By LuAnn McLain
This story is about a person doing a kindness and never knowing how many lives are touched or truly changed as a result. There are so many heroes in this story it is impossible to name them all, because it is really a chapter in an ongoing and expansive epic. I suspect the story and the actions of those involved will perpetuate the positive ripple in ways the main heroine could never imagine.
This saga begins with a small dog, a Pomeranian named Carlton, and a woman named Joni Muir, in the Missoula Animal Control (M.A.C.) shelter where they met. Carlton was picked up as a stray. He was, to say the least, a mess, and his disposition matched his appearance.
Carlton was so matted that when he went to the bathroom, his feces could not fall away from him. He had an ear infection and sores around his eyes. He had infection in his teeth and gums from lack of care and cleaning.
This little dog had looked death in the face, knew he was on death row, and was not going to go gracefully. He snapped and attacked anyone who reached for him. "He sat in the very back of his kennel all teeth and ill will," says Elaine Sehnert, Kennel Warden Secretary of M.A.C.
Joni, a volunteer for the shelter and devoted dog rescuer, convinced Paula Nelson, M.A.C. Director and Supervisor, and Elaine to let her try to save Carlton. Elaine says Joni has saved dogs the shelter could never have saved. She takes them, gets health and behavior attended to, then finds homes for them.
Carlton went into a "bucking bronco" act when Joni put the leash on him to remove him from the shelter. She waited patiently as he worked through it, then said something like, "let's go for a walk" and led him out. According to Elaine, this was an example of how Joni didn't take any of his guff. The first skirmish was over but Carlton had not yet surrendered.
"I was really worried about how I was going to cover the expenses of rescuing this dog," admits Joni. Anybody who has rescued multiple animals knows how the expenses mount up fast. A Missoula area veterinarian donated the dental work Carlton needed. Ronnie Rosenberg from Alaska sponsored Carlton through a program at the shelter that allows people to help a particular animal when they are unable to adopt that animal. Joni attributes Ronnie's help as being the catalyst for her.
Carlton was as nasty as ever the day after he had his teeth worked on. Joni cried she was so discouraged. The next day, however, Carlton began to rally. It was probably the first time in a long time he had felt good physically. Progress then came quickly.
Today, just three weeks later, Carlton is in a home where he seems to be the perfect fit. He made friends quickly with the resident dogs already there. "The family has adopted rescue dogs for years and they fully understand the problems and baggage that rescues sometime tote along," says Joni.
Carlton's new job in life is to accompany the man of the house on his travels as a trucker. Time alone with his new master for hours at a time and in a moving vehicle has Carlton's complete approval. It is a job that would appeal to many a dog.
Elaine says of Joni, "She saved him for sure! I think it was because she wouldn't take anything off him. She is such a wonderful resource for us."
Joni first got involved with the shelter when she read a notice posted at montanapets.org, the web site for Montana shelters and rescue groups, that stated Missoula needed someone with a scanner to help put pictures of their shelter animals on the net. She volunteered to do the job with her scanner.
When the shelter got a digital camera, Joni learned how to use it and now takes pictures of the animals and puts them in for the web site. Although she lives 25 or 30 miles away, she can be counted on to keep the information current.
Joni and Carlton are both heroes in this story-Carlton because he came back from wherever it was he had gone in his mind and Joni because of her true grit. True to genuine-hero form, Joni takes no personal credit but instead credits those who have been important in her life.
"I have so many people to thank I feel like I am giving an acceptance speech.