Unlike the last post ... this one has absolutely nothing to do with organizing. It's about life and love and loss.
Have you ever noticed that life's lessons often turn up in the most unexpected places? Years and years ago (so many years ago in fact, my husband Jay and I don't really even remember how many) we found a little brown dog. Back in those days, we worked together in the corporate world. One Saturday, Jay decided to go into work for a few hours after making a quick trip to Subway for a sandwich. I'm not really sure why, but I was dropping him off at work that day, when all of a sudden we saw a little, stray, brown dog. The dog was skinny, timid, had a hurt paw, and two sores in his eyes. He was a mess of thing. Having a dog of our own, we instantly felt sorry for him.
Jay called to him "Come here little, Buddy" and lured the dog to him with his Subway tuna sandwich. The little dog ate the sandwich and then, scurried away. Still timid. Still hurt. Still afraid.
We went about our Saturday business, half hoping the owner would find the little dog. And half hoping he wouldn't, since the dog was clearly not well cared for. Jay did his work. I did my Saturday errands. And eventually I came back to pick him up. The little dog was still there.
We went home and kept thinking about that little dog. Will he be OK by the busy street? Will someone find him and take care of him? We really should do something...
And so we went back to work to rescue the little dog. But without a tuna sandwich, our efforts were fruitless. We couldn't lure the frightened dog to come with us ... so We left him some dog food and headed back home, troubled by what would happen to our new little buddy?
We thought about the dog over the rest of the weekend, and decided that if he were still there by the end of work on Monday, we would take him home, fix him up and take him to a no-kill shelter so someone could adopt him. But during the workday, the dog catcher came and nabbed our little brown dog. Our hearts were sick. We knew no one would rescue him from the pound ... not unless we did.
And so we did.
We rescued him from the pound --- never intending to keep him. We already had a big dog and a small apartment. We were all set on the dog front. Our vet fixed up the little brown dog and he looked pretty good. But, he was still terrified of people and kept his tail wrapped very tightly under him. A happy dog, he wasn't.
Aside from the little dog's social skills, our plan was unfolding just as we had planned.
Step one: fix up the dog.
Step two: find a no-kill shelter for our little buddy.
And that's where things got tricky.
It seems no-kill shelters are very scarce. Even scarcer, are no-kill shelters with any vacancies for little brown dogs that aren't in very good shape and are afraid of people. And time wasn't on our side. We were leaving for Florida the very next day so Jay could be in the wedding of a good friend. What were we to do? We weren't planning to keep this little brown dog, so boarding him while we went on vacation seemed crazy. (Paying the vet bills to have him fixed up, didn't seem crazy ... but we had to draw the line somewhere.)
At this point we realized we had no choice. We had to take him to a shelter. We figured we could always adopt him back when we got home, right? And so, I took our little buddy to a shelter on my way into work. That sweet little dog, who was so afraid of people, sat right next to me in the front seat of my car. As I held the steering wheel, he put his head on my arm and looked up at me with his sad, little, brown eyes. I was really growing attached...
I took him into the shelter and went through the paperwork with the lady at the shelter. Everything was fine until we came to the part where I had to relinquish all rights to this dog. I could never ask what happened to him. Nor could I come back for him.
I started crying. "I can't get him back if no one else adopts him?"
"No ... you can't."
My head was spinning ... I'm leaving for Florida ... the dog doesn't have shots ... I can't take him anywhere for boarding even if I want to ... I want to ... but I can't ... I call Jay ... we have no choice ... I have to leave him at the shelter.
"Would you like to donate money to care for the dog?" A voice interrupted my turmoil.
I emptied my wallet. Left the little dog. And headed into work. Sobbing for a little dog I hardly knew...
I called Jay on my way in and he, too, was upset. He told his friends at work the story, and his friend Chuck had an idea. He would go into the shelter while we were in Florida ... and if no one had adopted him yet, he would adopt him for us!
And so he did ... on the last day before the little dog's fate would have been exactly what we were trying to
avoid, Chuck went to the shelter and rescued our little brown dog. It went something like this.
"Yes, I'd like the old one in the back," he said. "Right, the one that doesn't want anything to do with people. That's the one." The people at the shelter had it pretty well figured out that Chuck was rescuing the dog for me. But it didn't matter. Our little buddy was rescued.
When we came home from Florida, we had the latest addition to our family. We called him Buddy. And he was a sweet, little dog. A dog who loved to wag his tail and go for walks and eventually, he even loved people. Sure, he had his quirks from an earlier, unfortunate past ... but he was a special dog. A gentle dog. A sweet dog. And he was our dog until his very last day.
On Monday, we had to say goodbye to our little Buddy.
We miss him. He was a part of our family for so long. And somehow in the loss of Buddy, we've become aware that we learned so much from a scared and timid dog that only needed love and good walk once in a while. Buddy taught me...
1. If you truly love to do something, you'll want to do it no matter how tired you are. Buddy was an old dog and a very tired and weak dog. Yet, pull out the leash and he was ready to go for a walk.
2. Sometimes you don't know what you really want. We thought we were all set in dog arena before little Buddy came along. We were wrong. We had plenty of room in our home and our hearts for Buddy. Taking him in was one of the best decisions we've ever made.
3. When you help someone, you get helped in return. Many times over.
4. Pay attention to those who matter to you ... they won't be here forever. We (obviously) knew Buddy was old and that he wouldn't be around too much longer. But, it doesn't help any now that he's gone. He's just as gone. And we miss every little thing about him. The good things and even the things that annoyed us (you know, old dogs develop some pretty unpleasant habits.) We can still hear his labored breathing even though he's gone. When we drop an ice cube, we expect him to run over and snag it ... chewing it up in no time.
It's so easy to get caught up in the every day ... the big projects with real deadlines, the book writing, the business, the fill-in-the-blank. Buddy taught me to take time for what matters to me ... and most importantly, the people (and four legged friends) who matter to me no matter how busy I am.
I missed a few walks with Buddy... I don't want to miss any more phone calls home, or trips home, or time playing Barbie’s. It's time to take time.
5. It feels good to dance in the face of sadness. Monday was a tough day for all of us. And it was just amazing to me how well my kids handled it all. They were very, very sad. And yet, very happy for Buddy. They know he's in a better place. All on their own, they planned a party for Buddy. They had games and drinks and streamers and balloons and signs and pictures of Buddy and music and even dancing. It felt good to celebrate the life of our little friend and celebrate his passing to a better place. It felt good to dance in the face of sadness.
(sign says: have a happy life in heaven.)