My favorite wayward dog story
A stray black dog darts into a busy road in midtown Kansas City on a cold, winter day.
Britton Hunter is on her way home from her first day volunteering at Kansas City, Missouri’s animal shelter.
Having long resisted visiting that place, she’d finally gone, only to be met by everything awful she’d expected and then some: putrid air, filthy kennels and hordes of stressed-out animals barking, howling, coughing and cowering.
Britton and her friend Tammy spent about four hours getting as many dogs as possible out of their depressing surroundings for at least a short walk on a snowy day.
Britton left the shelter never wanting to return but determined to do so. She wanted to change things there, to change lives.
Change can take a lot of time.
She pulls over the instant she sees the stray dog. Britton and Tammy try to catch the frightened animal but give up when they realize she’s not tame, and they will likely succeed only in chasing her back into traffic.
Over the next few days, the temperature dips, and Britton cannot stop thinking about the scruffy dog. She vows to look for her again.
And she does.
Britton makes a point to stop in the dog’s territory several times a week. She names her wild friend Star, for the white patch of fur on her chest. She sets food out, tosses treats and spends lunch breaks sitting on the pavement, slowly working to gain the trust of the animal who almost always emerges, staring with curiosity yet remaining just out of Britton’s reach.
In the same period, Britton tirelessly dedicates herself to the homeless dogs at the shelter, spending a big part of every weekend getting animals out of cages for much-needed sunshine and fresh air. She enlists friends and acquaintances to volunteer, as well. She becomes one of the most active members of the non-profit organization that serves the shelter, Friends of Halfway Home.
Britton works to make alliances with animal rescue groups and get the word out about the shelter’s situation to would-be sympathizers who make donations to Friends of Halfway Home. Her marketing efforts no doubt help many animals to be adopted or moved into safe foster homes.
But for six months, that black dog in Midtown refuses to be caught.
The turning point is a tennis ball.
Bounce. Star comes closer than ever before. Bounce. She’s so intrigued. Britton recalls:
“I bounced it several more times and tossed it to her. After playing a bit back and forth, I sat on the ground and she cautiously approached my side to sniff my elbow. She was closer than ever! I stroked her cheek with my elbow and she sat. Then I offered a closed fist. ‘I’m going to pet you now. Have a little faith and let me,’ I said.”
This time, when Britton dares to touch the dog who has only ever growled at her, gentle human touch melts the animal’s resolve. She closes her eyes, raises her chin and then rolls over to solicit more love.
This is how Star was reborn.
Star remains a part of Britton’s family today, living a spoiled life in the home of Britton’s parents in Kansas City.
Britton continues her efforts to improve the lives of homeless animals in Kansas City through Friends of Halfway Home, recently renamed Friends of KC Animals. You can read more about Britton in the profile I wrote of her for the magazine Her Kansas City.
You can help Britton and her organization save more wayward animals by making a donation to Friends of KC Animals.
If you live in Kansas City, please attend the fundraiser happening at Boozefish Wine Bar this Thursday, December 1. There will be a raffle with lots of great prizes and a portion of the bar’s proceeds for the night will go to Friends of KC Animals. Find more information about the event at the organization’s website.
I hope to see you there.