Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dogs Change Lives

I have thoughts about where -and why- this blog is going. And I considered "the final resting place of defunct blogs" as one of the options. However I decided that there is still too much to do and too many things upon which to reflect. But that's tomorrow's story.

Today's story is this. Pets can change lives. And, as crazy as I am about Claddagh and Cillian the Cats, dogs can change lives in stupendous ways. Susquehannah Service Dogs, a favorite charity of mine, is having an on-line contest for the best story of how a dog has changed a person's life. There are prizes and fame for the author of the story, and lots of good hugs for the canine star of the show (assuming he's still with us). But the important thing to me is that we ponder the joy that animals can bring to our lives and that we think about what it means to be appropriately responsible-yet-humble caretakers of these awesome animals who trust us to care for them.

Want my story?

It's about Wyatt the yellow lab, my sister's dog. He's getting old, bless his heart. He's famous in the service dog industry for an amazing insightful discovery that protected some girls from further abuse from sexual predation. Somehow, he saw their pain before anyone else did. So, we know he's amazing already. But that was a long time ago, and Wyatt is retired now.

But then my life took a turn for the surreal. My husband discarded me, in a hailstorm of gratuitous cruelty and disorienting pain. Psychologically bloodied, I showed up on my sister's doorstep in a state of near-total disarray. I know that she and her family cared for me very tenderly. I know that because I wrote it in my journal, but I really don't remember much about those first few days of my new life.

But I do remember Wyatt. He came out of retirement for me, rarely leaving my side. I think he's not supposed to sleep in the guest room. But because he's a service dog, he knows how to open doors, and he made a judgment call. He opened that door in the night and slept by my side. He sat at my feet while we ate, with his head resting in my lap. Sometimes it almost seemed like he was trying to crawl into my lap. He's too big and my lap is too small, but I appreciated the thought.

And when nothing else worked, and I had to just sit on the floor and cry, Wyatt would come up behind me. He's quite a big dog, so when he settled right behind me, I could lean up against him with no worries that I was hurting him. He would snuffle in that dog way, and then settle in and breathe. He would wait until my breath steadied to his, and then -apparently- decide that I had it together for the next little while, and would wander off.

There were no words that could comfort me in those first few days. The righteous indignation and anger my friends expressed helped later. It helped immeasurably. But in those first few days, those sentiments just jangled me further. Wyatt saw what needed to be done, and offered his huge gentle heart, and just breathed with me.

Man, I love that dog.

So... tell your story. The online entry form is here: Dogs Change Lives. You can submit a story until February 28.