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The Exercise Mat

Updated on May 2, 2016
Findley, loving "his boy"
Findley, loving "his boy"

I was taking a fitness class, when the instructor asked everyone to grab a mat to do some pushups. I ran over to the mat pile along with all my other sweaty exercising compadres, when I noticed one mat being rejected over and over by the girls ahead of me in line. Due to no fault of its own, this mat was grossly disfigured with deep folds in all directions. Apparently, it had merely been put away in a reckless manner, causing the deep folds to appear to set in.

Being kindhearted (okay, I was just lazy), I grabbed this top mat and thought I would do the best I could with the pad whose edges were flailing in all directions. As I laid it down on the wood floor, I could feel the stares of pity from my fellow exercisers, but I vowed to do the best I could with my “special” cushion.

Pushups using weights seemed to be just the therapy this poor little floor covering needed to iron out its most severe “wounds.” It didn’t take too long for her to lay flat on the ground with just visual lines in her otherwise beautiful design, as evidence of her prior struggles. The more I bonded with my little mat, the more I realized what a gem she was. Because she was rarely (if ever) used, she was clean and smelled nice. Her cushioning power was full force and she provided me, the only exerciser to believe in her, an excellent experience. In addition, it was rewarding for me to see my little mangled mat blossom into the cushion her creator intended her to be. After the class, I was sure to lay my mat carefully on the pile, so as not to let this careless, yet so hurtful, experience ever happen to her, again.

Coinciding with this occurrence, I am fostering a dog from the Humane Society. His name is Findley and he is 8-1/2 years old. Like the mat, he was abused by his previous people and came to the Humane Society with some deep “folds.” Because he couldn’t pass his temperament test, he was not adoptable for 5 months. Being kindhearted (okay, I just adored him), I decided to take him home to try to work out some of his “kinks” with my family of six (plus two other dogs).

Findley is a collie mix who loves to play ball. He has the sweetest face and will lean against you but then run when you try to call him. He adores the water and will jump in the lake after ducks. He will only wander so far from you before coming back. He has a beautiful gait when taken on a walk and he is afraid of thunderstorms. Findley’s deep crease is that, when hurt, his first reaction is to bite … probably stemming from the abuse he suffered in his prior home.

Upon entering our house, Findley found a spot under the dining room table where he would lay and show his teeth to anyone who came near him. Outside of that spot, he seemed to like us. When all the dogs came in from outside, I wiped their paws, which Findley showed me he didn’t like by biting my hand … not enough to break the skin.

On three separate occasions, three different kids accidentally stepped on Findley when he chose to lay down below them. Three times his first reaction was to bite them. He has also bitten our smaller dog, twice, over food.

“Take that dog back!!” you are probably saying. “Why would you keep such a difficult animal that bites?” After all of this happened in the first two weeks, I was leaving on vacation and thinking the same thing. I took him back to the shelter, while we were gone, and didn’t have much desire to pick him up, again, upon our return. The kids and I still loved Findley, but didn’t think he was working out. BUT, there was a nagging feeling that I needed to go get him. I thought to myself: “We don’t NEED Findley.” But, a voice entered my head: “True. But Findley needs YOU.”

So, I drove up to the shelter and took Findley out, again. Back home. Under my protection. In our care.

Like the mat, but taking much longer, I can see his “folds” slowly softening. He is learning to trust us. He is starting to enjoy our company. He is a little slower to react in such a strong way, when hurt. Like the mat, he is turning out to be a great dog. It is so rewarding to witness him being molded back into the dog that God intended him to be. I plan to stick with him until it is complete. Oh, who am I kidding! Once he’s the “perfect dog,” Findley is staying with us!!

The lesson I learned from all of this is to give others a chance … even when their “folds” seem too deep. Stick with them and love them until their true beauty is revealed. Maybe they won’t stay with you forever, but you can probably, at least, make a big enough difference in their lives that, when you put them back on the pile, their wrinkles are softer and more acceptable to others.

The lines of our past may always be visible, but they don’t have to be obstructive to our true purposes.

After all, we are all God’s children. Sometimes, the unusual ones provide the most rewards.


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    • profile image

      Kimberly Vanek 20 months ago


      What a beautifully written story. Your passion and commitment to Findley truly defines the goodness in your soul and the kindness you show to others.

    • profile image

      Julie pollock 20 months ago

      Marcy this was a beautiful story. The way you compared Findlay to an exercise mat was amazing. I too picked that dog that didn't quite fit in with our family. But He was ours to the end. And even though he didn't fit in I always had funny stories to tell at pizza night Friday's or at work. I love the pic of Findlay with Colby...he likes kids now!!! Yea.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 20 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      A marvelous article. For some reason it made my self criticizing mind go softer. My folds and wrinkles are not so different or gross than anyone else's. Perhaps we all can learn not to bite.

    • profile image

      Debby Culbertson 20 months ago

      Love this one Marcy... made me cry happy tears

    • My Bell profile image

      Marcelle Bell 20 months ago

      What a heartwarming story, Marcy! I love how you tied in the story of your "exercise mat" to a beautiful story of fostering Findley. He has truly found a place in your heart (and mine). Well written hub!