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.

About Karen Winkler

Karen volunteers as a feline foster parent with Animal Care and Control Team Philadelphia and a dog handler at the Bucks County SPCA. She was selected to work with the BC SPCA Behavior Modification Program to work with dogs who need additional socialization and training prior to adoption. She assists with dog training classes for the Humane Society of the United States Pets for Life. Karen has a Certificate in Canine Management and Training from Kutztown University. Karen is working on a series of essays about her volunteer experience with animals. She hopes sharing her experiences will motivate others to volunteer, foster, and adopt. Karen has been Vegan since 2007.

5 Responses to “To Whom It May Concern – An Essay by Karen Winkler”
  1. Mauro says:

    Wow, that was great reading. Thanks for writing it, Karen.

  2. j9laz says:

    i’ve read this twice and got teary both times. lovely and touching. thank you for doing what you do!

  3. Cheryl says:

    She does ride in the backseat on the way to the bank, and she loves going for walks. Thank you.

  4. anonymous says:

    Beautiful. As a fellow volunteer dog walker this strongly resonated with me. Thank you for sharing this. Please keep doing what you do.