Some say that good dogs are made, and others say that good dogs are born. While I can’t say where I stand on either of those trains of thought, what I do believe from deep in my soul is that dogs are innately good and pure of heart. And when dogs are put into the loving and guiding hands of good and caring people, the resulting good grows exponentially. Such is the case of a pup near and dear to me and many others. This is the story of Tasha.
Back in 2000, when I was a new volunteer at the MSPCA, I first met Alison, a young animal care and adoption counselor who I quickly learned was as beautiful on the inside as on the outside. Alison has always had a big heart and strong work ethic, and it was not unusual to see her going above and beyond, giving much of herself to the many animals needing care. Our shelter was very small back then and not at all like the current state-of-the-art shelter, which is complete with a surgery room. Back then, we had to shuttle animals in need of spaying and neutering to generous veterinary hospitals near and far. One day in early October of that year, Alison made the long drive to Grafton with two young female American Staffordshire Terriers (Pit Bulls) in the shelter’s white van. One of those homeless pups was Comet, and the other was Tasha.
Tasha was big and beautiful! At about a year and a half old, she was 80-plus pounds of silliness; a reddish-brown dog with a milk chocolate nose and golden brown eyes. She was adorable and friendly--and lucky. After picking up many Pit Bulls that summer in a neighboring urban city, a big-hearted dog officer kept Tasha with him for the better part of a year. He was optimistic that he would find her a loving family, but there were too many dogs who, like Tasha, were looking for homes that fall. Eventually, Tasha was brought to the MSPCA with the hope of finding a forever home. And she eventually did, with Alison—and years later, with Alison’s young son, Ian, too.
Alison took her beloved Tasha with her everywhere so that Tasha could socialize with as many people and dogs as possible. She took Tasha to training classes offered by the MSPCA and worked her way up from beginner to advanced. Eventually, Tasha became one of the first Pit Bulls at the MSPCA in Methuen to pass the ten-step Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test and receive her CGC Certification! This accomplishment opened more doors for Alison and Tasha to teach others about kindness and compassion towards animals. And more recently, Tasha’s excellence has helped to pave the way for a special grant at our adoption center for other Pit Bulls to train for the CGC.
Soon, Tasha was in high demand and became an MSPCA “regular.” As a friendly ambassador for the MSPCA, as well as her breed, she would meet and greet hundreds of kids and adults throughout the year. School children visiting the property might have been treated to a dog-safety lesson with Tasha. Friday mornings, she could often be found sitting in the Education & Training Room with a group of toddlers who were being read to at Little Bookworms Story Time. Almost every one of the shelter’s summer camps was visited by Tasha, who made that experience unforgettable for many young people. One Valentine’s Day, Tasha hosted a special kissing booth fundraiser. Come September, Alison and Tasha would make an appearance to the MSPCA’s annual Walk for Animals, or the two might be spotted in the lobby of the shelter during Pit Bull Awareness Month, greeting people and talking about the wonderful qualities shared by Pit Bulls. And when Christmas brought Santa to the shelter, there at his side would be his faithful helper.
In 2009, Tasha was selected as one of three canine recipients to receive one of the MSPCA’s most prestigious awards. At a red-carpet event, held one night in October at the JFK Library in Boston, Tasha, along with Tucker and Comet, were presented with the 2009 Animal Heroes of the Year Award for their work in humane education. It was quite a recognition for these dogs; they had come from such uncertain and humble beginnings, yet had come so far and made a difference for so many. Tasha was there with her incessantly wagging tail, all dolled up in a lovely pink tutu. For me—and, I’m guessing, for many others—she lit up the room.
Sadly, last month, we lost our Tasha. With Alison, she had lived a long life filled with meaning and an abundance of love. She and Alison became an inspiration for the possibilities of what others might be able to share with an adopted dog. Tasha’s life was proof of the benefits of what time, love, and positive training could do. While helping to educate people about her own misunderstood breed, Tasha touched innumerable people with her innate kindness and beautiful spirit, transforming many people in some small way for the better. Through our tears and eventual smiles, we will remember Tasha with our hearts full and brimming over with love, kindness, and compassion—the lessons we learned from her.
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