#IStreetdog: Jessica Brazelton de Cárdenas

IStreetdog: Jessica Brazelton de Cárdenas

Jessica Brazelton de Cárdenas and her husband adopted Streetdog Panda in 2015. They are also parents to Cleo the bunny. Jessica has been a volunteer since 2014 and is the Team Leader for Streetdog's photography team. She also works with the training and media teams to market dogs for adoption.

"I've never really had a place that I would call home. I have had family spread out across 3 continents, & have moved around a fair bit. I have never felt as though I belonged anywhere. I was, and am, a recovering workaholic. I moved to Memphis for a position that I threw myself into, 7 days a week, many hours a day. And unfortunately, instead of feeling accomplished or fulfilled, this job ate me alive & made deep cracks in my psyche.

When it ended abruptly I found myself sitting, alone & in silence for the first time in my life, faced with sheer nothingness. I sat, shell shocked for 3 days, staring into the abyss, & envisioned a million horrible endings.

And then a small voice in the back of my brain said, Get up. Do something positive with this time. Because if you don't, you will fall further into that darkness.

At that time I didn't feel like I could do anything correctly. Literally anything. I was afraid to move, afraid to leave my house, afraid to talk to people, and certainly afraid to volunteer with anything that had human interaction. I didn't want to explain my current sabbatical and why I suddenly had ample free time. Free time was so foreign to me, I felt like everyone would judge me for having it, and not working 100 hour weeks as I had before.

I did know that to avoid further mental breakdown, I had to leave my house, so I signed up to walk dogs with Streetdog Foundation. I figured dogs aren't as judgmental as humans. And I did the only thing I felt competent to do- put one foot in front of the other. For weeks I did this, quietly walking dogs in boarding, and a funny thing happened- I started to get a tiny bit of confidence back. I wasn't afraid to see people on the streets, because they were only interested in the dogs anyway! I realized that no one was looking at me pitifully, wondering how close I was to nervous breakdown, they were only interested in the dog!

It was during this time that I met Panda, a black and white pit bull with scars down her legs & an unknown past. She had been stuck in boarding for a while and seemed to want the same things I did- less judgment, a fresh start. Against my better judgement, I took Panda home to foster. I figured that while I was applying for new jobs, she could apply for new homes. Over the months, I had several interviews with companies in various places across the country, but none of them felt right. While it killed me to turn down perfectly viable opportunities, I took a note from the Streetdog guidebook- we don't place a dog into any home, we wait for the RIGHT home. And so I waited, and became more and more attached to Panda. So attached, I couldn't imagine her living anywhere else but with me.

And then another position came along in Memphis, and it was better than anything I could have asked for elsewhere. So I took the job, and decided to keep the dog too. And as much as I had fought to leave Memphis over the previous months, when it came time to stay, I did so willingly and with a grateful heart. Streetdog does not adopt out dogs, we adopt in families, I have seen this first hand. Thanks to Panda, I have a family in Streetdog- for the first time in my life, I have people who will not hesitate to help each other if needed. I have a network of friends with a common goal; it is so uplifting to witness.

When a Streetdog is adopted, a poem is read where the last lines are: "I will belong, I will be home." And thanks to Streetdog, those lines finally apply to me too. I belong. I am home."