I love my dog so much my heart aches. My Shepherd mutt, Smudges, I mean – but then – I could say that of many dogs. Except in Smudges’ case, she is exceptionally intelligent and sensitive, in just the right way. She’s bonded to me as my Shepherd mutt of twelve years, Sheba, has. I’m still bonding with my third rescue, an Oklahoma refugee – Charlie – but that is coming along, well, swimmingly.
If it’s possible to be in a love affair with dogs, then that has become my life. Those of us feeling called to such acts know what I’m talking about.
Have you always loved dogs? I have. Since I could take my first steps on this blessed earth. But calling any special one for my very own didn’t happen until I was out of my parents’ Midwestern apartment — Mommy, can we keep him? — Being my cry as a little girl – the answer to which was always,
No, honey, we can’t. We live in an apartment and they don’t allow dogs.
My well-meaning father gave me my first Shepherd mutt when in 5th grade. I still remember how it felt when I came home from school one afternoon to find him gone.
I found him a home with a nice policeman, my father said, turning away. I looked at my mother. Honey, you know we can’t have dogs here. Your father should’ve remembered that.
I vowed then, when I get out of my parents’ apartment, I’m rescuing all the dogs I can feed…and then some.
Since then, I’ve had a consistent three at a time. Don’t you?
As I get deeper into life, I find more desperate dogs in intense need of love and care. The surge of death-row escapees coming into Colorado from the South, where the high-kill shelters darken our night dreams, gives me a constant supply to peruse. (My husband grimaces every time I scroll my Instagram feed.)
Every encounter, whether technologically or in reality, intensifies and deepens my love for their existence, hope for their plight. I call upon everyone I know: Got room for one more? being my trusted copy-paste into my texts. (Just this week past: Watson, a nine-year old senior Labrador in need of a home after an overly long stay @ the Longmont Humane Society. Got room?) If you’re ever wondered why we rescuers have just so many dogs, it’s usually because the rest of you are saying, Uh, no, one is enough. What else are we to do, turn our hearts away and close our doors to a friend in need?
At times, the surge of love for a homeless dog in need matches my own urgency to fill a need to do something good for the day. Such urgency requires my immediate and deliberate attention. Somewhere in there (especially when I can’t take in any more), I feel the simultaneous need to protect my valuable free time, so I can write and do my work for them.
For any one of us who’s ever rescued such beings, you already know that the depth of a rescue dog’s gratitude and the love they give is reflective of the depth of suffering and deprivation they’ve experienced. Rescue dogs in particular have an affinity and devotion to their people. Once you’ve been at the bottom of life without the basic necessities of survival, much less the higher essentials of love and care, you know just how fragile life can be. So when someone comes along with a gentle hand and reaches down to pull you out of the misery of an asphalt bed and perpetually, rumbling empty stomach, you are forever bonded to and grateful for a second chance to enjoy the life in front of you.
For rescuers like us, nothing feels more gratifying than being able to help alleviate the suffering of a vulnerable, beautiful, sentient being who has been overlooked, abused, neglected, or suffered the horrors of cruelty by society in the running rat race of life. In a world overwhelming any one soul in its speed, density and mass, it’s a small measure that takes on vast meaning for one individual. It can turn a person’s life around, quite literally, and in the bonding relationship that becomes a furever existence, both beings are healed.