Love, forgiveness and a second chance in the New Year

28 December 2014

Love, forgiveness and a second chance in the New Year

By Joanna Dunn Samson, FOTAS Director

“No matter how dark the night, morning always comes. And our journey begins anew.”


Harley graduated from the School of Hard Knocks. A bull terrier cross with a dark brindle coat and a white chest, Harley spent most of his short unhappy life in the yard of a house full of crack addicts and drunks. He was abused, malnourished and had never been to a veterinarian. He survived by keeping his head down and steering clear of trouble.

A kindly neighbor took pity on Harley and fed and cared for him whenever he could, but he did not have the wherewithal to care for him on a permanent basis. Eventually another neighbor called County Animal Control because Harley was scrounging for food in neighborhood trashcans.

I was surprised to hear how easy it was for the Animal Control officer to catch Harley – his experience with the human race had been, for the most part, miserable. Yet Harley never showed an ounce of aggression. He came to the officer quietly and jumped willingly into the truck.

The FOTAS volunteers and staff at the Aiken County Animal Shelter were impressed with Harley’s kind nature, especially in light of his appalling physical condition. He was scrawny and showed scars of repeated physical abuse. Fortunately, a full examination by Dr. Levy revealed that other than testing positive for early stage heartworm disease (which was 100% treatable), there was nothing wrong with Harley that couldn’t be cured with love, consistent care and a good diet.

FOTAS volunteers were so taken with Harley that they called upon Toni and Gary Urben, one of their most experienced foster families, to care for Harley at their home until he could be appropriately placed. The Urbens agreed, and in short order, Toni was in love.

“I’ve fostered a lot of dogs over the years,” said Toni, “and I never, ever had a dog this special, this kind. He listened; he sat at my feet; he walked at my side. He is an extraordinary dog. We desperately wanted to keep him, but we just couldn’t. It was killing me.”

“But I knew one thing: Harley was not leaving us until he had the perfect home.”

And so it was. After a week or so of appeals to the Aiken community, John and Lisa Mitchell responded to an email sent out to the Aiken Hounds membership. The Mitchells drove over to the Urben’s house to meet Harley, and they, too, were hopelessly smitten by his quiet good nature. Harley was going home with them.

And so he did. In fact, Harley bonded with their son and became a beloved member of

the family so quickly, they couldn’t bear to part with him over the holidays. So they packed Harley into the car and headed west to California to visit their children and grandchildren for Christmas. Harley goes where they go. Period.

Harley is an extraordinary soul. We can learn much from Harley about hardship, forgiveness and love, qualities we mere mortals strive for but rarely accomplish with such perfect grace as this remarkable dog.

There is a remarkable, perfect dog or cat waiting for you at the Aiken County Animal Shelter.  Please don’t wait: their lives are in our hands.

Happy New Year and God Bless from all of us in the FOTAS community.