John Boy – A Shelter Dog

Everybody hurts. Everyone gets sad. At times, life can seem so hopeless you wonder if it’s even worth living anymore. And then something good happens. You find inspiration in a place you weren’t looking.

A year and a half ago I started volunteering at a dog shelter. I wasn’t prepared for the profound impact it would have on my life. I went into it believing I was the one who was going to save lives, but I was wrong. Those homeless animals saved me.

My shelter takes in dogs from all different situations – dogs from other over-crowded shelters, owner-surrenders, dogs found amid the aftermath of natural disasters or roaming the streets as strays, or taken from abusive/neglected homes, or rescued from puppy mills .

Each dog comes with its own story, its own unique path, that led them to the cages lining the walls of the kennel I work. Some stories are worse than others, leaving you clenching your fists as you witness, first-hand, what the horrendous cruelty and lack of humanity residing within a person can do.

It forces you to question who the real animals are, and they aren’t the ones with four legs, a tail, and a wet nose.

The four-legged beings that I have the privilege to spend time with each week have demonstrated a level of compassion and forgiveness, so heartfelt and ardent, that I fear I will never, in all my life, come close to attaining the emotional intensity attached to the freedom that comes with letting go of the past, and truly allow myself to forgive and forget, while being open to new happiness without the weight of old baggage holding me down or the pain of worn-out, ancient scars running through my body.

Shelter dogs know how to move on. They are eager to love despite the fact that somebody had let them down because they ended up in a shelter. They forgive the hands that have hurt them and forget the dirty shed they were chained to their entire lives because all they want is a home and someone to love them.

The shelter I volunteer at is a no-kill shelter. However long it takes for a dog to find a home, that’s how long it stays. Unfortunately, there is dog who has been there almost as long as I have. His name is John Boy and he is amazing. Despite being passed up day after day, week after week, and month after month, he has not lost an ounce of spirit. Whenever I, or any other volunteer, pass his kennel, he pops to his feet and hurries to the front of his cage, with tail wagging, and watches us with eager eyes, hoping that he is next to go out. He loves his time outside, even in the bitter cold.

When I put him on his leash, he pulls me to the yard with an overflowing excitement he can’t contain, the way I imagine I dragged my mother from one roller coaster ride to the next. But John Boy isn’t hurrying to jump on a fast-paced ride filled with sharp twists and quick turns. He’s rushing toward the same yard, with the same familiar toys, he’s been going to for fifteen minutes a shift, four times a day, for almost a year.

There is nothing “upside-down-roller-coaster” thrilling about that, but John Boy loves it. He inspires me because even though he’s not where he wants to be, he still wags his tail. He still licks my hand. He still enjoys the yard. He still has hope.

John Boy wants to live and he is looking forward.

He deserves a home, like every dog in the shelter, but he’s one I wish for the most. Every Friday night I say goodbye to him hoping I won’t see him the following week, but I always do. I will miss him so much when he’s gone because we’ve bonded during his long stay, but I anxiously anticipate the feeling of joy that will rush over me when I pass his kennel and don’t see his nose pressed against the metal or the stub of his tail wagging side to side.

I can’t wait for the day I don’t recognize the name sprawled across his cage. I’ll smile big because John Boy will finally have found his home.

Millions of dogs are euthanized every year. If you are looking for a pet, please consider visiting your local animal shelter. There are many loving animals in need of a second chance. Most pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills that breed dogs under inhumane conditions. Please Adopt and Don’t Shop. Thank you for reading.

“A Dog Loves At All Times”

Hug your dog. He/She deserves it. They give so much, but ask for so little. IMG_20140616_134429

No matter how sad, frustrated, or upset I may be, when I walk into a room and see my dog, Phil, stretched out on his back, legs bent across his chest, his front paws relaxed over his face while flashing me an upside-down smile, I can’t help but laugh because he looks so silly. And we need a little silly in life to make us smile.

 

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I’ve realized that in many ways I need to be more like him.

Phil’s a great listener. He never leaves me, even as I drench his fur with tears, he stays right by my side, and listens to my sad tales no matter how many times he’s heard it. I need to be a better listener. No more interruptions. I will listen to your side of the story, from start to finish, even as you tell it for the six-hundredth time.

He’s patient and patience is a virtue that often eludes me, especially since I started sharing my home with children. But no matter how comfortable Phil may be curled up in his favorite spot on the couch, once those kids barrel loudly into the room and trample on the cushions he was peacefully sleeping on, he jumps off.  He doesn’t bark. He doesn’t growl. He doesn’t bite. He simply leaves the room without appearing too upset about it. Maybe it’s because he knows  he’ll find some other quiet place in the house and be grateful for it, even if it’s on the floor.

The kids have tested my patience like this before, when I’m quietly reading a book or practicing yoga, only I don’t usually handle it nearly as eloquently as my dog. I argue that I was there first. I stubbornly fight for my spot and when I do finally admit defeat, I leave the room in a huff, hardly ever grateful that there’s another quiet space somewhere in my home waiting for me.

I rescued Phil from a shelter and although he’s a pitbull, there were no signs that he was involved in dog-fighting, but there were major signs of neglect. He was found as a stray roaming the streets of Chicago. He was an abandoned dog, without a home, but he was also a survivor.

Painfully, I force myself to imagine him cold and hungry, lost and alone, wandering around with no place to go. I think about all the people who saw him but did nothing. I get upset, but then I imagine those who fed him scraps of food or offered water to get him by. It wasn’t much because when I brought him home, he was all ribs, but it was enough to give me a chance to find him. I’m so grateful that I did.

But no matter how badly he’s been treated or how many times his heart’s been broken, he is so willing to love and it doesn’t take much to win him over. A pat on the head. A stroke underneath his chin. A kiss on his nose. He knows how to heal. He knows how to forgive. He knows how to let go.

He also knows how to love.

He loves with all he has, without holding back. When I open my arms, he comes to me without hesitation, undeterred by the risk of being turned away. My baby lays it all on the line and I don’t plan on letting him down…ever.

My dog gives me hope. He lights up my darkest days because I know he has suffered to end up here, in a pretty good place, with a mommy that loves him so much. He survived his battles and won. I will too, and so will you.

A picture hangs in my room with the saying “A Dog Loves At All Times.”

Can anyone disagree?

 

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