In 2003, I was eleven and my parents decided I was finally ready to have a dog. I’d been bugging them for over a year – ever since I’d met Mickey Mullen, the woman in charge of the Bullmastiff Rescue League in Oviedo, FL. I’d been hanging around Mickey’s Bullmastiffs and had found one I knew would be mine. Her name was Eunice and she’d been rescued from a puppy mill in Miami- Dade County – starved and abandoned once she was no longer able to produce puppies at the ripe old age of three. “Don’t breed if you don’t rescue.” is Mickey’s motto – and she made sure it was ingrained in me.
Having Eunice made me realize I was responsible for another life. For the first time, I felt like I was growing up. She was my best friend and confidant, my drama partner (I rehearsed my lines with her), and my exercise buddy (I worked out and Eunice watched).
Eunice died without warning in early 2009, leaving a big hole in my life. I buried her at The C.A.R.E. Foundation, under some trees behind the tiger run – a fitting resting place and one where I can visit her when I’m at C.A.R.E. I was 17, and would be leaving for college in a little more than a year. I decided there would be no more dogs for me until I was through college…
Then in January of 2010, a friend of my mom’s sent her some information about the “Chipley dogs” from Animal Control of West Florida, with a request that she publish their bios every week on CentralFloridaTails.Com (CFT) in hopes that they would be rescued. My mom is the Regional Publisher of CFT, and one of the dogs my mom’s friend sent info on was Arrow – a white bulldog mix with a broken tail that looked like a question mark. “What about him?” Mom asked me. It was a question she’d posed for almost a year – every time someone sent her pictures of a dog that needed rescue. I usually ignored her, sometimes grunted, and never did more than say “nice dog”. But this time, I looked at Arrow and thought, “maybe…”
Mom started to write and say we’d take him, when her friend wrote back that he was off the list. “Arrow was euthanized this morning,” her email read. I felt the same shock I’d felt at Eunice’s sudden death – the same sickening in the pit of my stomach. I could understand Eunice’s death – Bullmastiffs often don’t live past ten, and her life hadn’t been easy before she’d come to us. But Arrow? He was a healthy two-year-old bully whose only problem was a crooked tail. Why did he have to die?
It’s shocking, isn’t it that here in the “greatest nation on earth” we routinely euthanize over 4.5 million dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and other animals in U.S. shelters every year. For the record, my Mom never uses the colloquialism ‘put to sleep.’ “They’re not sleeping,” she says. “They’re dead.” And while many of those dogs are mixed breeds (urban shelters estimate that a large percent of their dogs are pit mixes), it’s astonishing how many purebred animals are also euthanized annually. Mickey once told me that breed rescues have every kind of purebred dog anyone might want, but Americans still insist on going to breeders. “Don’t breed, if you don’t rescue.”
A friend of mine who’s a dog trainer in Orlando told me recently that she truly believes Americans don’t understand what happens to animals in kill shelters – she thinks they’re really convinced that most of them ‘make it out alive’ – that someone, somehow rescues them and they live happily ever after. “If they only knew,” she said. Shortly after that, I was performing the song Homeward Bound (words and music by Marta Keen and arranged by Jay Althouse) at a school competition when I found myself thinking about both Eunice and Arrow – and had an idea.
My Mom has hundreds of pictures of the animals CentralFloridaTails.Com routinely tries to help find rescue, foster, and/or adoption. Many of those pictures are of poor quality – grainy or out-of-focus. Sometimes, she learns the fates of those animals and sometimes she never does. Her work with CentralFloridaTails.Com has brought our entire family closer to the rescue network throughout the state of Florida, and made me realize that there are hundreds of volunteers – like Mickey Mullen – who work tirelessly every day basis to save the lives of thousands of animals.
Homeward Bound, the video, is the combination of all of the above – it’s a song that always makes me think of homeless pets, with pictures of those animals, dedicated to their rescuers in Florida and around the rest of this country. I need to thank Jake Teixiera, our videographer, because nothing would have happened without the countless hours he spent putting this video together. (Jake=Superman!)
Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” I hope that one day we Americans will recognize the truth of those words. So for Eunice, who came homeward bound with us, and for Arrow, who never could, here is Homeward Bound:
Written By: Deirdre Manning