Jamie + Lester

Wide open spaces give these best friends the pathway to healing

every gift saves lives

every gift saves lives

Jamie + Lester

In his first week after adoption, standing in the doorway, I dropped a piece of camera equipment, sending him into a panic as he dodged between my feet and down the stairs in just under a second.

A moment before he sped out of sight, he paused and looked back at me as I stood frozen in the doorway. His big brown eyes wide with fear as I yelled for him to come back, but he was already running.

"He had come into the Santa Fe Animal Shelter with a chain wrapped tightly around his neck. Two days had passed before staff could even get near him."

He had come into the Santa Fe Animal Shelter with a chain wrapped tightly around his neck. Two days had passed before staff could even get near him. He was trying to be invisible by making himself as small as possible, curled up against the wall in the far back of his kennel. Fearful of the moment and scared of the unknown future. I’d been there before.

Four months passed and a team of people worked tirelessly to rebuild what he had lost. Slowly he began to wag his tail, and his eyes looked sweetly at the loving hands offering treats and soft pets. He was ready for adoption. And me? I’d been waiting my whole life for him.

Lester may never be the kind of dog that trusts fully, plays freely or offers kisses to strangers. In the presence of others, he stands at attention, tail tucked and ears alert—seemingly waiting for the next blow. But in the mornings when no one else is around, he wags his tail for me, tilts his head and performs a play bow while I dance crazily around squeaking plush toys trying to tell him that it’s OK to simply be a dog.

It’s in those times that my heart becomes so full of love that I cannot believe I’ve made it this far without him. Healing from something traumatic isn’t easy. In the mountains, I’ve found peace in the big spaces surrounding me. The dusty pathways—they are what they are—they never lie and are always dependable. They’ve guided me to beautiful places, brought me joy and direction in harder times.

Instead of going it alone, I’ve got Lester to walk beside me. Whatever cards he was dealt over the past two years—they don’t matter to me. In this great big place, it’s him and I now, just a girl and her dog taking on all the ins and outs that life will no doubt throw our way.

These days when I stand in my open door, I’m greeted by extreme tail wags and sloppy, wet-nosed kisses. So much excitement fills the place that there’s barely enough room for the two of us. My heart is bursting with joy for the connection that we have formed.

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Each year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Jamie Merideth was the grand prize winner and won Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society in Sante Fe, New Mexico a $100,000 Holiday Wishes award.