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This morning I got an update on a former foster dog — a Cavalier King Charles spaniel who lived with us two years ago, from just prior to Halloween to just before Christmas.

The dog had some kind of skin condition and arrived hairless, itchy, raw, reddened and miserable. He was about as sad as sad can look. He didn’t come with a name, so I named him Georgie, because his naked face reminded me of the  illustration of the children’s book character Curious George.


Another volunteer, Huntly, picked Georgie up in Vermont and a mutual friend delivered him as far as a highway exit in New Hampshire. The first time I saw him, he was in a dog crate in the back of a van at a rest area, growling and snarling, his skinny body pressed as far back as he could get against the crate’s back wall, and looking for all the world more like a gremlin than a Cavalier. (More “Lilo and Stitch” than “Lady and the Tramp.”)

Prior to the pickup, he had been living by himself in an unheated trailer, with a litter box and a bag of cheap kibble. Details were fuzzy, but there was something about a divorce, and an owner who had moved to a place that didn’t allow dogs, and a hope that he might have been adopted to someone the owner knew.  But who wanted a hairless, irritable dog with some kind of undiagnosed, ugly skin condition?


Georgie was with us for a few months. Turns out he was allergic to pretty much everything; had raging ear infections; and needed regular dermatology visits, medicated baths every other day, and deep ear cleanings. I kept him sequestered from our other dogs until he was stable, which meant he and I spent a lot of one-on-one time… unlike any other foster dog I ever had. Boy was he high-maintenance! But so sweet and such a little impish personality. I fell for him hard.

The nature of the foster relationship is temporary, of course. I couldn’t keep Georgie, and anyway, even if I wanted to, we weren’t the right kind of family. We already had three Cavaliers, and Georgie needed a home where he could be the only dog; he wasn’t particularly good at sharing.

So eventually, the day came when, stronger and fuzzier, he went home to his new life. If I tried to describe how much I missed him, you’d think I was describing how I had lost a lung. How much can you miss a creature who squirms at the endless ear cleaning? Who struggles in the bath? Who growls at your son? Who nips at your other dogs? Who hops over gates? Who hoards his food? How much can you miss a tense, skittish creature whose naked tail quickens like the reverberations of a violin string when he sees you? How much can you miss something that presses his lean body so tightly against your leg that you can feel his heart keeping time with your own?

It’s surprising how much, really.


In her note, Georgie’s new Mom calls him fabulous. Playful. A love. “I cannot thank you enough!” she writes. She includes a picture of Georgie as he is today, poised expectantly above a tennis ball, furry as a collie. There’s something about his eyes that’s familiar. Otherwise, I barely recognize him. Which thrills me.

Georgie is one of those rescue miracle stories; the kind of from-the-brink of disaster stories you hear sometimes at a party or whatever, about animals or people or about other kinds of reformations. And you think, “Really? Could that really be true?”

But it is true. It really happens that way sometimes. Which not only fills my heart but also gives me a kind of faith in humanity, and reminds me of the enormous capacity of love.

As goofy as that might sound.


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20 Responses to Georgie: A Rescue Story

  1. Dave Fluegge says:

    Wow, that is an amazing tranformation. That is quite the ugly duckling story; great heart warming story Ann!

  2. You, my friend, are an angel. And Georgie is one of the happy endings. Your story is very touching, full of what I love about your writing – all the dirty, gritty, not-necessarily sweet moments. You keep writing, and I'll keep reading!

  3. This is a story about more than Georgie. It also reveals why I consider you such a fine friend, Ann.

  4. Pam Naslund says:

    Wonderful story, wonderfully told.

  5. Wonderful way to end my week, which also included hearing Karin Winegar read from her book Saved, about Rescued Animals and the humans they more subtly rescue.

  6. mack collier says:

    Reason #1,256 why Ann Handley rocks 😉

  7. Carolyn says:

    Beautifully written Ann and what a great story. I saw this boy through his travails along with you and it's so heartwarming to see how he's blossomed into a much loved and quite loving pet. You gave him the chance at life he wouldn't otherwise had. Thanks so much. Carolyn

  8. DJ Waldow says:

    Very touching, Ann. Tell me again what it is that you DON'T do? Ha ha.

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory

  9. Sandy says:

    As a fellow dog rescuer I can certainly relate. I had a similar foster with Tito. The poor darling was about in as good a shape of Georgie. After a year and a half he's now in his forever home. I get regular updates on him and just like Georgie he's a different and happy boy. For Halloween he donned his turtle costume and went to a nursing home w/his new mom. How's that for giving back? Great work, Ann!

  10. Paul McConaughy (@minutrition) says:

    What is it about Caveliers? We rescued ours – Charlie (for King Charles) – after he was left tied outside a shelter. He had horrible allergies, was skin and bone and bare skin from his chest on back. I'm happy to say he now is fully furry and the right weight AND a great dog! We can still see times when its like he has flashbacks to the bad times but he doesn't get any of those here.

  11. elizabethsosnow says:

    We each need to be reminded, every day, about our capacity for love and hope. Thank you for doing that so eloquently. You have such a gift.

  12. David Reich says:

    Ann, another beautiful story, beautifully written. I love your writing. More, please.

  13. I want to say that as a dog lover who lost his dog after 12 1/2 years of love this past August, I was smiling as I read this terrific post! You have done a wonderful thing.

  14. annhandley says:

    Sorry for your loss, Preston. But so glad you stopped by. Thanks.

  15. katybeth says:

    tts often our “focus” pups that seem to touch our hearts in such a special way and grow our love. The mangy, the flea bitten, the one's that bite. I love them all, and the owners that chose to offer them shelter them in their hearts and homes!
    Georgie and you were very lucky to have crossed each other paths!

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  18. What a lovely story on the human condition “love”. It rekindled a memory of my Mom and her rescue dog “treasure” and although they have both passed on it brought to
    mind the laughter and the angst of it all. Makes you think again who really is getting the rescue, us? or them. thanks very much for your writing. rc

  19. Crazydogz says:

    what a beautiful story and Georgie's eyes tell it all —
    we often have foster dogs and you described the bittersweet way it feels when the fur-kid goes to its 'forever home' —
    thank you for sharing this rescue story —

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