Once upon a time, Sgt. Thomas Tibbs looked like this.
So this happened:
Not long after I moved in August—to this place with cleaner air, bluer skies, fluffier clouds and a thousand dog walking trails—I started exploring my neighborhood and looking for dog rescues and shelters with a mind to eventually (after I finish my current book project and I finally unpack that last box) doing volunteer work.
One nearby shelter I found has a website that gives basic information about events and donations but redirects to Petango.com to list dogs that are available for adoption. I scrolled through the profiles and stopped when I saw an Irish Wolfhound mix. The Grandson has been wanting an Irish Wolfhound since he was... I don't know, ten? Now he's twenty-two and finally living in a house with a yard, ready for his first very own dog. Huh, I thought. Maybe it's serendipity.... (It wasn't, as you'll see.)
So on a very cold (low 40's) December day with wind gusts dropping the temperature even more, I stopped in at the shelter to see what it was like and also take a look at the Wolfhound. I met a nice volunteer who spent some time answering my questions about who manages the shelter and how they get funding (entirely from donations, without help from municipalities, which may explain why adoption fees there range from $200-$400). Then I asked about seeing the dogs. She told me that they were "probably all inside" as it was so cold, and that I might want to come back another day. I made a small donation then left, somewhat confused.
A week later, when I returned, I understood what she meant. The dogs are kept in kennels that have dual access, inside and out, which is great for them. But it's difficult for potential adopters because we can only see them from the outside. And direct access to the kennel is prohibited. Visitors have to view the dogs from behind a low chain link fence that sits five feet or so away from the kennel. I asked a young woman who was volunteering to "show me the Irish Wolfhound," so she walked to his kennel (with me on the far side of the low fence, herself on the inside) and pointed into his cage. The dog remained sitting toward the back of his kennel, watching us. He wasn't timid or wary; he just wasn't very interested in either of us.
Then it was just... awkward. She didn't offer to bring the dog out, nor did she come to the fence where I was standing, but I had questions, so we engaged in a conversation that had to be shouted above the barking of the dogs in other kennels.
I mentioned I'd seen the Wolfhound online and that it seemed he'd been with them a long time. She shrugged, said, "Not really," and explained that he'd been adopted and was gone for awhile but had just been returned. I had to ask why he'd been returned, and she allowed as how he "went after" the smaller dog in the family. To my question regarding whether he'd actually harmed the other dog or just growled, she shrugged again and said, "I don't know. He gets along well with other big dogs here. Maybe he just doesn't like little dogs." She gazed off into the distance.
Pulling out my phone, I asked if she would bring him out long enough for me to take his picture. She leaned against the door to the kennel—next to the leash that was hanging there—and told me there was a picture of him on their website. (That's the one I'd seen—a glamour shot of him in a bow tie, taken from a distance, which didn't offer a close-up of his face or any perspective on how tall he was.)
I offered to post a photo on my Facebook page that might help him find a forever home, since I have a lot of dog-loving friends.
She replied defensively that he was "well taken care of" there at the shelter, that he received "good food" and got to "run in the yard" every day.
Then she said I wouldn't be allowed to photograph him unless I spoke to someone in the main office and signed a "media release" form. She excused herself to go help someone else "for a minute" and never returned, leaving me standing there, trying to get a sense of the big dog who still sat quietly ten feet away.
I considered going to the main office, asking if another volunteer could help me, but by then all the sense of fun and adventure had gone out of the experience, and I just wanted to go home and hug Sgt. ThomasTibbs. So I did.
If you're wondering, it does appear at this time as if the Irish Wolfhound has been adopted. Best wishes to him and his new family.
*****UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE*****
Not long after I posted this, a story appeared in the local newspaper about this very dog (now named Sherlock). And I quote: "Sherlock is now the newest member of the San Bernardino Police Department's community affairs team. Sherlock has quickly stepped up in his new role and served as a source of comfort to North Park Elementary students after a recent on-campus shooting." Lt. Vicki Cervantes had gone to the shelter in search of a dog and met the (alleged) Irish Wolfhound/Lab mix. When she took Sherlock to her office, he was so well-mannered and such a gentleman that he became a member of her team. She said they never expected to use him so quickly after adopting him, but the need arose with the shooting, so she took him to comfort the kids, later telling a reporter, "His demeanor was just so amazing with these kids during this tragic event. They all just fell in love with him and he put smiles on all their faces."
Cool, huh? Three cheers for dogs with jobs! Especially this sweet guy!