Tonight I go to sleep with my dogs. My long legged lurcher (an adopted rescue) is roaching against the pillows. The new little fellow (another adopted rescue) is contentedly asleep in his crate in the closet. My older girl Lucy lies on the dog bed by my side, tennis ball still in sight of sleeping eyes. My boy Linus spoons against me. Time for bed. The quiet, contented sighs of dogs who feel safe and loved…. secure and at peace. As my eyes begin to close, I picture a dog in a shelter I have been working with.
At the end of a session I spend some time with her in her kennel. I hear the barking and whining of the other dogs that make her alert her head and ears. I can see how no matter how well things are arranged for her, she is still surprised and alerted by the passing of another dog. She is dog reactive. We make good strides but there are still challenges for her. Each day after I work with her and bring her to the gate of the kennel, she hesitates, then quietly follows me in through the gate. She has come far with her training. She loves to learn. She has done a brilliant job today. She lets me brush her. We play a game of search for the tennis ball under the blanket on her bed. Then it is time to go. I close the gate and secure the lock. She sits and watches me as I go. I am haunted.
Tonight I say a prayer for her, and for all of the dogs sleeping (or not sleeping) in shelters near and far.
May a person with realism, vision and acceptance walk past your gate.
May they see that the jumping dog in front of them is desperate to say hello.
May they realize that with a bit of training, you can learn polite greeting manners.
May they understand that you are not perfect, but that you can be trained to be a good dog.
May they understand if you are shy and overwhelmed, and see that with love, encouragement and confidence you will come out of your shell. May they understand this may take quite a few months.
May they see that the thunder and bluff is just that; and with training that teaches you in a peaceful way to get the distance you want from whatever “monster” that scares you , you will learn to resolve your conflicts with the world constructively and gain confidence.
May they understand you are curious and inquisitive and need to explore the world, but also you will need clear boundaries and kind but constant guidance.
And may they decide to make a life commitment to you. For who you are. The brilliant, the challenging, the aloof, the goofy, the exhuberant, the serious, the silly, the reserved, the obnoxious, the funny, the athletic, the laid back, the complex and beautiful; the real dog that makes you the completely unique you.
Divorce is not an option in adopting. This is not fast food or Disneyland. This is real dog, real relationship and real commitment.
May you feel the touch of a kind hand and hear a gentle word.
May you take a car ride to your forever home.
When you mess up, may you be forgiven.
May your new family understand that it can take months and sometimes years of training, guidance and learning to help you be the best you can become. May they make that commitment to you.
May they accept you for the dog that you are in spite of all of the training. And may they smile at your imperfections as much as your achievements.
May they protect you, nurture you, give you exercise and adventures together.
And may you someday fall asleep on the bed, sighing in deep contentment, peace and security, spooned against your forever friend.
This I pray for you my friend, and for all dogs. This I pray.
Sleep in peace and we will both dream and pray for your forever home.