I’d been taking care of other people’s puppies for a time. I imagine it was inevitable she’d opened a window I hadn’t realized was there. I’d also been steeped in a nagging sense of powerlessness ever since November 8th, 2016. Frustrated and fed up with every executive order and legislative decision coming out of Washington, I needed to feel there was just something or someone I could help in a time when I felt I could help nothing else from slipping away into the hands of the Republican Goon Squad.
So I rescued a puppy.
Straight from the streets of Breckenridge, Texas and into the shelter she trotted – through the loving arms of Homecomings Dog Rescue – right into my Instagram feed. I’ve been following them as a friend of mine fosters their rescues brought up from the mean streets of Texas. My curiosity rises: Can I help JUST ONE find a home? Not mine, particularly, just any good one would do – 2.7 million dogs & cats still die each year at the hands of shelters set up to “control” animal populations. We all know about spaying and neutering, so why aren’t we?
I hear them at night before I fall asleep saying, What, I don’t get to live, because there’s no home for me?
I struggle with such harsh views of life. We hear stories daily of death and war. Can’t we help out a little, somewhere? I like to think I help make it a little gentler or loving where I can. Besides, how can you not fall in love with a sooty-face, broken-tailed 4 month old Shepherd mix puppy?
Some fool in Texas may have tossed her out on the streets, beaten the daylights out of her and broken her tail (admittedly, perhaps it was caught in a door. I’ll never know and she ain’t sayin’), but I wasn’t going to let that be the story of her life. I wanted it to have a different narrative. If not just for her, for many who’ve started out in life that way.
After pleading my case to my animal-loving husband, he agreed without much discussion. I love him so, as he understands my propensity for rescuing creatures in need. Typically, it’s the black ones – prejudice knows no bounds in a society in love with young white things. I just wonder how Sheba and Linus are gonna take it, he said, glancing at our aging pack members snoring on the couch in front of the fire.
It was Memorial Day weekend when we fetched her from my friend’s home. She cuddled on the floor of the truck against my leg the entire way back, wondering where the next place in hell would be. I whispered in her bent ear, You’re gonna love where we live…there’s a pasture and two other dogs and a creek…did I mention the six cats, too?
She looked back not hearing anything but blah, blah, and blah…
What shall we call her? I asked my husband on the way home.
Smudges, he didn’t hesitate. Isn’t it obvious?
I’d been thinking more of a Sanskrit name for peace or enlightenment or joy. A Buddhist reminder to lighten my darkened days in our confused society.
But Smudges – Smudgy for variety – is an awfully cute name in an overly serious time.
It’ll do, I agreed.
Since then, I’ve been watching her go from a starving street puppy to a well-fed one. She went from jumping up on counters and snatching leftover casserole in a bowl, sending it crashing, breaking into pieces on our concrete floors, to sniffing around the recycling bin, snatching bean cans to lick, to sitting for Old Mother Hubbard peanut butter biscuits. Life on the streets is hell for anyone — how can it be less hell for a puppy?
I went from checking in on the latest Facebook posting or Twitter feed for another presidential disaster to posting fabulous pictures of her sweet face for all my friends to see.
In the process of teaching her that life’s not awful everywhere and not all men are going to pummel you for getting in their way, I’ve had to remind myself that the goodness in humanity still exists even if I have to look harder to find it these days. It’s hard to forgive other humans for the things they do to animals. It’s why people in the animal rights movement and shelter workers get burned out. It’s hard to understand what causes another person to turn away from the innocence of a vulnerable, starving puppy or to take out their life’s disappointment on them. At the end of the day though, I figure it’s none of my business — that’s between them and their god.
I can’t say when it happened, but after saving Smudges and bringing her home, my world began to shift. Somewhere in between the piddles on the floor and the “oopsie-poopsies” on the carpet, I became far less concerned with the things I couldn’t help outside my world and more with the things I could help within them. I grew more interested in watching her chase my friend’s Lab-Boxer puppy Rocco every Tuesday and Wednesday *(another rescue from a different part of Texas) around the pasture, grabbing at each other’s necks and legs, digging holes in search of voles, collapsing in exhaustion at the end of it all. I began delighting in watching her settle into her new pack with our alpha, Sheba-she, another Shepherd mix from the mean streets of Las Vegas. I relaxed as she settled onto my meditation cushion alongside me and learned how to “stay” after only a week in my company, and I even found joy in her 5 o’clock a.m. whines to join us in bed. Enraptured with my rescued puppy with the broken tail and a fierce attitude for life, I’ve been less concerned with the recent updates on world chaos on my iPad.
And I don’t feel as if I am as powerless as I was feeling before.
I can’t change the mind of Senator Cory Gardner to respond civilly to his constituents with a live town hall nor help a Trumpet understand that “standing by your dictator” is an offense to morally conscious citizens, but I can help rescue a puppy from some part of Texas unwilling to care for her. There are hundreds like her coming up every month – Homecomings rescues some 15 or so a week themselves – that are looking for a chance to roam in their own green space or lie on the couch of a compassionate dog lover. And it can be just the one thing we need in these particular moments to help make the world just a little bit better, if only for just one broken-tailed, sooty-faced little Texas puppy…