When I walk in it’s absolute chaos.
It can’t be helped though. Vanessa’s house is not a big place so when Maggie and Bella – each one large enough to hog an entire loveseat alone – get moving, they cover ALL the territory very quickly.
“Maggie looks like a Twinkie,” Vanessa chuckles. I’d have to agree. Bella is no slouch in that department either though.
Then, of course, mix in three cats, all of whom seem to take a fair amount of pleasure in watching the circus and, just maybe, taunting the dogs a bit.
What’s clear right away, even with all the noise and confusion, is that this is a house filled with an outsized level of love. “They are part of my family,” Vanessa offers with a smile.
In fact, strangers are even welcomed without hesitation. That means all of Maggie in your lap and Bella working overtime to get her fair share of the attention, even if it means shoving her nose right into your eye.
When Maggie was just 6 months old, Vanessa found her on Craigslist. “I saw how bad she was and knew I had to do something,” she says.
Vanessa’s dad, Larry, is more direct. “She was abused.”
Maggie was thin, had skin issues that Vanessa believed were burns, and she was fearful of others, mostly men. At 6 months old, she was starting out the wrong way and without intervention that included good food, medical care, and a mountain-size level of love, Maggie would’ve been lost, likely forever.
Vanessa was not letting that happen. “I told myself ‘I gotta get that dog and help her,’” she said.
Bella’s story, and those of the three cats, are not that dramatic. Still, all have good homes because of Vanessa’s dedication. It’s not easy, especially with Vanessa’s health issues (more on that in a bit) and attendant economic struggles, but there is clearly nothing Vanessa won’t do or go through for her family.
“I don’t know what I’d do with myself,” Vanessa says, “If I didn’t have them around.”
Vanessa’s problems aren’t typical. In fact, given what she’s had to deal with, you’d think she’d maybe just put aside her desire to help animals and spend all of her time just trying keep her own head above water.
That’s not who she is.
While her biggest problem currently is her kidney issues, which require hours of dialysis three times a week, she also wears the pain of not having her kids around. They live with their father in another city.
“These guys help me when I’m feeling down,” Vanessa admits. “They know when something is happening to me; they can tell when I come home from dialysis and am just exhausted and need to rest. Or when I’m about to have a seizure. They can tell.”
Larry jumps in again, adding “They watch over her.”
Vanessa heard about SNKC by word of mouth. And with her health issues, finances are always tough. That’s why she’s glad to have a place to turn to when she needs a little support. The good news is that she’s doing better these days and now feels like she can start working again, at least part time. In fact, she’d like to do something near and dear to our hearts. “I’d love to work with animals,” she admits.
If she doesn’t get that chance, she’s got plenty at home to deal with … two incredible dogs and three sweet cats who not only love her, but watch over her to make sure she’s doing okay.
And that’s the thing about the pets in our lives, right? They don’t just do silly things that entertain us (or awful things like eat the sofa). They bring us all the feels.
Dogs and cats have a way of forgiving the fallibility of human kind. They don’t care if we’re fat or thin, tall or short, bald or covered in hair. If you smell, so what. Or if you have a tendency to chew your nails, watch game shows 18 hours a day, or wear the same clothes for weeks on end. No biggie. They don’t even care if our kidneys don’t work well enough.
What they want is our love, pure and simple. And what they offer in return is to watch over us, to show us what true devotion is, and that friendship is always … for keeps.