Life brings challenges, but I don’t look at any obstacle thrown my way as negative. I see it as an opportunity for growth, to learn, and see how perseverant you actually are. I look to the many dogs I’ve met in my life for inspiration during these times. In my work with rescues and dogs that have been neglected, abused, or victims of a man-made or natural disaster, they are a constant reminder to live in the present.
With the right pack leadership, they don’t remember what they’ve been through. They don’t hurt. They don’t harbor resentment. They just “are.” I met one such dog recently at the Great Dog Adventure. Xander, the three-legged service dog and companion of one of our contest winners, Lauren Bertke, has a story that is unfortunately, all too common.
Xander was abused by his former owner so badly that his leg had to be amputated. In addition to the physical abuse, Xander suffered what any human would consider to be unfathomable crimes of neglect. But with the care of PitStop Bully’s Rescue in Tampa, Florida, and the leadership of Lauren, Xander is now thriving, sharing the same comfort and love with others in need, as he did for Lauren to overcome her fear of flying. As a service dog, Xander can fly with her! He even accompanied her to San Diego for what I hope was one of the most memorable adventures they’ve ever had.
Here’s another example and it doesn’t get any clearer than this: when George the bulldog was rescued by Animal Advocates Alliance , he had become another forgotten, neglected animal at a shelter suffering from many painful health issues that caused discomfort and anxiety. His face was hardly recognizable as bulldog at all. As humans, we tend to have a hard time looking past the physical ailments and feel sorry for dogs and humans that meet unfortunate circumstances, especially when they are visible on the outside.
On the day that George (now named Humphrey) was adopted, his new owners Corin and Dan first took him to the vet for a thorough exam followed by a visit to the beach, where he sunbathed and snuggled with their other bulldog, Dudley. They didn’t “baby” him or feel sorry for him — they focused on how grateful they were to have him in their lives and moved on, letting go of the past. Today, the new-formed pack has plans to take a trip to Ojai with a bunch of friends and their dogs, and Humphrey’s once disfigured physique has healed.
Of course, there’s the memorable story of “Freeway,” a four-pound toothless toy poodle who was rescued by my friends, Kim Sill of Last Chance for Animals and Melanie Pozez of Bark Avenue Foundation, who rescued the little guy on Interstate 5 several months ago. A policeman stopped four lanes of traffic flowing 60 mph to save the terrified, abandoned poodle. Today, Freeway is just a happy poodle.
I love to commend rescuers and adopters like these for their vigilance and leadership. Too often, we see unbalanced dogs that have been rescued because the adopters feel sorry for the dog, and therefore, give it so much affection that they nurture the dog’s insecurities and fear. By ignoring this and taking Humphrey to the beach on day one, Corin and Dan broke the cycle from the very moment he was rescued.
He was living in the present and so were they! It’s the human who holds on to the past and has the hardest time letting go of trauma. You think about some of the experiences these dogs have had and it’s hard not to feel that your own worries and fears are just meaningless. Take a lesson from these dogs – living in the moment is what true balance and gratitude are all about.
Have you mastered the skill of living in the moment? How did you do it? Tell us all about it in the comments.