On a balmy Saturday in early March, the first springlike day of the year, Rebel attended his first Rescue Ink event: an adoptathon for the Center Moriches cats in a firehouse party room in North Bellmore. Half a dozen of the volunteers from the "audition" had turned out in their black Rescue Ink staff T-shirts, helping to set up crates and collate adoption forms.
Everyone who went in to see the row of cages of contented, snoozing clubhouse cats stopped to pet and fawn over Rebel.
"It's amazing that even with all this dog has been through, he's like this with people," said John Warkala of North Bellmore, who was waiting to adopt a calico cat named Pumpkin. "I know I wouldn't be."
And that is the magnetic attraction of not just Rebel, but Rescue Ink as well. Think what you will of them, these guys are proof that a fresh start is possible for anyone, that redemption is attainable. Even if you have a rap sheet, even if you've got a past that needs a fair share of redacting before it's ready for prime time, you can re-create yourself.
But no one teaches this lesson more eloquently or explicitly than the animals. They live in the now, react to each other and those around them based on who and where they are in the moment. For Spike, or Gracie, or Nike, or any of the animals Rescue Ink has taken from an iffy situation, the past is just that: the past. What matters most is how they have changed, and who they are in the process of becoming.
"Animals don't care what you look like. They don't care what color you are. They don't care how big you are, what you do for a living, how much money you make," Joe says. "It's unconditional love. We try to teach animals, but we should take a lesson from the animals and try to live our lives like they do, not to judge anybody. The world would be a better place."
For Rebel, and the dozens upon dozens of other animals that Rescue Ink has saved, it already is.
Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from RESCUE INK: How Ten Guys Saved Countless Dogs and Cats, Twelve Horses, Five Pigs, One Duck and a Few Turtles by Rescue Ink with Denise Flaim. Copyright © 2009 by Rescue Ink Publications LLC