Editor’s note: We’re happy to report that Thelma has been adopted! There are many more dogs hoping to find homes, too. Check out these adoptable pups here.
On August 8th, 2016, Thelma the dog had her two-year anniversary at the Hempstead Town Animal Shelter in Long Island, making her the single longest resident. Volunteer Jennifer Salvietti never planned to go to the shelter that day, but when it finally arrived, she knew she couldn’t let Thelma spend it alone.
Of course, Thelma didn’t know this day was any more painful than the rest; for her, all of the 744 days in the shelter have blurred together. But when Jennifer took her out to play fetch, the volunteer did allow herself to a few tears when Thelma turned her back to chase the ball.
Thelma never once has stopped in the midst of a game of fetch, but as much as Jennifer tried to hide it, the little red dog knew something was wrong. As she was running back for another throw, she stopped. She approached Jennifer slowly, then licked her face gently and leaned her entire body into hers.
It was like she was saying, “I don’t know why you’re crying, but don’t cry for me.”
Someone recently told me that the difference between dogs and humans is that dogs “always hope for the best, even when they’re experiencing the worst.” Thelma is living, breathing proof of that.
“There’s something about her,” Jennifer says. “You just can’t put your finger on it.”
When a friend approaches her cage, Thelma gets excited and wags — sometimes even jumps a little — but she sits down quickly, because she never wants to disobey or disappoint.
Jennifer says it’s like she’s telling herself, “I can’t show my happiness.” If she does, she’s worried it might slip away.
Thelma is not the kind of dog to run over and kiss just anyone, but often the most rare and precious bonds are the ones that form over time.
This dog would lay down her life for those she loves. When Thelma is with someone she trusts, Jennifer admits, it’s as though “the rest of the world ceases to exist.” She continues, “her entire face just lights up like nothing I’ve ever seen.”
On hard days like the anniversary, Jennifer reminds herself of one of her favorite memories: the very first time she took Thelma out for a walk many moons ago. In the beginning, Thelma was suspicious and wary of making eye contact. Then her face softened, and she looked up at Jennifer as if to say:
“We are going to be friends, you and I.”
Thelma’s never had a real place to live; she’s spent almost her entire life inside a place where most dogs spend only a few weeks. The hearts of staff and volunteers at the shelter break a little bit every day she isn’t adopted, but Thelma wouldn’t want us to grieve for her past.
Instead, she’d want us to hope that against all the odds there is indeed a person out there— a person who’d drive to that shelter, pick up a tennis ball, and throw it all the way home.
If you think you might be the person for Thelma, please reach out A Home for Thelma on Facebook, or contact Melissa Fogarty at the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (516)785-5220 x 4632.