annie’s recovery was literally one step forward and then a retreat to the fear that had been her constant companion for so long. Day after day we worked on building trust—in us, in herself, in the world around her. Four years later Annie has emerged as one of the most loving dogs that I have ever met. She shares her sweet demeanor twice weekly with a group of Alzheimer residents and has brought joy and smiles to some very lonely hearts.

Is Annie’s story miraculous? No. Sadly I hear similar stories all the time. It’s the beauty of the canine spirit. It’s what has earned them the title of “man’s best friend.” If only we deserved such devotion and treated them equally.

October is nationally known as “Adopt A Dog Month” designated to honor our canine companions and boost efforts to find responsible homes for the thousands of homeless dogs in our community. If you are considering opening your heart and home to a new best friend, now is the perfect time. The Humane Society of Missouri has hundreds of wonderful dogs all with their own story and all in need of a happily ever after, Cinderella ending like Annie’s. To view our current residents, visit us at www.hsmo.org and click on ‘adopt.’ Someone is waiting for you!

Suzanne Gassner is Director of Education for the Humane Society of Missouri. Visit their website to learn more about the programs available for your students or to download over 60 full lesson plans for your class. www.hsmo.org.