The words came matter-of-factly from the mouth of one of the rescue volunteers.
I was confused for a moment. I'd been walking dogs for months as a volunteer and the expression hadn't been uttered once.
The volunteer pointed to a sheet of paper where notes had been scribbled about a beautiful white dog named Abigail.
She had failed her temperament evaluation due to some fear and body language issues. She was not available for adoption. Nor did anyone know when - or if - she ever would be.
"How long?" I asked, wondering if "failed" dogs were living on borrowed time.
I was told there was no specific deadline and that they were working with the dog on her issues. I quickly agreed to take Abigail out for the morning, blindly confident that I could reach her in some way.
In truth, I rarely seem to make a true connection with the dogs I walk on Sunday mornings. Sure, they're usually happy to be out and about, but I don't always feel like I'm making much of an impact in their lives beyond getting them out of confinement for a few hours.
I didn't expect it would be any different with Abigail. I assumed she would be reticent of me and perhaps leery of other dogs.
But after only a few minutes on the leash, she seemed to settle in very nicely. I kept stopping to lean down and caress her coat, giving her reassurance. She looked back at me with doleful eyes. So far, so good.
Abigail is a gorgeous dog - part lab, part pit bull, a silky white coat, her ears as pink as a bunny's on the inside. There's no doubt in my mind she would be adopted in a day if finally made available to the public.
We paused to sit in the shade on a grassy knoll. She was anxious for a moment, but then stepped into my lap and enjoyed some treats from my hand. She looked back at me again, this time more confidently.
When I traded off dogs with my wife for a few minutes, it was clear that Abigail wanted me back. So I took her again.
We found another place to sit and snuggle in the shade. This time she stretched out and laid on her back, begging me for a belly rub. I happily obliged. There was something happening between me and Abigail.
I'm not sure if you can bond with a dog in 90 minutes. I'm not sure how much of it is my feelings projected on her or whether a true connection was made.
When I returned Abigail to her assigned kennel, I felt a twinge of sadness leaving her. However, when I looked at back at her, she almost seemed to smile at me.
When I left the shelter that day, I felt like I might have made a small difference in Abigail's life. Maybe I gave her a hint of normalcy. She is far from a "failed" dog in my mind.
Now she just has to convince the others.
(If you cannot see the video below, please view HERE.)
Update 3.31.15: Abigail is safely in rescue where she'll have time to get ready for a family of her own.