Are you a rescue too? Although I’m a dog, as you can see by my photo, I can empathize with humans who get adopted or maybe even more with foster kids who have their lives turned completely around by someone, the right one(s), coming into their lives with love they’d never known, or forgotten, existed. I still remember when my rescuer came into the pound to get me. I’d seen so many humans come in, and in the old days, I’d do my dance, wag my tail, lick if I got a chance, pick just the right moment to look forlorn and sometimes get picked. But something about this time was different. Everything else in the room disappeared, all I could see was the spotlight on her, and like Roy Orbison’s pretty woman, she turned and came walkin’ back to meeee.
But that’s not the whole story, I’d been picked before and wound up disappointed, so my defenses were always up these days. I was over 60 in human years, and have been in and out of the pound at least five times. If you’re a human past 60, I don’t have to tell you about how hard it is to remain hopeful about the future. I’m an optimistic breed though so in my genes I believed in love at first sight. I’d be sure that when I got to my new home, I’d display my pedigree, sit, heel, never growl or destroy anything and of course wag and lick, and things would work out. I’m good at wag and lick. It was one of the first things I learned when I got to the pound. Humans like it when you wag and lick. I’m sure several times it was my wag and lick that got me picked.
Like I say, the first few times I got rescued I was hopeful, one adoption lasted for two months, it was two years that other time, but eventually something would happen and not even the wag and lick could keep me from winding up back here. I heard one of the volunteers say my mother died when I was still a puppy and I didn’t imprint properly, whatever that means. I always thought my urge to run away from every home I ever had was because I have some wolf in me. All I know is now I start to judge them before we even leave the parking lot. Noticing the kind of car, whether they’re transporting me in a cardboard box, kennel cage or letting me sit on the seat next to them. Did they bring treats? Do they have one of those angry looking collars that hurt your neck? That’s a sure sign they’ve watched too many episodes of Dog Whisperer and are getting me just to prove they’re the pack leader.
In that case, I’ll pee in the car or as soon as I can get to their favorite carpet. Definitely no wag and lick. I’ll even growl when I get the beating, bite if necessary. The pound is humiliating, sure, but being tortured in private by an insecure human is worse. But that’s all behind me now and you need to know how it happened.
Hiding Out in Plain Sight
That last time, when I got brought back after two years with an owner, I kind of gave up. It made sense, my heart was broken and at nine years old I hardly got considered any more. I’m still a handsome animal, even if I say so myself, and don’t look my age, but the volunteers always point people toward the puppies. I can’t blame them. They’re so darn cute, the puppies I mean. Even I believed I was too old and who’d want an old dog that didn’t even want try to learn new tricks.
So to make the best of it, I joined the pack at the pound. I’d been a one-dog pack before that. But joining a pack for the first time in my life was actually fun. We’d do initiations, rituals, sit in circles, howl at the moon and lick each other’s wounds. Curiously, now that I think about it, almost all the wounds had healed but it felt so good to lick and be licked I didn’t see it as wound worship at the time. Feeling like I belonged felt great. The young ones valued my elder presence and as I worshipped more and more my old wound feelings, I entirely stopped dreaming of being rescued, or traveling or anything at all. I ate and drank myself to sleep each night resenting all those times a rescue hadn’t worked out.
My Rescuer Olga
I’m still not sure why she picked me. She must have been inspired to see past my age, matted coat and surly temper. She didn’t even know that in my youth I’d been a best of breed show dog, had my picture in magazines and a room full of trophies, but she picked me and has loved me ever since.
She not only picked me, she took better care of me than I had ever known. She gave me something she called unconditional love, only the healthiest food, lots of exercise, brushing and best of all, she likes curling up together at night watching movies. I wagged and licked my brains out.
Like I said though, my defenses were up and I’d for no real reason find myself barking for hours at imaginary strangers, pulling furiously against her lead when I was on the leash, I even bit her once, dangerously, unforgivably hard. I should have known I’d met my match by the way she responded. She came back from tending to her wound and instead of another shameful ride back to the pound… she comforted me, forgave me. It was like pulling the thorn from the lion’s paw. Something came back to life in me that I hadn’t felt since I was a puppy and my mother died.
My rescuer had the most amazing way of reprimanding me and then just walking away. It felt like abandonment and I’d panic. She did it when I’d feel sorry for myself and start behaving badly. It made me crazy with fear and anger but again and again just as I was feeling sure she was going to take me back to the pound, she’d instead come hug and pet me, give me a treat and her actions were a promise to always love me. She’d say I just needed to learn to understand the ways I was causing myself suffering. You too? Let’s have a conversation.
The Dog Days Have Become My Best Years
It took me a long time to grasp that part about understanding myself but eventually I did learn the new trick and broke my bad habits of negative thinking, stopped feeling like a victim, stopped wanting to run away. The wolf blood in me must be domesticated because I’ve never been happier at home. I’m even competing in shows again and winning my share of trophies. I love the travel. The other competitors and lots of the dogs I run into now around the world know my rags to riches to rags to enrichment story and sense I can help them get to self-understanding, so I coach them.
HERE ARE 7 THINGS I CAN SHARE WITH THOSE WHO STRIVE TO UNDERSTAND THEMSELVES:
1. Sniff all the butts you want, just don’t follow them.
2. Thinking about old wounds is no more effective than scratching fleas.
3. Bite the hand that feeds you and notice what it does.
4. You’re never too old to learn new tricks.
5. Being best in show is impossible unless you show up passionate.
6. People are just human – forgive them.
7. Understanding yourself starts with taking yourself for long walks in the park.
HERE ARE 7 THINGS I CAN SHARE WITH YOU RIGHT NOW IF YOU’RE STILL AT THE POUND:
1. Don’t believe that everything you feel is true.
2. Know that almost nothing you think is true.
3. Figure out how to feed yourself what you need physically, emotionally and economically.
4. Most of life is your imagined idea, so imagine and play a role that you really enjoy.
5. Use every pain in your body and problem in your life as an opportunity to pay attention, learn something and grow.
6. You are as good as any human – forgive yourself.
7. Understanding yourself starts with savoring the circumstances right where you are so you can enjoy now and the future whether or not your rescuer ever shows up.