I’ve spent a week attempting to entertain with stories about my two delightfully loving, yet headstrong Australian shepherds. Yet, I’ve only scratched the surface. I’m sure more dog blog posts will come, but I recommend you go out and get an Aussie or two of your own so you can experience the joy for yourself and you will not need to live vicariously through me…because that’s a scary thought.
I mentioned in an earlier post that the day we brought Dylan home forever changed my world. It wasn’t instantaneous, but crept over me slowly, like my little ninja MJ tends to do while we’re watching TV or trying to sleep. These dogs opened my eyes to an unconditional love not often seen in people, unfortunately. They have inspired me.
The world is a complicated place, unless you’re a dog. People commit cruel acts towards one another all the time, but not dogs. People judge one another, even when they don’t know each other. Dogs tend to be accepting. We can learn from dogs.
Dylan’s sire is a therapy dog with Delta certification. He visits the elderly in nursing homes, and helps kids who have difficulty doing so to read. Their intelligence and their loving and accepting demeanor often make Aussies a good breed for such endeavors.
We see it in our dogs too. During a trip to Petsmart, a boy with special needs saw our dogs and came, practically running, towards them and plopped himself down on the floor in front of them. Now if Robert or I sit on the floor by the dogs, they tackle us. If we run, period, Dylan will attempt to bring us down. They tend to get excited beyond control.
Not this time. Both dogs remained calm and let that boy pet them and put his face close to theirs without them licking him or pushing him down. They knew. The boy’s father told us his son loves dogs and thanked us for letting him spend some time with them. It was our pleasure, and the dogs’ pleasure too. We could tell they were loving it. They understood their boundaries, but they still got some lovin’ out of the deal.
We were able to bring the dogs with us to Christmas at my sister’s the year of my grand nephew’s first Christmas. He was at the age where he was using anything and everything to pull himself up, including Dylan’s long fur, which apparently was easy to grip onto. As far as we knew, Dylan had never been around a small child like this before, and it was clear he was taken aback by the assault, but he somehow knew this child meant him no harm and he was not to retaliate in any way. He suffered silently and bravely.
A few months ago I had a horrible day at work. Honestly, I do not remember the details, but it was one of those emotionally draining days when one thing after another piles on (I’d probably been cussed out by a parent who was mad I gave her kid a zero for work she didn’t turn in or something equally unjustified in her eyes). This was a day when I left as soon as my time was up for the day (I tend to stick around for at least an hour or so) and I fought back the tears during the drive home.
My homecoming routine is to set down all the work I have to bring home, let the dogs out of their crates, and take the dogs out back to potty. Their routine is to attack me with love and music (they both sing), which means they jump up and rub on me. On this day, I let them out but denied them each their “welcome home, we love you Mommy” time. I’d been holding those tears in and wanted to let them out quickly so I wouldn’t have a breakdown in the backyard. Once back inside, I collapsed in a chair, placed my face into my hands and sobbed- we’re talking audible, body-shaking sobs- like I hadn’t in years.
At first the dogs stood back, tilting their heads as they watched. MJ even seemed a bit scared at first. Slowly each dog came to my side and nuzzled me until I looked up at them. In that moment, MJ did her snarl which means she wants to make sure it’s ok to approach you, and both dogs placed their upper bodies in my lap, all at once. It was a lot of dog to have in my lap. They were sneezing their laughter sneezes and nuzzling me, and all the while their eyes expressed concern. They weren’t sure what was wrong, but they wanted to fix it and let me know they loved me. They do these actions often anyway, but there was something different about their approach and delicacy in the matter.
I recently read about an organization called the Heartland Alliance which uses therapy dogs to comfort victims in court when they need to testify. For example, a young girl had to testify against her father who had sexually abused her. A golden retriever had spent time with her getting her comfortable with what would come and was even able to be in the courtroom as she gave her testimony, apparently nuzzling the little girl when she paused for too long, to give her support. With that dog’s help, the girl got through it and her father was locked away. What an amazing story!
My husband and I have felt a pull to DO SOMETHING to help fight human trafficking, or to help the survivors. One idea that keeps knocking around in my mind is the idea of therapy dogs. We would love to have land, dogs, and a sort of “retreat” for survivors to come as part of their recovery. I have no idea how to make that happen, but we’re believing that God does. Also, neither of us are counselors, but we believe if it’s meant to happen, everything and everyone we need will come together.
None of this would even seem an option today had we not adopted Dylan back in March of 2007. His love, and MJ’s love inspire me. They have all the qualities these survivors would need. Acceptance, unconditional love, and hope. These dogs display hope every moment of the day.