When we picked Mr. Wilson up at the highway rest stop a lot of people were picking up other dogs, and a lot of them wore PAWS sweatshirts and jackets. We had never been involved in any animal rescue activities but had heard about people picking up their adopted pets at highway rest stops. It sounded mysterious and kind of cool; strangers meeting at a darkened roadway, exchanging manilla envelopes and cargo then driving their separate ways.
From the book, Mr. Wilson Makes it Home
A guy about my age was next in line, rugged, dressed in jeans and a work shirt. He didn’t seem to be the type to rescue homeless dogs. When Jeff appeared with a brown, hairy mixed breed thing, and Kevin handed over the manila envelope with all of the dogs medical records and as much history as they could find, I saw a different person altogether. He was one of us, and the look of exultation on his face was priceless. He walked away from the crowd, just him and his dog, looking into his new puppy’s eyes, getting his face licked, hypnotized by the living creature in his arms that gave unconditionally to a person who he had never met. A bond was instantly established between the two, one that would last the entire length of the dog’s life, and though in all likelihood the man would outlive the dog, would remain there as well.
One of the people who fostered dogs was next, identified by her jacket which was emblazoned with giant letters, P A W S on the back.
“What’s PAWS mean?” I asked Cheryl, assuming that she would know. After all, she did find out about all of this, had it not been for her exit 89 off of 395 would have been just one of the million and one places that I have never been.
“People helping animals. They hook people up with abandoned dogs and cats.”
“Yeah, but what’s PAWS stand for?”
“I just told you, people helping animals.”
“That would be PHA.”
“You can’t say PHA. Nobody would remember it.
“So what’s PAWS stand for?”
“Does it matter?”
“I guess not…I just wish I knew.”
“I don’t have a Googler with me.”
“What’s a Googler?”
“It’s a thing that lets you google stuff.”
“Like an I-phone?”
“Yeah, exactly! So what does PAWS stand for.”
“I told you, People Helping Animals.”
“That would be PHA.”
“Ok, it’s not that important.”
There’s nothing like meaningful conversation on a beautiful day.
The dog that the lady from PAWS took from Jeff and Kevin was an older dog, maybe seven years old. She was terrified, and her tail was between her legs, and her ears were flat on her head, and she refused to make eye contact with anybody, just tried to melt into the pavement. She simply did not want to be noticed, being invisible much safer than being seen. She hid behind her foster mother’s legs, and the mom’s assistant, also wearing a PAWS jacket knelt next to the abused dog, then sat on the ground, and held her in her arms. I was mesmerized, unable to tear my teary eyes away from the drama that was happening so close to me I could smell the scent of fear coming from the dog.
“Pets are worth saving.”
“They sure are,” I said, watching as the two women showered the poor dog with patience and affection.
“That’s what PAWS means.”
It took me a minute, but eventually it all became clear.
PAWS means a lot of things to a lot of different people. There are numerous organizations named PAWS, most exist for the sole reason of helping animals. It doesn’t really matter what each organization’s letters stand for, what matters is that there are people who volunteer their time helping those who have no voice. For me, PAWS means “People are worthy souls.”
The people at PAWS do a great job, and they have our most sincere thanks.