Critter Chat – January 4, 2017
A few months ago, a very tired-looking Marie Bushley brought neatly folded newspapers to the shelter. She brought sad news about a recent diagnosis, and all we could do was hug her and cry with her. Several of us attended her funeral on December 29, and the words spoken there were a wonderful tribute to the person we knew. We can learn such golden lessons from Marie’s life.
I cannot remember exactly when Marie first came to the shelter to sign up to volunteer. I do remember that she said she had recently retired from teaching and wanted to do whatever we needed her to do. In May of 2001, I wrote the following in a report about volunteers: Marie Bushley spends one day a week at the shelter. She is a retired schoolteacher who came to us several months ago. The animals flourish under her care. She also takes as many dogs as possible for walks outside, giving them a spirit booster. She makes sure the thin, older dogs have a soft blanket to lie on. Marie can often be seen coming from the laundry room, and I know that the mound of towels and blankets will soon be taken care of and returned, neatly folded, to the cabinets. She lets cats and kittens have playtime outside of their cages. We’ve never seen Marie without a smile on her face, and her gentleness draws animals to her.
Marie was the kind of volunteer that any organization cherishes. She did the tasks that needed to be done, complained about nothing, was reliable, and became a treasured friend and co-worker. At that time, we went to WSET every Thursday for a pet of the week segment. (It has been changed to every Wednesday.) Since Thursday was Marie’s day at the shelter, she bathed the dogs, clipped their nails, and brushed them to get them ready for their television debut. Cats were brushed and fluffed up. She made sure that the animal was in a crate and ready to leave the shelter on time. I think of her every time that I drive to the television station because she was my lookout for oncoming traffic as we stopped on Monroe Street to cross North Ridge Street. “It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay,” she would repeat until we were safely across the street. I always smiled. During those trips to the station, Marie and I had talks about our lives. Our thoughts agreed on most issues. Marie became a board member and her opinion was also a reasonable, compassionate one.
Marie and her husband, Bob, came to our Mutt Strut fundraisers as a matched set. Their dachshund, Bert, rounded out their family. Bert is now in heaven. Marie was at the shelter the day we seized a small mother dog that was chained outside during a snow storm with her puppies. She helped warm the freezing puppies, and then she and Bob adopted Penny.
A couple of years later when we seized a wire-haired dachshund mix from a neglectful situation, Marie and Bob adopted Chloe. Penny and Chloe are now both in heaven, also.
A few years ago when we went to West Virginia to help with a large puppy mill that was being shut down, we brought back many dachshunds. Bob so badly wanted to bond with a dog the way he had bonded with Bert, but the dachshund they adopted and named Oscar was Marie’s dog and faithful shadow. Most of the times that I saw Bob, he mentioned how much he wanted Oscar to like him.
Marie resigned from the board to take care of Bob, but she continued to collect money from our doggy banks with her good friend, Susan.
When we visited Bob after Marie’s death, our hearts were both warmed and broken by the sight of a grieving Oscar lying in grieving Bob’s lap. They were comforting each other.
What can we all learn from our kind, unassuming Marie? We can learn that small acts of service matter, and we can learn that quiet acts of service may not win us public accolades, but they can change lives.
Thank you, Marie. We love you and miss you.
Executive director of Danville Area Humane Society
For more about Marie Bushley, read her obituary here.