The Healing Power of Canines
Wanted: more tail wagging
I left my marketing job of 9 years without the security of having another form of income or employment. I left desperately in search of personal fulfillment. After years of working for a good salary in a beautiful office, I gathered my things and bid my coworkers a fond adieu. I wanted to experience joy at work, something that had eluded me for too long. I wanted to eschew the chains of fetching a nice paycheck and live simply at a job where I felt needed, appreciated and where I made a difference.
Let's get physical
It wasn't normal to sit at my desk and dream of one day scrubbing down cages and picking up dog poo, and yet there I was in my business casual flat shoes imagining myself traipsing around in dirty boots. My boss would be a pit bull mix. When I gave notice at my corporate job I visited a doctor for every part of myself I had neglected despite having excellent health insurance. In one month I had everything inspected, poked, scraped and biopsied. Good news: nothing appeared broken or diseased. Soon I would be flying through the air without a net, as they say, insurance-free and crossing my fingers that nothing broke down or became damaged.
I began making 8 dollars an hour. A tremendous pay cut, but as a bonus received showers of kisses and hugs on a daily basis. Sadly, few businesses accept this as currency, except maybe World of Mirth. Standing in the boarding kennel's biggest yard surrounded by dozens of dogs was the cure for any lack of confidence or feeling of being unlovable one might have. Among all those canines, I was healing. If there is a pun here I am not aware of it in the least.
Who has rescued whom?
Dogs are an odd lot. Many of them, having never met me, not only wag their tails when they see me (in the absence of a tail often the entire hind end of a dog will wiggle emphatically from side to side), they leap into my arms, jump on me and cling with all their might, or at the very least bark with loving desperation. They love unconditionally the very least of us. They never once looked askance at my clothing or tried to network with me. They radiated pure love. Even many of those who had been damaged psychologically or physically by a human still held out hope that humans are generally good at heart. Which leads me to the rescues.
The kennel that employed me assisted the local Humane Society with the boarding and care of many of their rescues. Essentially, the kennel donated thousands of dollars in-kind to ensure that these pups in need of a home had a safe, comfortable place to stay while they waited for their forever families. Their stories are heartbreaking. One dachshund was adopted and quickly returned because she only ate moist food and had the audacity to crawl onto her newly adopted "parents'" laps. (Note: if you are disdainful of affection, do not adopt a dog). Another man surrendered his little dog Cotton because he was "sick of him." We saw dogs with burn scars and wounds that should have made them vicious toward humans, but they were often the most loving of all the dogs with whom I had the honor of crossing paths. I am heartened by the fact that our society is beginning to take the abuse of animals more seriously and mete out punishment to those who would abuse a non-human animal, but we've a long way to go. And what can be done for a man who becomes "sick of" his loyal companion? I suppose his fate is for a much wiser, sometimes vengeful authority to determine.
It makes one pause and think about how happiness is defined by each of us; how something as simple and basic as kindness is a life changing thing for some of us, and not enough for others. We could learn a lot from our canine friends who ask for so little and give so much.
I was forced to leave my job at the kennel because I had to make more money to pay my bills. Over the weeks I had gotten to know some extraordinary dogs and the people who care for them. I perhaps miss most of all the dogs who played too hard, scratched my legs or went to the bathroom inside after many hours in the yard. Too enthusiastic for play, they had simply forgotten to pee. Even the little shepherd mix who accidentally pulled down my pants has a special place in my heart (I never wore elastic waisted pants again after that). I won't forget their faces, so many and each so different, full of unbridled joy for life.
I will take a little of the kennel with me to my next job. Maybe I will make enough money to pay the bills, but I won't forget that it is relationships that count; that kindness and a sense of joy and play have far greater benefits than a sufficient paycheck. I will remember that I am loveable, smart and capable - even if only to very hairy individuals. Most importantly, I will remember to wag my tail.