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Pets Large & Small

Our efforts are not for naught

Jennifer Vanderau
Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter

(9/2015) We had one of the best visits earlier this week that I must tell you about.

It was probably last fall when I wrote about two dogs named Princess and Pepper, a pitbull and a Shih Tzu, respectively. They were found together on the side of the road and Princess was standing over Pepper, protecting her from traffic.

It was an amazing story of an unlikely friendship and we were so thrilled to see it. We wanted to find them a home where they could be together because they were so attached to one another.

In fact, when I took Princess and Pepper out on a visit, the only way I could keep them calm in the van was to put them in the carrier together. I was worried there wouldnít be enough space, but the two of them just stuck together like glue. Iíve never seen a more attached pair before.

Unfortunately, living in a shelter is tough on dogs. One of our Animal Care Technicians equated it to us suddenly waking up one morning to find ourselves in a jail cell. I would be more than a little freaked out and it can be equally trying for our four-legged friends.

Princess became far too possessive of Pepper in the kennel and that need to protect began to make her behavior a little worrisome. We realized the time had come to separate them. It absolutely broke my heart to do it, even though in my head, I understood the need for it.

Pepper, being an adorable little Shih Tzu, got adopted pretty much immediately. Princess took a little longer, but the day did arrive when a family fell in love with her and get this, they had a little Chihuahua whom Princess just adored.

Well, our visitor this week, as I mentioned above, was an unbelievably healthy, happy looking Princess and her mama telling all kinds of stories about her new life.

Folks, seeing Princess like that is beyond a shadow of a doubt why we do what we do at CVAS. Her tail was wagging and she was thrilled to meet anyone who came up to her and you could just tell she was unbelievably loved.

Before sheíd been adopted, Princess had been a little backwards. She was wary of new people and seemed very mistrusting. I have a feeling a lot of that had to do with protecting Pepper, but in the back of my head, I always wondered if Princess would be okay.

Seeing her with her mom definitely alleviated my fears.

Then came the stories. Apparently the little Chihuahua runs the roost (just like the old Bugs Bunny cartoons with the little dog and big dog who are friends). Princess lets her little brother get away with pretty much anything, which stands to reason seeing as how she did the exact same with Pepper.

You might want to hold onto something for this story. Itís a heart-wrencher.

Apparently Princessís mom was visiting her parents and her dad has started the first stage of Alzheimerís disease. Man, at the nursing homes I visit for pet therapy that has to be one of the toughest issues for families to battle. Having a family member no longer recognize themselves or you has to hurt.

Early one morning during the visit, the dad decided he was going to take Princess for a walk. You can imagine the sheer horror of the rest of the family when they woke to find both dad and Princess gone. When recounting the story, thinking about that just about took my breath away.

Princessís mom said she and her husband combed the neighborhood looking for both of them, calling out to them, probably in a state of growing panic. Minutes would feel like hours when youíre searching for a loved one who had wandered off and the thought the he took the family dog with him must have been agonizing.

Too many scenarios would flash through your mind.

Suddenly, through the woods, a bark could be heard.

The couple recognized Princess.

Mom yelled, "Bring him home, Princess!" and within five minutes, Princess was leading her dad right into his daughterís waiting arms.

I have to say a lot of the staff at the shelter were tearing up at that one. We all knew Princess was a special dog when she was here and that story shows how truly amazing she is.

Working at a shelter is incredibly difficult and we see all kinds of abuse and neglect. Thatís why itís so very special and poignant and necessary that we get visits or photos or email updates from the animals we have been able to help.

Itís the one way we can know that our efforts are not for naught.

And Princessís wagging tail and happy face definitely proved it for all of us.


Jennifer Vanderau is the Director of Communications for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter in Chambersburg, Pa., and can be reached at The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at (717) 263-5791 or visit the website

Read other articles by Jennifer Vanderau