Nearly a year has passed since my wife and I adopted our little hairy bundle of joy, a 6-year-old boxer named Daphne. Her life was far from toilet bowl water wishes and caviar dreams before she was rescued, and it is thanks to the tireless and astonishing efforts of animal rescue workers and volunteers she now slobbers in the lap of luxury.

According to those who rescued Daphne, a Good Samaritan in East Tennessee walked upon a man violently beating Daphne on the street.

The man began to plead with the abuser to stop, leading to an altercation. Though I’m not one to applaud violence, I owe this man a debt of gratitude for punching Daphne’s abuser, taking her from his possession and dropping her off at a local animal shelter.

Though she was now safe from her previous abusive owner, the real work had to begin.

Daphne was used as a breeder, and veterinarians surmised she had already had five or six litters of puppies in as many years as she was alive. Her skin hung painfully on her stomach and needed surgical attention. She had heartworms. She was malnourished. She wasn’t house-trained because, it was deduced, she had never spent a night indoors.

But instead of simply giving up on this animal, volunteers at the Friends of the Oak Ridge Animal Shelter (Tennessee) spared no time, expense or effort to nurse her back to health. She earned the named “Diamond,” because no other dog had taken so much funding to be given a clean bill of health (We changed her named to Daphne because, well, Diamond was a little too stripper-sounding for us).

Included in these wonderful volunteers was my aunt, who took Daphne in her home as she recovered. And it is to people like her whom I owe my deepest gratitude.

These people never have a day off, they use their own money to care for animals and even open their homes to those who do not have one.

My aunt has taken to sheltering rescue dogs in her own home, often housing, feeding and caring for a half-dozen or so animals at a time. I can only imagine that housing that many dogs at once is akin to the craziness of housing a bunch of pubescent teenagers. Only the teenagers would smell more.

Once Daphne was recovered, my wife and I happily adopted her. And therein lies perhaps the toughest part of being an animal shelter worker/volunteer – having to say goodbye.

Through all the tribulations of her first six years of life, Daphne was still lovable, playful and happy. And after getting so close to her and learning to love her, my aunt was forced to bid her farewell as we’d be taking her a state away.

Though it is unbelievably difficult, these volunteers go through the stress and heartache of working for animals in the hopes that their days ahead will be better than those behind. And now that we have Daphne, I can assure you she could not have found a more loving home – I think my wife loves her more than me.

Though I’ve heard my aunt and other shelter volunteers say those that provide forever homes are the most important cog in the wheel, I have to disagree. Without the shelter volunteers, we wouldn’t have Daphne.

So to all the animal shelter workers and volunteers, we animal lovers all owe you our deepest, most sincere thanks.

I’m sure if Daphne was around, she would happily show her appreciation with loads of slobbery licks.

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