Monday, June 13, 2011

'Big furry reason to live' now needs a new home

Photo by Jim Keyworth
Freckles and Vivian in happier times. Now that Vivian Myers has passed away, the companion who helped her through the last two years desperately needs a new home.

(Editor's note: This column, which originally appeared on the Gazette Blog and in the Mogollon Connection newspaper is reprinted in memory of Vivian Myers, who passed away last week. Freckles, her loyal companion the last two years, is now in desperate need of a home. If you can help, or for more information on Freckles, please call her daughter Nancy at (928) 474-3003 or the Gazette Blog at (928) 474-8787.)

Times are tough all over, and the Humane Society of Central Aizona (HSCAZ), formerly known as the Payson Humane Society, is no exception.

As the organization struggles to raise the money to build a desperately-needed new shelter, just keeping the doors of the old shelter open is a challenge. And yet, “the little shelter that could” keeps going, and the stories that continue to unfold on a regular basis are a journalist’s dream. Because they can make you laugh and cry at the same time. And because they speak volumes about who we are and what we value as a community.

The story of Freckles, a shelter dog adopted last week by 87-year-old Vivian Myers under the shelter’s Senior to Senior program, is a very special case in point.

Vivian is from northern Kentucky, but she’s a Rim Country original. She moved to Arizona with former husband Jack in 1951. He had been shot in France during the Normandy landing and had breathing issues in the Kentucky humidity.

Their first stop was Tempe, at a time when just 3,000 people lived there.

“Kids would ride their bikes up old main, lean them up against a tree and go to class,” Vivian recalled. “Come back – bikes are still there.”

The Myers moved to Strawberry in 1969.

“I waited tables at the Strawberry Lodge for $1.15 an hour when there wasn’t any customers,” Vivian said. “The old farts would come in and they’d sit and drain the coffee pot for the price of one cup.”

Vivian, who is currently living next door to her daughter and son-in-law in Round Valley while she slowly recuperates from hip surgery, contacted The Consort (a shelter employee, you will recall) several months ago when her longtime canine companion had to be euthanized. Funi Face was a pit bull she adopted from the shelter 12 or 13 years ago – after he had been returned to the shelter four times.

“When I got her in my little old truck and we’re heading up the hill to Strawberry I’m looking at her and I’m saying, ‘I don’t know what the hell I’m getting into if nobody wanted you four times.’

“She walked in the house and I’m still shutting the garage door and she’s sitting on the couch, and I said that’s the first no-no. She never had a second no-no. She never did another thing wrong.”

But Funi Face developed a tumor on her head that got so large it was seriously impacting her quality of life. The shelter helped hook her up with Dr. Timothy Patterson who came to her house last Oct. 30 and put Funi Face down while Vivian held her head.

“We went out on the porch early that morning and Funi was happy. But she came back in and laid in her little bed and looked up at me as if to say, ‘Mommy, I can’t stay any longer.’”

Vivian was devastated; she desperately missed her best friend. She knew no other animal could ever replace her beloved Funi Face and she was worried about another dog outliving her, but she asked the shelter to watch for another pit bull that might be a good match.

The first one they came up with didn’t strike her fancy, but along came Freckles – turned over by an owner with landlord issues. HSCAZ Animal Supervisor Lisa Boyle thought the seven-year-old pit bull-lab mix might be a good match.

The Senior-to-Senior program helps hook older dogs up with older people. It’s a great program because older animals are often difficult to adopt and older people sometimes really need the companionship. The program includes assistance in finding the right match and getting the two parties together, plus a special low adoption fee of just $25.

When they first met, Vivian wasn’t so sure about Freckles, but she agreed to foster her and see what happened. A couple weeks later, Freckles jumped the fence and Vivian decided it wasn’t going to work. Freckles came back to the shelter.

It wasn’t more than a few days when Vivian called the shelter and said she wanted Freckles back. Her daughter and son-in-law had Freckle-proofed the fence, and Vivian realized just how much she missed Freckles’ companionship.

Soon after her return to Vivian, a lady drove to the shelter from Cottonwood after seeing Freckles on the HSCAZ website. It was a close call, so Vivian decided she needed to make her relationship with Freckles permanent.

One afternoon last week, The Consort talked me into driving down to Round Valley with her to finalize Freckles’ adoption – and to take her for a walk.

Check out the photo of Vivian and Freckles. The dog is fairly beaming, and Vivian looks pretty happy herself.

Now that she’s got Freckles, Vivian’s planning to stick around awhile. Besides, she can’t find the nightgown she wants them to put on her when she goes.

“I have torn this place apart – can’t find that nightie. So I guess I can’t die,” she laughed.

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