When Claire Garth made the move from Melbourne to Sydney, she knew she was in for a change in direction, but she didn’t plan on having a rescue dog enter her life.
In celebration of the release of her children’s chapter book series Grover McBane: Rescue Dog, Claire shared the story of how she met Grover.
When I look back on it now, it was a flawed plan to begin with. Quit my job, volunteer at an animal shelter, get my dog “fix” so I don’t feel the need to bring one home permanently. Sounds easy enough…right? Wrong.
I had left the corporate world with a view to take a few months off and volunteer somewhere. We’d just moved to Sydney from Melbourne so it was a good way to meet new people, and explore a new city. In my search for somewhere to “pat all the dogs” I managed to find Sydney’s only charity Pound, Sydney Dogs & Cats Home. In a world of doom and gloom, and with situations too horrendous to document, Sydney Dogs & Cats Home choose to take in these wounded souls, shower them with love, and set them on a track for a second chance.
On finding such a haven I managed to get completely caught up in the amazing energy of this animal lover’s nirvana. Before I knew it, I was accepting a job. Corporate life well behind me, I would now carry a lint roller in my handbag and cuddle 3 week old kittens in meetings like it was just a regular Tuesday.
In my very short time in this industry I have learned that animals arrive into a shelter for a variety of reasons. Perhaps it was a living situation that changed. A relationship that broke down. A need for a family to travel back overseas for an extended period. A human who outlived them. A human that never deserved to have them in the first place.
Working or volunteering at an animal shelter you see the very worst in people. But, thankfully, you also see the very best. If it wasn’t for this Yin to the Yang I would never have made it in this industry, which is lucky, because had I not stuck it out, I would never have met my soul-mutt. A border collie named Grover McBane.
Grover on the day he met Claire. Image: supplied.
Anyone who has been lucky enough to adopt a rescue dog, knows that it’s an experience that is hard to put into words. There are few loyalties as fierce as the bond that forms between human and rescue animal on that very first “gotcha” day.
Grover was a long-legged lad with the deepest brown eyes I’d ever seen, though he wasn’t looking his best that first day. He was severely underweight, completely anaemic from the thousands of fleas that riddled his frail body, his ears were terribly scabby and bleeding and he had tufts of hair missing all over – the product of years of malnourishment and constant scratching, in equal measure.
As the animal ranger placed Grover on the floor of the vet room that first day he quite literally collapsed.
A thick metal chain around his neck, snapped off mid-link, was the only evidence of the life that had gone before – years of neglect, chained in a yard.
Too frail to stay in the shelter overnight, Grover came home to stay with me and my partner Andrew that very first night. We were to be his foster carers. Grover’s depleted little body limped its way into our house, and into our hearts. Curling up for a nap on the couch that he most definitely, was absolutely not allowed to be on, we knew in an instant that this boy would not be leaving us. In the industry they call it ‘foster-fail’, but nothing about it felt like failing.
The weeks and months that followed saw a once shy, frail, and sad dog, transform into a playful, affectionate and loyal member of the family. There was an almost instantaneous bond, and a definite sense of gratitude.
Grover quickly learned the joy of car rides, daily trips the dog park, weekends away, and brunches at numerous cafes. Café owners who learned of his story had brought him bacon on various occasions, and people at neighbouring tables would offer up leftover sausage. Everyone who met this dog wanted to help him. (And clearly, he was more than happy to let them). It’s amazing how a rescue dog can really bring out people’s humanity.
Grover and Benjamin enjoying the view from the backseat. Image: supplied.
No one tells you of the special club you enter the day you rescue a dog – you find yourself talking to loads of people at the dog park who also have rescue dogs. It’s a strange and somewhat comical conversation of:
“What breed is your dog?” I’m not really sure.
“How old is he?” We don’t really know.
“Well, he’s a beauty.” Yep, he sure is.
Seeing multiple rescue dogs, all running together at the park you can’t help but smile. The collective ‘second chance’ is a beautiful sight to see.
As time went by, and Grover gained strength, his personality really started to break through. Some eccentricities also emerged – like his need to play “hide and seek” at local parks, where he would literally run and hide behind trees and poke his head out to see if you’re coming to get him.
He also learned to hug.
Left: Grover shares a hug. Right: Grover all dressed up. Images: supplied.
Grover had started coming to work with me each day because he was struggling a little bit with abandonment (as the iPad recordings and scratches on our front door attested). Through this, he somewhat “fell” into a job at the shelter, helping new arrivals to settle in.
Grover’s separation anxiety has since eased. He’s learned that we are his people, and that we will always come back – but this hasn’t ended his employment at the Shelter. Grover now has the full time role of Resident Office Dog, calming anxious new dogs, and providing injured dogs with much needed company. He’s basically come full circle at the Home, he arrived as a lost and neglected dog and is now a full time employee. An appropriate bookend to a major chapter in his life.
Grover’s rescue story always garnered such a strong reaction that I soon realised that it was one that deserved to be told to a broader audience. Children and adults alike find themes in his life that strike a chord in their own, like resilience, finding new friends, and learning to start over.
Having fun on a trip to the winery. Image: supplied.
The Grover McBane - Rescue Dog series was born from a desire to share Grover’s real life experience. His adventures, his triumphs, and his struggles. A series about a rescue dog, by a rescue dog (I swear, I only occasionally helped with the typing…)
Grover’s story is one that we can all find meaning in. A lesson in courage, resilience, and the beauty that lies in a second chance.
Grover Finds A Home, the first of three books in the series to be released this year, is now available in all good book stores Australia-wide or online via Booktopia: www.bit.ly/1QlKokk
At Grover’s insistence, each book sold will also be supporting the work of Sydney Dogs & Cats Home, helping them care for more animals just like him.
You can also follow the real Grover and all his adventures on Instagram @grovermcbane