When an emaciated dog was found in a Point Defiance Park restroom stall last spring, strapped to a suitcase with its 11 newborn puppies crammed inside like rope wood, one of the first thoughts that crossed my mind, although I am not a Catholic, was from St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. And how this act of cold-blooded surrender would hurt her heart.
“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and mercy,” the 12th-century brother once said, “you will have men who will deal alike with their fellows.
But when Trevor Lafontaine of Tacoma found out that pit bull mom was keeping her puppies in the suitcase on May 5, visiting the park restroom at the end of his marathon training run, one of his first thoughts was to find out how he and his wife, Sammy, could help.
How they could fill a need with their skills as an experienced foster dog home. How they could bring love and light to 12 animals abandoned during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when countless pets were captured in animal shelters to be put aside by non-owners prepared.
Looking back, Sammy Lafontaine summed up this day with a pragmatic good humor. “He did his full training,” she said of her husband, “and found 12 dogs.”
What has happened since then is a testament to resilience, hope and happy endings. The Lafontaines – and several families who have adopted all pit bulls into permanent homes through the Humane Society for Tacoma & Pierce County – serve as a counterpoint to St. Francis’ worst fears.
By offering certain creatures of God the shelter of compassion, they are an example for those who would do the same with their fellows.
Although the dogs parted ways several weeks ago, Sammy Lafontaine still gushes over the joy of raising mom, Oolong, and her entire litter for over a month. She described the situation as “the best chaos”.
“It kind of fell into our laps at a perfect time,” Sammy told me Thursday. She was coming out of her teaching job and the additional canine companions provided excellent socialization for the three rescue dogs adopted from the Lafontaines – two Chihuahuas and a Great Dane – who had been mostly locked up during the pandemic.
Seeing the suckling puppies gradually opening their eyes, pulling away from their mother’s womb, gaining energy and developing personalities was a wonderful first experience for the couple. So watched Oolong quickly emerge from the shadows of abuse and malnutrition, which required immediate veterinary care for her and her puppies.
“I can’t imagine her going through what she’s been through and still being as good with people as she was with us, or being as confident,” Sammy said.
Personally, I can’t imagine the work involved in taking care of a dozen newly rescued dogs. I know something about breeding a pit bull mix with an unknown background. We adopted our sweet daughter, Luna, from Humane Society in the summer of 2017, when she was around 1.5 years old.
All it took was a visit to the Nalley Valley Refuge, and Luna was in the back of my teenage daughter’s car, heading for our house in Gig Harbor, despite the holes in her resume. .
Alec and Jasmine Mrochek had a similar crush at the end of June when they met one of Oolong’s puppies.
They knew nothing of the story of the toilet bag that had attracted media attention. They were just looking for a companion for their 8-pound dog, Archer, and wanted to help clean up the shelter at a time when it faced a glut of pandemic dogs.
“We were pretty sad when we found out what had happened,” Alec told me. “It’s sad that anyone can do that to any dog, let alone at age 12.”
The Mrocheks left with the last member of the litter to find a home; it’s a cream and white beauty with a red nose, formerly known as Caramel, that the couple named Lacey. Having recently moved from an apartment in Tacoma to a 1.25 acre space in Graham, there is plenty of room to move around.
Lacey has a penchant for evil, like uprooting Jasmine’s blueberry plants. But it’s hidden under the skin of a four-month-old puppy who thinks she’s a baby and refuses to start the day until her tummy isn’t rubbed – a lot.
“Lacey doesn’t recognize that she weighs almost 40 pounds and I can barely carry her,” Jasmine said.
For me, the most heartwarming part of this story is that Ooling (famous since Rosie) was finally adopted as well. In the animal rescuer community, the harsh reality is that cute puppies find homes quickly while mothers can often be unclaimed.
The work of the Humane Society is never done, of course, and the need for temporary hospitality providers and permanent homes remains high.
Their slogan should be: “Never a dull moment. Just last week, a cat gave birth to five kittens in a Federal Way motel room after her family had to evacuate their Puyallup neighborhood after a fire in a cold room.
Talk about room service.
Through fires, pandemics, and other times of crisis, the call to care for all of God’s creatures, large and small, continues over and over again. And the model he proposes for caring for the most vulnerable members of humanity is as clear as a puppy’s red nose.
Saint Francis would be proud.
Reach News Tribune Opinion Writer Matt Misterek at [email protected]
HOW TO BE A Fostering Pet Parent
Anyone interested in welcoming dogs, cats, puppies, kittens, rabbits or exotic animals can complete an application at www.thehumanesociety.org/get-involved/foster/