Jebediah was a Newfoundland neglected and left to starve to death in Georgia by his previous owners. He was emaciated, heartworm positive, had mange with massive secondary skin infections that left his hairless body covered in weeping ulcerated sores of more than a 6 inches in diameter. His outstanding personality convinced the shelter personnel to try posting a picture though he only had 24 hours to be rescued. They didn’t have much hope, but Jebediah was magic. To meet him was to understand that if ever an angel walked amongst us, it was Jebediah.
In my 20 years of rescue, I have never seen one dog have such an impact. Rescue people all over the country banded together, and two years after his rescue, Jebediah is still touching lives. More than 200 dogs who otherwise would have died can directly attribute their now happy lives to the impact of his story and the lessons he taught us all about how to make the impossible possible through cooperation and determination.
Jebediah passed on in 2003. He died peacefully in his sleep surrounded by his family after a fun filled day doing what he loved most: playing with his kids.
Jebediah- We remember.
I lie on the concrete, shifting my weight to ease the pain in my elbows, and I hear her coming; the nice woman who looks at me with sad eyes. Her eyes have been getting sadder and sadder every day I’m here. I want to ease her pain, but there are bars between us. Today, she pulls something from her pocket. There’s a flash of light and then she pats my head saying, “Maybe this will help.”
She doesn’t sound like she believes her words. I give her wrist a kiss before she pulls her arm away. I want to make her feel better. She walks away. Before she gets out of sight, she gives me one last smile and a little wave.
The next day she’s back. Her step is lighter, and I force my hurting body off the floor. I wag my tail when she gets close even though the pulling makes my infected skin tear and burn like fire. She pets my head, and her brow furrows with concern as she looks over my body.
I know I’m not pretty with the sores that come with the awful itching that makes the slightest touch agony, but unlike some, she doesn’t mind.
“Someone’s coming to see you tonight, big guy. They saw your picture on the internet and they are coming to see you. “ She cuddles my face gently in her hands being careful of my wounds and says, "You just be your sweet self, and maybe it won’t matter.”
There’s something in her stance that makes me wonder if she heard the voice, too. The one that came to me in my sleep last night. The one that whispered, “I’m coming for you, boy. Just hang in there, I’m coming.”
That evening, two ladies come. They stop in front of my cage, and I get to my feet. The horror in their eyes makes me ashamed, but I wag my tail in greeting, because I’m not a puppy. I’m 5 years old and I know my manners.
One of the ladies steps forward. She whispers kind, sweet words. It’s not the voice from my dream. She’s not the one who made a promise, but she’s kind and she has treats and I hope that she will take me from this place.
She grabs a leash and takes me out into the fresh air. I am so excited, but I walk sedately with her remembering my manners, knowing right from wrong. Outside, I am asked to do a lot of things, sit, stand, give paw. They give treats and take them away. These ladies are a little strange, but I do what they want because it seems important to them, I want to make them happy.
I see some kids. I love kids. I try to go to them. They try to come to me, but both our adults keep us apart. The lady with the treats looks like she’s crying when they take me back inside. They leave. I watch as they go down the corridor, hoping they’ll turn back. They don’t.
The nice lady who has been caring for me stops by my cage. She shakes her head and she looks like the weight of the world is on her shoulders as she says. “I’m so sorry, big guy. No one wants a big black dog anymore. I’m so sorry.”
For the first time since I came here, she doesn’t look back and doesn’t give me the little wave before she slips out of sight.
I’m scared now and I want someone to hold me. Something’s not right. The only time the lady pulls away is before dogs go to the back, and I never see them again. I don’t want to go through the door at the back. Nothing good happens there. I search for the voice, yet there’s nothing. It doesn’t come to me in my dream. It doesn’t come at all. I lay awake, trying not to shake. I’m afraid of what will happen when the lights come back on.
In the early hours of the morning, the voice is back. Again, just those few words, but there is such certainty in them. Such determination, I feel my fear slipping away. The voice simply says, “I’m coming for you, boy. Hang in there. I’m coming.”
No one pays any attention to me that morning. No special touches, no little jokes. Everyone walks around me like I don’t exist. I’m trying to believe in the voice, but I’m scared again. I can’t eat my breakfast.
Suddenly, the front door opens and down the walk comes the nice lady who takes care of me. She has a piece of paper in her hand and her smile is ear to ear. She attaches the piece of paper in her hand to my cage and she says magic words to me, “They’re coming for you, boy.”
I wonder if she means my family. I haven’t seen them for a long time. They put everything in a truck and drove away, forgetting me in the back yard. I got very hungry and thirsty before the neighbor brought me here. They were very absent-minded my family, but I wouldn’t mind seeing them again. They could be kind.
The lady is still talking, so I try to pay attention. She talks about vets and care and a long trip. I don’t understand all she talks about, but I understand she’s happy, and I know it’s happiness for me, so I wag my tail and lean against the bars so I can be next to her. At least I exist again.
