#1. Really good things sometimes come in stinky packages. Thursday night I picked up a puppy from a pound out in the country. The kennels were so smelly that I gagged walking in. The little pup came flying to the door of the kennel trying to get to me, but he was covered in dried urine and feces and smelled much like the kennel. He jumped and jumped for me to pick him up, but he was SO gross. And I wondered to myself, “how will I be able to give him the hands-on love that he needs? Will I ever forget this smell?” Several baths later, he was sitting on my lap and getting the petting and attention that he needs and deserves- and it has transformed us both. He no longer carries the “stinky dog” with him. And it makes me wonder… who in my life have I met or do I know that seems too ‘stinky’ for me to love? How many people in my life have I passed by without getting to know them because they seemed unlovable to me. And how would our lives be transformed if we had loved them anyway?
#2. Leave your hurts behind before they become part of you. Most of the dogs we rescue come with history- bad history. At the worst end, some have been abused, but almost all have been neglected in some way. And almost all of them can forget about this history and move on. When I got Jake, he was about a year old and had lived a rough life. Apparently he had been penned or chained in too small of an area to allow him to build muscles, plus he had been shot with a pellet gun and has dozens of pellets lodged in his body to this day. But rather than hold this against humans, Jake has put it all behind him and you would never know of his prior abuse. Gentle and sweet… Jake will let kids pull on him and let all the foster pups that come through our house bite and pester him for hours. Now I’m not saying all formerly abused dogs will do this… and that is the point. Jake chose to leave that part of his life behind him and doesn’t let it define who he is today. So I wonder, what old hurts do I carry and let define me? How much more joy could I let into my life, if I let go of the past?
#3. There may be great and wonderful opportunities out there for you if you will let go of your safety net. Because I am the main caregiver for the rescue dogs, some of them really attach themselves to me. They want to be near me all the time and won’t go where I don’t go. And even though Jake and Maggie would be happy to take them on exciting journeys-exploring to the far reaches of our yard, sometimes the pups won’t go because they are afraid to leave me. What things do I hold onto for safety, without even realizing it? What would I be able to do and accomplish if I could let go?
#4. It’s going to hurt- do it anyway. A lot of people ask me “how can you do that? Doesn’t it hurt to let them go? Yes, it hurts. It hurts bad. It hurts every time. But that hurt gets healed when I get pictures of them with their new families and when I hear about the good life they have now and it heals when the adoptive families remind me that I had a part in making their lives (and their dog’s life) better. I’ve done it enough to know that each time I pick up a dog, the pain is coming, but I’ve learned that the pain will be replaced by something better. So why can’t I transfer this to other parts of my life? Places where I have a short-term discomfort which will be replaced by a longer term advantage… how can I transfer that knowledge?
#5. There are a lot of good people in the world who will bend over backwards to help if you will let them. I am always amazed at the people that will arrive to help a dog in need. It doesn’t seem to matter what it is that is needed, someone, (or some group of someones) will rise to the occasion. Frequently we see a dog in need in one state and a foster home all the way across the country. Teams of volunteers will get together to move that dog- 100 miles at a time- across the country to save their life. Complete strangers have contributed to help get a dog a needed surgery or expensive medical treatment. People rearrange their home and their lives to take in, not only a single foster dog, but entire litters of puppies. And I don’t ever recall anyone being asked, someone simply communicates the need, and someone, somewhere, steps up. It is something that we should all try to remember, especially after listening to the horrible things we see and read in the news. Those are the anomalies- the world is filled with REALLY GOOD people. People just like you and me. So go out today and do some good- it makes you happy. Me? I have to go play with that puppy before he’s gone.