To Whom It May Concern – An Essay by Karen Winkler

I walk shelter dogs. All breeds. All needs. All weather. Walking dogs is my calling. I have walked parks from Peace Valley to High Rocks. I know what a Martingale, haltie, gentle lead, and EZ-walk harness are. I keep a dog treat, poop bag, or squeaky toy in at least one pocket of every pair of jeans I own. I can take a damn good photo of a dog at the end of a 20 ft lead while wading through a creek and post it on Facebook without missing a step. I wear a head lamp, fanny pack, camelback, and carry my own people snacks so I can walk 6 hours without needing a break. I keep a rain suit in the trunk of my car. I dream of owning insulated coveralls.  This is important for you to know because I walked your dog.

I was there when he was brought to the shelter. I know why he was surrendered though I cannot understand how anyone could give up this dog. I could hardly wait until he was approved for handling. I ran my hands over his body again and again until I knew what hurt, the hidden scars, his favorite spots, and every tender bone. I pampered him in every way I could. I worried about him. At the same time I hoped you were out there. I was insulted when visitors passed by him. I taught him to wait for me, watch me, walk with me, things that have no importance to a dog and he was able to put aside the stress of kennel life to give me what I wanted. I knew he was a good dog.

You may be curious about his life at the shelter but think it is too hard to hear. I want you to know that it was an honor and a privilege to walk your dog. The time spent with him precious. Your dog taught me the importance of every life and how much more is communicated by simply being quiet. I take what your dog taught me and share it with the next to create a strong legacy.

I am curious to know about you and what his life is like now. I imagine he rides in the backseat to the bank, takes up most of the couch when watching tv, sleeps on the left-side of the bed, and loves walks with you. I know he is happy in your home.

If I were to talk to you at the shelter I would tell you that while I was walking your dog I loved him. The relief and joy I felt when you took him home made me cry.  Those are the only tears I let him see.  I am eternally grateful to you for loving him. Thank you for taking his lead.

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