While we love all of our rescues, some especially steal our hearts. Perhaps it is because their needs are so great, or maybe because they seem to show so much gratitude when well. One little corgi especially stole our hearts. This is a tribute written by his adoptive mom.
Winston: A Story of Healing, Hope and Unconditional Love
On February 8, 2016, Southeast Corgi Rescue (SECR) got an urgent email about a senior Corgi in a high kill shelter in rural Alabama. With such limited resources, SECR does not typically work in Alabama. But, once the team saw a single picture of this little boy, they could not say no.
When the transport volunteer arrived at the shelter, he was so concerned about the dog’s condition that he called the rescue’s adoption coordinator and asked that she at least give him a name since no one knew what his fate might be once he saw the vet. From numerous skin lesions to heartworm disease, several masses and an infected eye, it was unclear whether he could be saved. However, knowing right away that he was special, his foster mom named him Winston, and so began an amazing journey of healing, hope, and unconditional love.
This is a tribute to his life and the loving care that gave him a second chance.
With significant medical hurdles to overcome, Winston spent the first five months of his life with SECR in his foster home. There, his skin was so marred by infection and allergies that it took several months to realize that he was sable in color. He was afraid of the leash, sudden movements, and going outside after dark. And, perhaps worst of all, Winston had literally no “pants” to display his Corgi rear end because of multiple surgeries to remove the lumpy masses from his hindquarters.
In just a few days, his foster parents nursed little Winston from a quarantine crate in the garage to become a full-fledged member of their family. While first working miracles to heal his body and add the weight he needed to be healthy, Winston was taught what it meant to be loved. Winston became fast friends with Mr. Peepers and Jill, the resident pups, and in that friendship quickly learned the finer points of living as a cherished Corgi– from barking and rushing his people at meal time, to howling when the phone rang, protesting regular bathing with a consummate Corgi stink eye, and diving head first each night into a beloved bean bag, his bed of choice.
By May, Winston was ready for his public debut and attended the annual SECR picnic reunion. That day, he met many members of his fan club– rescue supporters who had been following his story on social media. I was one of those fans. I first saw Winston’s story on February 9th, the day after he was rescued. Like his foster mom, I could tell right away that there was just something special about him. Even in his shelter mug shot, he had a magical twinkle in his eye that drew you in. That day at the picnic, I took his leash when I first arrived and could hardly let go when it was time to go home. In just two hours, he had stolen my heart and an entire bag of salmon biscuit treats.
With all of his medical needs taken care of, Winston was finally ready for his forever home and joined my family two months later. On adoption day, his foster mom and I stood in the parking lot to say goodbye and her eyes were full of tears as she hugged him in the hot steaming sun. In her words, this gnarly old dog, with clumsy feet as big as a Clydesdale horse, had brought so much joy into her life. She and her husband had watched him rally back from the edge of no return to become such a wonderful and loving little character.
Within days of Winston’s arrival, I quickly understood the reason for her tears. For nearly three years, Winston brought the same immeasurable joy to my life. From barking on his walk to announce himself to the neighborhood, to snuggling with my elderly cousin in his hospital bed, drinking my sweet tea when the glass was left unattended, and watching hour after hour of games during football season, Winston was my constant companion and a source of true comfort and comic relief to anyone he met– no matter the stress of the day. Beyond me, he was also a brother and pack leader for Henry, my Golden retriever, and a foster brother and support to multiple rescue dogs coming straight from high kill shelters to start a new life.
Last Sunday morning, Winston slipped away peacefully to a place where he is without pain and he can enjoy unlimited treats. With his big personality and even bigger heart, he leaves behind an enormous hole in our lives. While he is gone, he will never be forgotten in the sheer joy that he brought to our hearts and in the many lessons about life that he taught us in his journey.
From Winston, I have learned that love can heal all. No matter what he experienced before coming into the care of his foster family and SECR, Winston embraced each day with a spirit of kindness and an expectation of love. He was never angry about the past. On walks, for example, he would first flop over and insist that you rub his belly before heading out the door. He would then stop for a break along the way and look up with an expectation for a few more pets before we could continue.
From Winston, I have also learned to find joy in the little things. Winston lived for the simple stuff– things like crawling into my open suitcase to take a nap, diving headfirst in to the carpet to scratch his face, stopping along the walk route for children to hug his neck, and sharing a carrot stick or two at dinner. Lastly, from Winston I have learned that a beautiful life first begins with a second chance.
When SECR volunteers discovered this special guy, he was just another dog stuck in the shelter in horrific condition through no fault of his own. But with the gift of a second chance, he blossomed. And, in this beautiful life that he became, Winston has taught me that with time to heal, hope and unconditional love, amazing things can happen.