I saw his mug shot online. Those big liquid brown eyes, furrowed brow and thin little legs. His official name was ‘Stewart’ and he stole my heart. I’d been searching for over a year, tearing up at the sad tales of dogs who have been abandoned, mistreated, forgotten and abused. But I knew that I needed to find the right match – a wee creature who could fit into my hectic life, travel when necessary, and who needed warm cuddles more than spirited exercise.
I believed that adopting a rescue dog, one who desperately needed a home, would be a demonstration of my values of compassion and caring – that I’d be doing the dog a favor. I was wrong.
Our little guy, a mix of Chihuahua and Jack Russell Terrier, whom we promptly renamed Sparky, comes from a disturbing background. He was rescued when he was about one, from a severe hoarding situation in which dozens and dozens of dogs were kept in filthy little cages, under-fed and under-socialized. He had been alternately mistreated and profoundly ignored. Food must have been used as a cruel taunt because he both desperately wants it and irrationally fears it. Any noise, no matter how innocent, will make him jump and quiver. A rough tone of voice sends his tail between his legs and his ears flat back on his head. His little brow creases in a dozen folds of terror. His eyes grow huge and his little frame tries to curve into a small, inconspicuous ball.
Oh no! A neurotic little dog! Yep… absolutely. However, after the first month of thinking that I was completely crazy, something began to change. Sparky is still afraid, he still cowers and he still jumps a mile at anything new. He is frightened of strangers and he is still unsure about food. But, he has given me an incredible gift, something the likes of which I have never experienced.
I get to witness a transformation. And, it is not just Sparky who is transforming… so am I. I have learned that to heal, Sparky needs four things in abundance:
- Patience – I have to take it slowly
- A willingness to see the world completely through his little eyes
- My absolute presence
- Unconditional love
None of these requirements are easy, especially for me. I am used to living a fast pace, zipping about and doing what I need and want. My children were bright and able, quickly independent in thought and deed – so I often found myself able to mentally disconnect and get on with the various aspects of my life. With this little guy, not so much. Sparky requires me to slow down, pay attention, shift my focus and actually live the values that I espouse.
When I finally figured out that it was me who needed to change, the transformation began. Sparky has become the prancing dog. He walks with his head high, ears alert, tail up in the air, little hips and legs moving with a salsa-like rhythm. He smiles, his bright white teeth peering through in an awkward, silly doggy grin. When I arrive home, he leaps into my arms with the most incredible joy that I have ever seen. I feel so honored to have his love. I feel so moved to see what a difference those four simple changes in my behavior have made. I am humbled to think that it took a tiny, neurotic little rescue dog to bring me to my senses about what is truly important and valuable in life.
These days, I am slowing down a bit, trying to see things from other people’s (and pets’) viewpoints, staying present, focused and loving.
My hope for the holidays is that each of you has someone in your life that compels you to find your true core – that which reminds you of the foundation of our lives – our connections with those who love us and need our love.
May the season of celebration and generosity bring joy to all of you, your families, friends and furry loved ones.
Cheers to all,
Lisë and Sparky