Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My day with kid rescuer ends in giggling fit

I’m starting to think that little girl rescuer Calli is a Mini Me.
A jaunt to Winnipeg (aka Winterpeg) nearly froze me solid this week as I frolicked with pen, pad and camera in icy minus 49 degrees Celsius. The harsh climate is particularly rough on homeless people and animals. While I was there, animals were being admitted to the local shelter with frostbitten ears.

But out there on the Prairies I found warmth, too. The kind that melts the heart.

Calli Vanderaa and I spent time talking about animals and compassion. We discussed responsible pet ownership. I shot photographs of her with Jessie and other animals. And we toured the Winnipeg Humane Society. Staff there called her “an inspiration.” Shelter work is difficult at times, a job that seems dismally dark on some days. Calli was a ray of light and hope on two small legs as she walked the place in awe.

I first told you about nine-year-old Calli just before Christmas (Girl rescues tortured puppy from inner-city war zone, Dec. 14, 2008).
A few months prior, she had rescued her Jessie from a trash dumpster near her house in the heart of gangland territory. Someone had tortured Jessie and her two littermates, setting them on fire before leaving them for dead. The caramel-colored dog, scorched and blackened, was the only pup still alive when Calli pulled her from danger.

Like the shelter workers, I found it inspiring to watch Calli in action. Kids naturally do the right thing by animals. They don’t think about time, money, and life’s responsibilities before attempting a rescue. But as we grow into adults, we start thinking more about our own needs. We forget we are obligated to rescue the creatures we fought to save when we were as helpless as they were. Back when we stood knee-high and looked straight into their eyes. Children view this responsibility with unfettered purity.

They get it.

Calli and I had work to do, but we found some time to play, too. I took her out for a nice lunch at a posh restaurant. It was there that we launched into a giggling fit, a familiar old feeling for me.

When I was a kid, gales of raucous laughter always got me into trouble.

Once I got started into a fit of laughter, I couldn’t stop. Teachers would sternly instruct me to stop laughing and being disruptive at once or I would be in trouble, big trouble. But that only made me laugh harder. Frequently my desk would end up banished to the hallway with me stationed at it. I recall sitting out there all alone as the humor of the situation set in. In the long corridor, I now had my own classroom for one. Tears would roll down my cheeks as I laughed even harder at the hilarity of the situation.

It was easier to laugh than to cry.

It turns out Calli is wired similarly. Our laugh track lasted a good 20 minutes. When one of us could finally pull it together long enough to catch a ragged breath, all it took was a glance of eye contact from the other and we’d be off again.

“We should go to school together – we’d be in big trouble,” Calli said in between our dueling gulping bursts of fanatical laughter.

Calli’s posted my cell phone number up on her fridge, and she knows she can call me any time. With her single dad Corey on the road long-haul trucking much of the time, she could use a friend. To talk about animals, or anything else, for that matter.

And Corey kindly offered to indulge our wish to meet up again. On his next trucking trek out to the West Coast, Calli will be riding up in the cab with him, clicking off the miles until we can hang out again. She’ll be staying with me for a while, and Corey will pick her back up to come home on his next run out.

I’ve already started figuring out where we’ll go and who she’ll meet when she visits. The cat sanctuary with 800 felines. The shelter that takes dogs seized from grow-ops. The myriad adults and kids I’ve met along the way who devote themselves to rescuing animals.

People who can’t turn away when they hear a puppy crying.

I know they’ll love her. She’s one of us. And like me, I’m certain they will recognize themselves in her.

Trading hats.

Poor Calli was frozen stiff while we took photos on a cold night.

Hanging out with Jessie, dad Corey and Calli. Check out the hot Stratus guitar she received from a reader for Christmas in the background.

No comments: