Seeking Bingo . . . . A Holiday Story
Bingo was a lovable and precious terrier who was on the manifest for a Pilots N Paws transport mission from New Iberia, LA, to Pearland Regional Airport back last May. Like a lot of endangered rescue dogs that I had flown from Louisiana previously (and since), she was picked up by volunteer ground transport and delivered to The Humane Society of Brazoria County (BCHS), a non-profit, no-kill shelter south of Houston. I develop connections to and strong feelings for every dog I fly, but some just seem to come to occupy a special place in my heart. Bingo was one of those. A day after the flight, I donated a couple of hundred dollars to BHCS for her care, and inquired in an email if I could visit her outside the shelter and if I could be informed about her status (I did write “outside the shelter”; it’s a hypocritical denial thing, I know, but shelter visits are so painful that I do my best to avoid them). I never heard anything back. In the weeks to come, I often thought of the little girl. After a few months went by, I got a call from Carolyn Harris, the rescuer/foster/rescue and transport coordinator in New Iberia who had gotten Bingo pulled from a Louisiana high-kill shelter; the BCHS founder and director had called her with word that Bingo had been adopted. The news made me ecstatic. In early November, BCHS suddenly closed. Volunteer rescuers who flocked to the shelter to help discovered a tragedy: kennels were overcrowded, dogs were emaciated, some had died of distemper and other unvaccinated dogs were exposed, and previously heartworm-free dogs had contracted the infection because they weren’t medicated with the preventative. Vets were putting down puppies and dogs at the “no-kill” shelter, and it seemed as if the authorities would step in any day for a mass euthanasia. Rescue groups and volunteer fosters pulled as many dogs as they could. Then came word that the intake and adoption records were in complete disarray: many “adoptions” could not be confirmed and the well being of many other dogs could not be determined. Carolyn received a tip that Bingo might still have been in the shelter when it was closed. We were both frantic to find out what had happened to her. I was greatly disturbed and felt betrayed; when I fly rescues, I take it on faith and trust that I am flying my innocent and deserving dogs to better futures and brighter lives (fosters, no-kill rescues and shelters and adopters) and, soon or eventually, loving homes. It didn’t help that the holiday season has, for years, been especially melancholy for me. It coincides with the birthdays or anniversaries of the deaths of my sister, my mom and my dad. Finally, Carolyn got word that a dog that MIGHT have been Bingo had been pulled from BCHS by Mutts & Meows, a foster-based Houston rescue group. She was undernourished, had never been spayed, and was in deplorable condition, but was in a foster’s care and was being cared for and tended to. Last week, Carolyn and I were notified that the foster was taking the dog-who-might-be-Bingo to an adoption event. I promised Carolyn and myself that I would attend to confirm that Bingo was still alive. So, yesterday, my birthday (normally an especially sad day for me because of my losses), I made the 50-mile drive from the southeast side of Houston to the Petsmart in Katy, TX, to the west, the whole time dreading disappointment: that it would turn out NOT to be Bingo. I arrived early, a little before noon, and waited near the adoption area. Then, a woman appeared with a terrier on a leash. I recognized the girl immediately and she remembered me. It was Bingo! I teared up, born of relief and delight that she was safe. I thought about taking her home, but sadly and immediately dismissed the idea. I was already spread thin with five rescue dogs of my own, and, after her six-month ordeal, Bingo deserved undivided love and attention. The Mutts & Meows foster, Cathy Linch, assured me that Bingo would receive care and attention until she was adopted and found a forever home. Cathy promised to stay in touch with any news, so I made the drive home, comforted, but, somehow, still forlorn. About a quarter to four, my cell rang. It was Cathy. Bingo had been adopted, was now named Jitterbug, and was heading to her new home. I bawled again, this time out of joy. For some reason, I was reminded of the closing line in John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row”: “Once more, the world was spinning in greased grooves.” This was the happiest birthday I had ever had, or, likely, ever would have. Even better (I just have to reference the great Jean Shepherd this time of year) than the birthday I received my Daisy BB rifle. For the first time, I noticed the sky was clear and blue, seemingly without end, full of hope and promise.