Sandy Schwalb: The story of Luke, the canine

Luke picked his family during a German shepherd adoption event. Photo courtesy of Lauri Bridgeforth

Every rescued animal has a “back story.” My husband Steve and I have volunteered for a number of animal rescue organizations for many years and we have “seen it all.” There are dogs, cats, and yes, even cows, that are found wondering the streets or countryside, show up at people’s homes, are left behind when their humans move or, in rescue lingo, “dumped” at shelters. In these cases, we don’t always know where they come from, but at least we know that their “once upon a time” begins when they are rescued, made to feel safe and begin their new life.

But there are times when we are all too aware of the animal’s story. Sometimes a family cannot afford the expenses associated with owning an animal; people lose their jobs; an owner is ill or dies. And then there is the individual, who for his/her own selfish reasons, decides not to keep the pet because, just because …

Let me share the story of Luke, a good old boy who deserved better treatment at the hands of his owner and the local family that gave him a home and a wonderful life. Spoiler alert – he is still thriving!

Steve and I have fostered many dogs as volunteers with the Virginia German Shepherd Rescue. As fosters, our task is to bring a rescued animal (in our case, dogs) into our home and provide a safe environment until it gets adopted. In late 2010 a fellow rescue volunteer contacted us about two German Shepherds he was fostering; one of the pair was Luke. The owner of the two dogs had a new job in California. He wasn’t ready to take the dogs with him, but chose not to give them up. He hired a dog sitter to take care of them while he was across the country. After a year on the West Coast, the he contacted the rescue group and said he wanted the dogs made available for adoption because they no longer “fit his life style.” Yes, as dog rescuers we were all very impressed with that reason!

Luke came into our home as a foster and we set about finding him a new home, where he would be loved, appreciated and not seen as a status symbol. Steve knew Luke would be a hard sell because he was a senior guy, at the time probably 9-10 years old, but the hubby never gives up on a dog.

We took Luke to a number of adoption events here in the Shenandoah Valley and during one, Scott and Lauri Bridgeforth showed up. The Winchester residents had come to look at the adoptable shepherds (preferably a young one, they told us). As I recall, Scott looked at Luke and said that was the dog for him! Steve told him that that Luke was far from a youngster, but Scott said that was OK. Lauri told me recently, “Luke was Scott’s pick and because I know what it’s like to be drawn to a dog, I was fine with it. Luke seemed fine with it as well, as he began his new life in his “forever” home. I do think Luke was happy to be on his way out of our house. I spent many hours saying, “Luuuuuuuuuke, I am your father…” And I am not really a big Star Wars fan!

Scott and Lauri currently have four “pups” in their home that are all adoptees. Lauri said, “VGSR better pairs adoptees with family personalities. We have three dogs from VGSR and one found us. They are Luke, Guinness, Duke, and Moko.” Today Luke, at 14 or 15 (he’s not talking…), is living la vida loca in a big, beautiful home in Winchester. Who did not fit whose lifestyle?