By Dolores Swirin-Yao
I came to Bideawee because, just 10 days after we lost our beloved senior rescue Cocker spaniel, Sgt. Pepper, on Mother’s Day, 2015, I learned about the opportunity to join Bideawee as president. I had worked in the nonprofit world for 30 years, but this was the first time that I could bring together my lifelong love of animals and volunteer involvement with animal organizations with my professional work. I realized at that moment the power of the bond between pets and people. It was almost like Sgt. Pepper was telling me to help lots of homeless animals like him.
My sons, my husband and I are all animal lovers, so Bideawee is without a doubt my dream job. The first time my oldest son came to an event at Bideawee, he told Nancy Taylor, the retiring president, that “this was better than Disneyworld, and I’ve been to Disneyworld!” We were in the process of buying and renovating a house, so I told the kids right away that we would under no circumstances adopt a dog until we left our not-very-dog-friendly rental and were in our own house. But I have learned a lot since then.
LESSON #1: Being surrounded by all this cuteness is irresistible.
I started snapping pictures of adorable dogs, puppies, cats and kittens and texting them home to the family. It was only a matter of time until I succumbed.
In April, a beautiful puppy named Tami who had just arrived at Bideawee from a high-kill shelter in the South, was very ill. She had a rare condition where her stomach was turned inside-out, so she was not metabolizing protein. She also had pneumonia. It was touch and go for a while and Bideawee spent thousands of dollars on her care. And then she turned the corner! She was here in Bideawee’s animal hospital, wagging her tail, so sweet, one Friday, and I realized that she would not be getting much company or attention over the weekend. So I said, what would you think if I took her home for the weekend?
LESSON #2: There is no such thing as taking an adorable puppy home “for the weekend” when you have 11 and 12 year old boys.
Yes, we have wonderful and devoted foster families who foster young and sick dogs and cats for us and then return them when the patients are ready for their forever homes. But they probably do not have kids who are missing their beloved dog, who desperately want a puppy and have no concept of “eviction.” When my younger son told me he woke up dreaming of Tami, I was done.
LESSON #3: If you live in an apartment in NYC with a pet for three months without hiding it and no one has complained, you can’t be forced to give it up (not that we would have given her up for anything!).
When we closed on our Brooklyn house, we knew that it needed a lot of work and we would not be able to move for a few months. We figured that even if the worst happened and the building management found out about Tami, by the time they evicted us, we would have moved anyway. As it turns out, they found out, but not until after three months, so we were able to get her legalized and won’t be spending time in housing court.
LESSON #4: There is no more cheerful nurse than a sweet puppy.
When my younger son broke his wrist in the summer, Tami scratched at his door and had to get up on the bed with him while he was asleep to make sure he was okay. She thinks they are litter-mates.
LESSON #5: The furniture doesn’t look so bad with bite marks.
Okay, so, after adopting a 14-year-old senior, a puppy is, well, kind of a lot of work. Luckily I’m a lousy housekeeper so all of the shredded paper, chewed shoes and general mayhem doesn’t bother me as much as it would some people. As Tami grows, we know we have to get her puppy mouthiness under control when she gets excited. My kids are very forgiving—they can be playfully (but painfully) nipped by her and a second later they say how cute she is. But she doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. You can take something right out of her mouth and she would never think to bite you. The other day at the gas station, the attendant put my receipt in Tami’s mouth and she turned around and gave it right to me. She is a great friend to all of us, and having Tami makes me appreciate more than ever the bond that our lucky Bideawee pet parents have with their equally lucky furry friends.
LESSON #6: You can’t stop at just one.
In our new house we will have a little apartment for my 94-year-old mom. Mom wants a lap cat, so we will be adopting one of Bideawee’s senior cats before too long.