The Redemptive Power of Spontaneous Love

By Joanna Dunn Samson, Vice President

On the morning of New Year’s Eve, Matt Cummins called his wife Meghan at work to tell her he was going to the Aiken County Animal Shelter to check out the dogs. He didn’t intend to adopt a dog from the shelter—after all, they were waiting for a purebred German Shepherd puppy from a breeder in Georgia—he was just curious. So he hopped into his car and drove from his home in Graniteville to the shelter on Wire Road.

Annie is a 2 year-old, Doberman/shepherd cross who, by New Year’s Eve, had been at the Shelter a very long time. A favorite among the staff and FOTAS volunteers, they were surprised she had not been adopted. Annie is, in the words of one of the volunteers, an old soul: quiet, sweet, wise and attentive. Because a long stay at the shelter is not a good thing for all sorts of reasons, she needed to find a home–fast.

Then the stars aligned just right for a little magic. Matt was seated in the lobby of the shelter waiting to speak to someone at the desk at the same time Annie walked by on her morning stroll with a volunteer. Annie saw Matt, stopped, and pulled her handler over to Matt. She dropped her head in his lap and gazed up at him, with a look that said, “You. You’re the one.” She was right.

“I knew immediately she was the dog for me,” says Matt. “There was no doubt in my mind. I don’t know what possessed me to go to the shelter that day, but I swear, it must have been fate.” By 5:00, after calling his wife and attending to a critical errand, he and Annie were on their way home.

Wait—this story gets better. Two days earlier, FOTAS had contacted Jerry Lyda of Veteran’s K9 Solutions about Annie because we believed she might make a good service dog for his program. Jerry asked Sylvia Igoe, a long-time FOTAS volunteer and foster who trains with Jerry, to assess Annie’s potential as a service dog.

“What we look for in a dog,” says Sylvia, “is a certain temperament. Is she people oriented? Calm? Focused on me or distracted by her environment? It didn’t take me long to conclude that Annie was a natural: inherently kind and instinctively protective. I called Jerry and said, ‘We have to find a veteran for this dog!’”

Sadly, no veteran was looking for a dog at the time, so despite her qualifications, Annie needed to stay at the shelter until one came along. Then, two days later–call it coincidence, call it fate–Matt Cummins walked into the shelter and fell in love.

Matt Cummins is an army veteran.

I call it the work of angels.

As we celebrate the greatest miracle of all this Easter, take a moment to pray that the County’s abandoned and homeless animals discover the healing powers of home and love and belonging, because what we give to them, they give back to us in spades.

Just ask Matt Cummins.

Their lives are in our hands.