I have investigated several thousand cases of abuse and neglect since my work started as a Humane Police Officer in Greene County. I did not guess that one dog I met in the late 1990s would have such a profound and positive impact on my life and my work at the shelter. I did not know at the time that Gem would become a true gem.
Gem arrived in the spring of 2000 as a thin, yet stately, white dog with joy in her eyes. She was rescued wandering around town with ten offspring in tow. Pups find homes quickly but large dogs like Gem stay with us longer.
As the weeks rolled by, we noticed that Gem had talents unlike other dogs. Each evening we left the shelter with all dogs including Gem safely “tucked in” to their kennels for the night. But we would arrive the following morning to find Gem quietly roaming the facility, sometimes with other dogs loose from their kennels. One morning the lobby appeared to have been the scene of a “dog party.” We wondered if our cage latches were defective, but we discovered that Gem was a Houdini and could open most any door, window, or gate with her nose, mouth or paws.
After greeting visitors and making sure all was safe, Gem had an endearing habit of walking back into my office, her “headquarters,” and gently pressing her nose to my leg as if to say, “I am back and things are as they should be.”
At almost 14 years of age on Thanksgiving Day of 2011, Gem became ill. Then on a sad day in early December, Gem made her final check around the shelter, walked to her bed and quietly slipped away surrounded by those who loved her most.
If I could gently place my hand to Gem today as she pressed her nose to me so many times, I would say,
“Gem, the world is a happier place because of you and that is as it should be.”