Saturday, April 24, 2010

How Dogs Make a Difference in Our Lives

By Linda Cole

I've had the honor of sharing my home with multiple dogs over the years. Some were ones I picked out, but most had been abandoned. I've never regretted adopting dogs or cats who needed a home. Every now and then, one will touch your heart more than others. Two dogs who found their way to us were special souls that made a difference in our lives.

Rosie had been found with her brother dumped in a ditch in early January. Around here, that's a death sentence for 8 week old puppies trying to survive with no shelter or food. I remember the afternoon I picked Rosie up from the people who had found her. She was smaller than my cats. Pushing her nose inside my jacket, she cuddled against me as I wrapped her inside my coat. She shivered as we walked out into the cold air. As I climbed into the car, she crawled over and snuggled against my leg laying her head on my lap. She didn't make a sound or move from her spot as I drove home.

The little red pup quickly grew, and grew, and grew. In fact, I was beginning to think we had adopted a small horse instead of a dog! Rosie didn't waste any time settling into her new home. She rarely barked, preferring the more melodic tone of a howl, and she expressed her opinion loud and clear. She always had the last word to say about everything on any subject, especially when she didn't want to do something or move out of the chair she'd claimed.

She was as gentle as they come. We were finally able to reassure her when we left the house to go to work, that we would be back. I always wondered if she remembered being abandoned in that freezing ditch. Rosie never liked winters and shivered through the cold months.

About a year after we adopted Rosie, a friend of ours had been visiting a friend and her boyfriend. She watched as the guy yelled at, kicked and hit their dog before throwing it against the wall in a fit of rage. My friend angrily told them they didn't deserve to have a dog. Having no collar, she wrapped her shoelace around the dog's neck and left. No pets were allowed in her apartment and after telling us her story, we agreed to take the dog. She was around 9 months old with no name.

It didn't take us long to discover how loving and special she was, so we named her Angel. She was a beautiful black Border Collie mix with the kindest eyes I've ever seen. Angel loved herding my cats and she was good at it. The cats, however, weren't too fond of it. She loved playing catch with a ball or Frisbee and her favorite thing to do was head out to a nearby lake and retrieve tennis balls thrown into the water. Eager eyes waited for me to throw the ball and she'd watch it soar, timing her splash into the water at the same time the ball hit. She'd grab the ball, race back to drop it in my hand and then streak back to the lake as the ball sailed through the air. I loved taking her to the lake because I knew how much she enjoyed it.

Considering how badly Angel had been abused, we were surprised with how gentle she was with us and the other pets. One day when becoming overly excited during a baseball game, I noticed Angel cowering in the corner of the living room trying to make herself as small as she could. She was wide eyed and shaking like a leaf. Tears came to my eyes when I realized my yelling at an umpire had frightened her. I'll never forget that image because I realized she hadn't forgotten how loud voices affected her and in her mind she associated yelling with pain.

There's a special bond that develops with a pet who was abused or abandoned before they came to you. You want to hold them close and make sure nothing bad ever happens to them again. But you can't do that. The best thing you can do is give them stability by treating them like everyone else. That's all they ask of us. Dogs or cats don't worry about the past. They move on and that's what we have to do in order to help them. Time and love will heal most things, but the actions of cruel people are hard to forget. All living things feel pain and react to violence and negative emotions. I hope to never run across another dog who experienced what Angel did.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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