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Pets Large & Small

Second chances

Jennifer Vanderau
Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter

(3/2015) He’s scared. Rattle-the-bones scared. He can’t stop shaking in the kennel. It’s easy to tell he’s not sure about this place. The other animals unsettle him. He doesn’t understand why he’s here.

His dad dropped him off like it didn’t matter at all. Filled out the papers and just walked away. Five years they’d spent together reduced to nothing more than ink on a page and no looking back.

After everything it should mean more than that, shouldn’t it?

Shouldn’t it?

The kitten hides in the litterbox. Won’t come out. Every noise makes her jump. Her ears twitch at the slightest sound. She must be eating at night because the food in the cage definitely goes down, but no one ever sees her consume it.

What must it be like to be so afraid you only see the world from over the rim of a pan?

It’s heartbreaking.

The new dog is older. He’s got a lot of gray around his eyes and a look that speaks of wisdom, experience, and a little sadness. There’s a growth on his leg. Probably cancer. He was found in the outside run, left overnight. No paperwork filled out.

Not even his name. They didn’t even give him the dignity of his name.

Probably someone who couldn’t take the responsibility and be with him when they had to say goodbye. Someone who shared a life with him for a lot of years but refused to make that final journey with him.

Or just didn’t want to deal with it.

So instead, they left him to strangers. Drove away in the dark of night while he sat shivering in an outside kennel and watched the taillights and wondered why.

The terrier mix keeps her eye on the door. Every single time it opens. We know she expects her mom to come back. But mom said she tore up the house too many times and when she’d shredded the Boyd’s Bear it was just too much. Apparently the bear was some kind of collector’s item.

Sure it was on the floor, well within reach of the dog, but that was how she displayed them. The dog could have left them alone, couldn’t she?

Couldn’t she?

An older cat had too many hairballs. Too many hairballs? Some of the staff think of how often they clean up after their own cats at home and how many hairballs they find on the floor and wonder how in the world other people justify the decisions they make.

They wonder when people will take responsibility for the lives with which they are entrusted.

All of the dogs and cats wait at the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter.

They’re waiting for a second chance.

Eventually, the scared boy gets used to the staff members and he licks a hand, tiptoes forward in his cage a little further every day because he knows that soft touch is waiting for him. He looks forward to his daily walks – wags his tail for the Animal Care Technician he loves the best.

The kitten comes out of the litterbox one day because she sees the same person she’s seen since the day she arrived and the tone of voice hasn’t changed – it’s kind and nice and low and sweet and something in her must say it’s okay to trust again. It took time, but she does head-butt the cage and has become quite the attention hog. She gets kisses on the top of her head because no one seems able to resist her and those emerald green eyes.

The staff took a chance on the older dog – had the lump removed from his leg. The vet said he should make a full recovery. He’s got something new in those brown eyes, something the staff hasn’t seen before in him – it’s hope. They smile when he gets up to greet them. Sure, he’s slow and a little wobbly, but that will change over time and they know he’s a fighter and will make someone an amazing friend as long as that person will give him the time and care that he needs.

The terrier starts to watch the door not just for a specific person, but for anyone to come through. Staff can tell there’s still that little twinge that she’s looking for mom, but eventually she gets so excited to see anyone – Animal Care Technician, volunteer, visitor. She’s a sweet bundle of energy who just loves squeaky toys and yes, she tears them up, but diligence will keep valuables safe. The staff just needs to find that person – the one who understands a terrier’s tenacity and be willing to work with it.

The cat with the hairballs does incredibly well on hairball-specific cat food. No more messes. He’s a big boy, sturdy and lovable and he’s looking for someone to understand that life with an animal isn’t always perfect. It’s not a calendar picture. There will be some rough days, maybe a mess to clean up, but the good days – and there will be plenty – the good days will more than make up for it.

None of these animals would necessarily be considered perfect, but looking into their eyes, the right person will see beyond whatever issues brought them to the shelter and find the soul that lies beneath.

Because their souls are beautiful and resilient and forgiving and strong. And that, alone, touches a lot of hearts.

The Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter offers second chances to sweet babies just like these every day. Can you give them the home and love they’re looking for?


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