Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.
People who don’t love dogs or cats or any pets whatsoever probably have a difficult time comprehending the passion the rest of us feel. They see hair everywhere and drool and scratch marks. They see shivering people standing outdoors with their coats barely covering their nightclothes, waiting with little baggies to pick up feces. But, like all that’s truly important in this world, the best part of the relationship doesn’t show.
My husband and I have survived two years without a pet. We outlived a long procession of seven dogs, three cats, and two horses. The agony of losing each one felt like self-surgery without anesthesia. So, we decided when the last fuzzy friend died, we were through. We were never going to hurry home to feed someone or let someone go outside again. The house was cleaner but silent. We could travel on a moment’s notice. It was supposed to be great.
But life gradually grew heavier—like clothing when it’s wet. Living felt like a lifesaving swimming test. Bad things happened, but when we went home to heal, no one greeted us. And then the presidential elections trampled us. They’re always filled with speeches and ads and political maneuvering, but this year they were over-seasoned with prejudice, selfishness, and vulgarity. Disappointment and disillusionment mushroomed. For most of us, breathing became labored and painful. Air felt heavy. Our sight seemed to be covered by a dark red filter.
What to do?
We went to the local animal shelter to look for a lapdog for me. I yearned for a warm, vibrating ball of fur—nothing big this time. But animal owners will tell you that the animal chooses the person—or, in this case, people. A German Shepherd/Blue Heeler puppy chose us. He pinned us with a grin he wore as he sat beside the fence while his pen-mates ran, barked, and jumped. He knew we wouldn’t resist him. He let my husband or me hold him and didn’t wiggle. He exuded affection. We named him Ralfie (after the little brother in A Christmas Story), and when he heard me say his name the next day, he ran over the top of his mates to see me even before I reached the gate.
The research on the magical ability of animals to heal humans is plentiful. It works because animals are now. Treated well, they take you out of your future-fear. They balm your present wounds. They open their hearts so you can open yours. They give love without limitation.
No, Ralfie’s not housebroken yet, and yes, he demands lots of attention. The house smells of dog again, but not despair. We won’t forget the possibility of hope while Ralfie’s around. We won’t be afraid to believe that people can be good, because Ralfie will never stop believing. A dog (or any pet you love) can clean the air.