One Saturday in March, I was on my way to my first Tails of Gray transport. I knew I’d be picking up a pair of “sisters”–Lhasa Apso mixes, about 10 years old. Those were the small details. The one weighing most significantly on my heart was that these two had been confiscated as part of a large cruelty/neglect case in the Bay Area. Nineteen dogs had been found in a U-Haul trailer, living in cramped and filthy cages.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but was saddened to see that the dogs’ physical appearances reflected their prior living conditions. Both had overgrown hair, dirty collars—one was bloodstained. A volunteer helped me load the girls into my old Jeep, and I met Tails of Gray’s founder, Stephanie Meissner, and her daughter, Emily, at a nearby park. I opened the back gate to let the quiet girls meet their rescuers. As Stephanie and Emily placed new collars around the dogs’ necks, I felt relief that they were receiving a brand-new chance at life—a much better life—and pride in being able to help.
Many of the Tails of Gray dogs have similar stories, although the impetus behind a Tails of Gray rescue does not necessarily have to include an unfortunate past. Established in 2014 and launched in August 2015, Tails of Gray has made its primary goal rescuing senior dogs from shelters—dogs that are often overlooked due to their age. It is our hope to prevent euthanasia because of dogs’ being “too old;” to help these dogs recover from their medical issues, abuse, cruelty, and/or neglect; to show as many people as possible that senior dogs can make fantastic pets with many years ahead of them; and to share that “each one matters.”
This ideology is further supported by a fundraising effort unique to Tails of Gray. The senior canine rescues have an opportunity to show off their distinctive personalities through dog art: their paw prints on canvas, created using nontoxic paint. The paintings, available on Tails of Gray’s website, not only allow us to provide a token of appreciation for the funding that our supporters provide, but allow the dogs to share their stories.
Perhaps the canvases enable you to see that Butterfly, blind and abandoned in a field, is now a champion snuggler with a tail that wags nonstop. That Max, alone in the shelter due to his size and mobility issues, is a loyal and loving friend. That Cynthia, blind, malnourished, and found stuck in some fencing, is one of the most unique and sweet personalities we have come across. That Molly Pitcher, severely depressed after being abandoned by her family, feels included again. That Coco, also rescued from the U-Haul trailer, has made great progress in learning to trust. Each dog has its past, and Tails of Gray strives to ensure that each dog’s art reflects a far happier present.
Lesley Reo is a board member and volunteer for Tails of Gray. She begged her parents to adopt a yellow Lab from the local shelter for her 13th birthday and has continued adopting rescues since. She is currently mom to a Tails of Gray Chihuahua mix, despite assuming that she would never adopt a Chihuahua.
Main article photo by: Japanese Cherry Blossoms Painting by Butterfly