Later that day a new lady comes in. She acts very rushed and when she sees me, I brace for the horror, but she’s not horrified. Instead she looks relieved. She puts her arms around me and says, “I’m so glad I got here in time.” She puts a leash on me. She tells me we’re leaving. I can’t believe it. I don’t dare believe it, but she really does take me out the door and puts me in a car.
I haven’t ridden in cars much, and after a few minutes I begin to panic. Nothing is stable and the world is flashing by. I leap to the front and try to climb into her lap. She doesn’t yell, but she does pull over and put me in the back. This time, she ties me there. After a few reassuring pets, we’re back on the road.
Her place is nice, there are lots of dogs and cats. She puts me in a big kennel outside. The air is fresh and clean. She gives me a big bowl of food and lots of fresh water. No one here is depressed. Everyone seems content. I begin to feel my fear slipping away.
That night, the voice comes to me again. Always saying the same thing. Always with the same promise. As I lay in the cool night air, letting the breeze ease my burning skin, I relax into the promise. And for the first time, I answer. “Ok.”
The next day, there’s another car ride. We’re at the vet. I hate the smell of this place. It burns my nose. I sit in the waiting room. Calm and sweet. I am not an untutored puppy. I know my manners. Some children are waiting, too. I give them a cute look. They make faces back. The lady with me warns them away, saying she’s not sure if my skin condition is contagious. The kids come over to me anyway, their mom says it’s ok. They pet me and put their arms around me. I relax into them. It’s been so long since I have felt a child’s arm around me. I’m very careful of my size, but I am so hungry for their touch I never want it to end.
Eventually it does. The vet says it’s my turn. We head into the exam room. The vet is a nice man with soft eyes. He tells me how good I am as he examines me and comments to the lady with me that it should be a crime that I look like this. I know he isn’t mad at me because his touch is soothing and gentle. He tells me I am a lucky boy because a rescuer from far away says I am to have whatever it takes for me to feel fine again.
I don’t want to discourage the doctor, but I don’t remember what fine feels like. He seems to know what I’m thinking, because he pats me on the head and tells me everything will be fine from here on out. He tells me I have a rescue angel.
He keeps his word. He puts me in a kennel, gives me shots, and medicine. Everyone here keeps telling me how lucky I am. They talk about people far away who are making this good feeling last, who are working together to pay my bill, who are coming for me. I wonder if one of these people far away is the caring voice that comes to me and calms my fears with its promises. I hope so.
Everyone looks at me like I’m a miracle. I want to tell them I’m just me, but they see me as something special and I’m beginning to believe that maybe I am. I want to believe I’m special.
The days pass pretty peacefully here at the vets office. Everyday I feel better. I watch for my rescue angel, but it doesn’t come. However, I know my angel’s out there. I try to be patient.
One day they tell me my angel is coming for me. I can’t wait. The day I leave the vet’s office the strange lady who visited me in the shelter and played games with treats comes to get me. She looks shocked by the sight of me, but so happy. Everyone is happy. I want to strut with pride, but I hold myself back. I am not an unschooled puppy. I walk sedately by her side, but I think she knows I am beaming inside. She keeps telling me how much better I look. And how happy she is for me. She tells me we were going to see my angel. It’s probably a good thing she ties me in the car. I am so excited, I might forget my dignity and bounce like a puppy.
It is a long ride in the car, but peaceful. The radio plays and the miles tick by. When we arrived at the hotel, my driver exclaims, “I think that’s her!” She seems very excited, but it doesn’t make sense to me. If she is taking me to my angel, shouldn’t she recognize my angel?
When I get out of the car, I look around. A little ways in front of me, coming toward me is a small woman. She has gray in her hair like I’m getting on my muzzle. She looks at me like she can’t believe I’m real. I look at her and I know. Before she says a word, I know. Then she drops to her knees and removes all doubt. Her arms go around my neck and she sighs the words I didn’t realize I’ve been dying to hear. “I’m so glad you hung in there,” she says in the voice from my dreams.“I prayed every night you’d know I was coming for you and you wouldn’t be afraid.”
She hugs me again as if she doesn’t want to let me go. Then she stands and she points to the woman who drove me here. Both of them are smiling. “This is one of your Angels, Jebediah. You’ve got a lot of them.” She bends down and she slips me that tasty cookie I can smell in her pocket, “And they are all wonderful.”
I understand what she means then. I remembered the nice lady in the shelter, the woman who took me from there, the vet, the kennel attendants the woman who drove me here, and all those unknown people I never saw. They were all strangers but they were looking out for me. I once thought angels were glorious creatures with big wings and lit by heavenly light, but sitting on the pavement in a hotel parking lot, five hundred miles from my final destination, I realize that angels are ordinary human beings who refuse to accept defeat and decide to make a difference. One animal at time.
I’m going home now. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I’m not afraid.
I have rescue angels.
And I thank you.
Copyright (c) Sarah McCarty 2003. All rights reserved.