Last winter, Brianna and Golden Merrill decided their children were ready for a pet, and they began the search for a dog to meet the family’s needs. After speaking with a volunteer adoption counselor at Richmond Animal League, the Merrills were introduced to Johnny Cash, a little beagle with a terrific spirit and a long history.
“Looking at Cash I had my doubts,” recalled Brianna. “His tag listed that he was Nine years old, positive for heartworms, and honestly, he just looked a little homely.” But once the family took Cash into the backyard at the shelter, the Merrills quickly realized he was the perfect match. “It may not have been love at first sight, but it was most certainly love at first touch,” Brianna said. “He was an old soul who seemed to know exactly how to interact with my kids and a tender bond was formed.”
Richmond Animal League (RAL), the area’s oldest no-kill organization, has been finding homes for homeless pets in the Richmond area since 1979. Dogs and cats are rescued from municipal animal control facilities all over Central Virginia and transported back to the shelter, located near Chesterfield Towne Center.
“We are committed to saving lives by providing hope, help, and homes for animals in need,” said executive director Amy McCracken. With support from donors, the nonprofit organization is often able to transfer animals that need a little more care than average, like Johnny Cash. “In addition to the cute, fuzzy, and already healthy, we take the gimpy, the mangy, the kittens with runny noses, and dogs needing treatment for heartworms,” said McCracken. Once in RAL’s care, the animals are provided with housing, medical treatment, sterilization, and quality care until they are adopted into permanent, loving homes. In 2013, RAL found new families for over 1,600 homeless pets.
Along with the RAL staff, over three hundred volunteers make this lifesaving work possible. When asked about the favorite part of the job, adoption coordinator Alissa Turchen answered, “Getting to know each and every one of our shelter pets and then getting to watch them move on to loving homes and families of their own.”
As for Johnny Cash, the beagle has made a much bigger impact in his new home than ever expected. “I had secretly hoped that when we brought Cash home he would become close with our oldest son who has a special medical condition,” shared Brianna. “But I didn’t have to force anything. Cash is wise and gentle and he knows our son needs special attention. He has put a smile on my son’s face during times his body would tell him he had nothing to smile about.”
Cash has not only healed hearts and brought joy into the Merrill home, he has opened doors for the family to branch out and use him to do the same for others. “I was anxious to see if Cash could duplicate for others what he does for our family” commented Brianna. Recently, Cash made his first therapy visit to an assisted living facility and he did not disappoint.
The Merrills are amazed by what they have learned in just a few months with their new family member. “Cash is helping teach our children not only responsibility but also how to care for someone even when you don’t know them. He has shown us how easy it can be to simply trust in our natural ability to love and let it be our guiding light.”