Home > The Best Is Yet to Come(5)

The Best Is Yet to Come(5)
Author: Debbie Macomber

   Hope had more than a few questions about what being a volunteer at the shelter would require of her. The one advantage she could think of was what Preston had mentioned: meeting and getting to know members of the community. As an added bonus, it might be exactly what she needed to take her mind off her own losses. Preston had seemed overwhelmed, and it was in her power to help him out. If volunteering at the shelter took up more time than she expected, she would gracefully bow out.

   Thinking about Peanut and the comfort he gave their grandmother, Hope decided she could use a bit of comfort herself. No better way than to help these abandoned and lost animals to find their forever home. And that just might help her do the same.



Chapter 2


   Hunkering down, Hope stayed a fair distance from the German shepherd inside the containment kennel. Preston had warned her that Shadow, the name given to him at the shelter, was aggressive and hostile toward all who attempted to approach him. Starved and half dead, Shadow had been brought in by Keaton, a friend of Preston’s. Keaton had found Shadow lying by the side of the road, too weak to walk, and with a broken chain around his neck and open sores on his coat, especially around his neck. Even in his deplorable and depleted condition, it’d taken some effort to get Shadow into the truck. The sad story of this poor neglected dog tugged at Hope’s heart. Somehow the chained dog had managed to escape.

   “Hello, boy,” Hope said, keeping her voice low and gentle. Stretched out on his mat, Shadow looked back at her with dark, sad eyes. “You’re safe now, and there are people here who will take good care of you and love you.”

   Preston approached, and weak as he was, Shadow lifted his head and growled, baring his teeth. His entire demeanor changed, and he struggled to come to his feet, staggering sideways before catching himself on the side of the kennel.

   “Easy, boy,” Preston said, in the same calming tone Hope had used earlier. “No one is going to hurt you ever again.” Shadow didn’t appear to believe or trust him, as he continued to growl.

   “I don’t know about him,” Preston said, his brow creased with concern.

   “What do you mean?”

   “Anytime he’s approached, he becomes aggressive.”

   “Really? He didn’t with me.” Hope rose from her knees, and Shadow’s gaze followed her before he made a wobbly return to his bed.

   “He didn’t?” Preston’s frown was replaced with surprise. “No one has been able to get near him. The only reason Keaton was able to rescue him was because he was too weak to fight.”

   “The poor baby. How long has he been here?”

   “Since Wednesday.”

   “Less than four days.” She counted the days in her head. This was only Hope’s second week of volunteering. Last Saturday she’d planned to spend a couple hours and ended up staying six. She watered and fed the dogs, walked a few, and introduced two dogs to their new families. Seeing these lost and abandoned canines find loving homes had deeply touched her. Both times she’d struggled to hold back tears.

   “There’s someone I’d like you to meet,” Preston said, glancing toward the other end of the shelter.

   “Okay.” Hope’s gaze followed his and spied another one of the volunteers. She’d noticed him earlier; he was hard to miss. He’d briefly looked her way, and when he did, she’d noticed his haunted eyes. He was probably late twenties, early thirties, around her own age. When he walked, she detected a limp. He hadn’t said anything when he’d arrived, and she hadn’t, either. He seemed preoccupied and she didn’t want to intrude.

   Preston walked over to the man, who had a dog on a leash. “This is Cade,” he said. “Another volunteer. Cade, meet Hope.”

   Cade wore a camouflage jacket and worn blue jeans. He was a good six inches taller than her, which made him about six feet. He was solid and all muscle. His dark gaze briefly touched hers before lowering.

   “Happy to meet you, Cade,” she said cheerfully.

   Cade nodded, acknowledging her.

   “This is only my second week. I’ve really enjoyed the work so far,” she said, trying to be friendly.

   “I need to walk Joker.”

   “Sure,” she said, unsettled by his lack of welcome. Cade left, and Hope looked to Preston, eager to know if she’d said something wrong.

   Even before she could ask, Preston answered. “Don’t be offended. Cade is going through a rough patch. He’s been volunteering a few days a week for a month now. Working with the animals seems to be helping him. Give him time, the same way you would Shadow.”

   “Of course.” Cade seemed to want to keep to himself, which was fine by her. Perhaps eventually he’d feel comfortable around her and she with him. It didn’t bother her if he’d rather not be friends. The choice was his. For all she knew their paths might never cross again.

   For the rest of the afternoon, Hope worked on the list of tasks Preston had given her when she’d first arrived. Jellybean, a big white Great Pyrenees about the size of a small pony, was collected by Mary Lou Chesterton, a retired teacher. Hope had the privilege of bringing Jellybean out to her.

   Ms. Chesterton got down on one knee, so she was eye level with the dog. “We’re going to be the best of friends,” she told him. She barely seemed to notice Hope, who held on to Jellybean’s leash.

   “I believe you will,” Hope said.

   The woman looked up, and when she saw Hope, she smiled. “My husband and I have had three Pyrenees over the years. We really love the breed. Not everyone is suited to caring for these larger dogs. To us, they’re a perfect fit.”

   “I’m sure Jellybean won’t disappoint you.”

   “I’m going to change his name,” she said, shaking her head as if finding “Jellybean” over the top.

   “I don’t blame you. When the animals can’t be identified or aren’t chipped, the shelter gives them temporary names. Jellybean’s name isn’t one with any significance.” Naming the dogs gave them an identity and a means of helping the shelter know which dog interested a prospective owner.

   Running her hand over his thick white fur, Ms. Chesterton stood and took hold of the leash from Hope. “Are you ready to head home, Jasper?”

   “Jasper?” Hope repeated, testing the name on her tongue.

   “Yes, I decided on the name earlier, after seeing his photo. I took one look at him and knew right away he was a Jasper.”

   “I like it.”

   With the paperwork finalized and the fees collected, Jasper was free to go to his new forever home. Even with this short acquaintance, Hope felt confident Ms. Chesterton would be a good dog owner.

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