|We were given permission to reprint this story from Amy McCracken, Executive Director at beloved Richmond Animal League:
Watching Alyssa die was the hardest thing I have ever done. Despite her incredible bravery and the crazy goodness of her family, it was, in a word, hellish. Floppy (stuffed animal) was under her shoulder the entire time. Her doll, Sallerina, close by. So many of my friends had become totally invested in her life, and losing her after all she had been through was devastating.
August 2, 2013
I went back to work. For the first time since coming to work for Richmond Animal League, I was alone at the shelter. We had an off-site training that everyone was attending and there was not one of our 300 volunteers lurking about. I was very, very grateful to be there alone. As amazing and loving as everyone had been to me, I did not want to see or talk to anyone. I was just sitting at my desk staring at my computer when I realized that the dogs were going nuts. I have no idea how long they were carrying on. I just knew that something wasn’t right. I went to the door closest to my office and looked in the long skinny glass window to the kennel. There was a huge white dog standing at the door. Just standing there. And the kenneled dogs were so mad. Huge White Dog wasn’t barking at all. He was just standing there at the door. I could not see that he was wearing a collar because he is so fluffy. I was scared of him. I went over to the clinic and asked a coworker to help me put a loose dog back. She came over and saw him and said, “Oh, that’s Cheeseburger! He came in yesterday morning while you were at Alyssa’s funeral. He’s harmless.” She put him back and locked his kennel.
I sent an email to the staff to please double check that all animals are secure before leaving the kennel.
Five minutes later the dogs were going crazy again.
Again, Cheeseburger was out and standing at the door. Again, I put him back.
Five minutes later the dogs were going crazy. I have no idea how he unlocked his steel kennel door time and time again. But he did.
I finally asked him if he had to go outside for a minute. I put a leash on him and he pulled me right into my office and sat down. Under my chair. And then stared at me as if to say, “Don’t mind me. Get back to work.”
And he stayed there the rest of the day.
When my co-worker and our kennel director, Pam, came back I asked where Burg came from. He had been pulled from Richmond Animal Care and Control (RACC)—that was all she knew. I called RACC. They said that Burg and another dog had been left behind in a home after his owners were evicted. It was a long time before anyone knew that the dogs were there, and they were in rough shape by the time a neighbor complained and animal control discovered them. Burg had come to RAL while I was at Little A's funeral.
I told Cheeseburger that he could stay in my office for the day, but that he was not my kind of dog.
I told Alyssa’s mom and dad about him. At first they thought maybe Burg was from Alyssa. It didn't take long to know it.
That night, I brought him home just for the night. We talked. I explained to him that even though he seemed to come in at just the right time, and that maybe Little A did bring him to get me through the weekend, he was not my kind of dog. He understood.
August 3, 2013
I took him to the neighborhood farmer’s market to find a good home for him. That’s when I realized that little kids love Burg. So much. I wished I had a video camera on my head so that I could have recorded excited little faces charging toward Burg shouting, “So fluffy! So fluffy! So flufffffffffffffffffffffffy!”
I told everyone. Look at this dog! He is the perfect dog! He’s quiet! He’s gentle! He’s a thinker! He loves children. He doesn’t bark. He walks great on the leash, and will sleep anywhere. The shelter opens at noon today! He’s available! Come by! He could be all yours today!
After the farmer’s market we went to visit Alyssa (Alyssa’s grave – photos unavailable), and to thank her for not letting either of us be alone for the weekend.
I called the shelter and asked them to call me if anyone had come looking for Burg—and that I would bring him right over if they had. But no one had, and we ended up back home again. (He really is smart—even if he doesn’t know what side of the door the knob is on).
Burg was as sad as I was. I tried to make him feel better. I even found and printed out this picture from the Internet Machine and tried to rewrite his life story for him. Tried to pretend that no one ever left him behind.
“Look at you!” I told him. “Look how cute you were when you were a puppy," I lied to him. I loved you then and I love you now! Even though you are not my kind of dog.”
I’m not sure he bought it, but I think he loved me for the effort.
The next week he spent his days in my office and his nights at my house. We talked a lot about Alyssa.
August 10, 2013
It was Saturday again, and I took Burg back to the farmer’s market. Everyone was very happy to see him, but sad that he had not been adopted. I talked him up again. “He is completely housetrained! He sleeps until 10:00 a.m. on the weekends and Wednesdays! He loves to go for a ride in the car! He eats, but he is not concerned with what you are having. He is not a licker. He is a very good listener. He’s a little sad, but coming around. He is very independent, but just when you think he might not love you at all, he walks over and sits on your foot. We open at noon today! We are located right behind the Martin’s near Chesterfield Towne Center! Come over!”
And Burg came over and sat right on my foot.
And I drove to the Richmond Animal League and adopted him.
And good Lord in heaven above was Little A about on the edge of her seat waiting for me to realize that she'd sent Burg, and that we were destined to carry on without her, no matter how impossible it seemed.
So much has happened with Burgie since then. He has amazing friends who have helped him heal in all ways. I'm still convinced Burg misses someone. In fact, I think he misses a whole family. He listens to traffic and I wonder if he is waiting for someone to finally come home. He will sit and watch an entire Little League game, and he pays attention to doors opening wherever we are. I can't think about all of that. I just know how incredibly lucky I am that Burg spends time in my living room, and at the shelter with me, and I will never, ever, take him back to the farmer's market and try to find him a home that I think might be better than ours. Thanks for saving me, Burg.