I have despised all canines for over thirty years. I was bit when I was about nine years old. I was on my way home when some neighborhood kids told me to come check out their dog. I reached out my hand to pet it and the next thing I know, I’m being dragged by my leg down a hill. This was an angry dog. He was showing his teeth and snarling and for a minute, I thought he was going to kill me. He tore up my leg and I spent the next few weeks on crutches, all stitched up. I spent the rest of my life being terrified of all dogs. So much so, that the sound of barking could send me spiraling into full panic mode. I was disgusted by them all, no matter how cute their owner claimed them to be. I felt that every dog can (and eventually would) turn ugly. I never understood how someone could have such a love for such evil creatures.
But a few weeks ago, my heart started to change. I went over to a friend’s house and was sitting on her couch, when her dog Macy came up to me and plopped down next to me. My heart started racing a bit and I casually tried to get away without drawing too much attention. Then she started licking my face. This was the first time I have let a dog near my face without completely freaking out. And the weirdest thing is that I felt like Macy loved me! It didn’t take long for me to feel all mushy towards this animal. Then I started to pet her, and I wasn’t scared. I think her kisses were telling me, “see, you shouldn’t be afraid. I’m going to lick your face until your fear goes away.” And it did! Oh my gosh, I think I actually like this dog!
My son was struggling a bit in school. His grades were slipping, and his teachers were growing concerned about how withdrawn he had become. He didn’t talk much and acted angry and frustrated a lot. He said he was having anxiety and felt like he was constantly being judged. One night I called his dad crying because I was just so worried about him. My poor son was lonely and depressed. With my history of anxiety and depression, I knew this was something I couldn’t just blame on growing pains. At one point he asked if he could be home schooled because he just didn’t want to deal with other people. It broke my heart.
He has always wanted a puppy and I was always quick to say “uhhhh, no way. Never gonna happen. Sorry bud.” But this last time he mentioned wanting a dog, it stirred something up. My cousin had talked with me about how healing and therapeutic dogs are, so I did a little research. Studies have shown repeatedly that children with dogs felt happier. A dog can be a safe haven for a child. Dogs don’t judge. They just accept you and love you unconditionally, which means a more emotionally secure child. And children who have a strong bond with their dogs, more than likely also have a strong bond with his/her parents. Petting and playing with your dog reduces stress. It also raises your levels of serotonin and dopamine, which makes you feel good and calm.
I prayed about it for a few nights, but there was no denying the message I was given. Our home needed some puppy love. So, we took the plunge and adopted a puppy. One look at her and I knew she was the one. Her name is Roo. She looks and jumps like a kangaroo and she is amazing. She makes me crazy sometimes but then I look at her and her messed up ear and I just smile. Never in a million years did I think I would ever feel this way about a DOG! I don’t even know who I am anymore! This wild little animal has filled me with so much love. Not only that, but our home is just happier now and I can truly feel the good energy she creates.
We took Roo home on a Saturday. The following Monday I received this email from his math teacher; “He participated twice today… like raised his hand and wanted to share… he has not done that one other time this year! He was also correct and knew what we were talking about!!!! 🙂 WOOT”. And today I received this email from his science teacher; “Just a quick email to share a contagious spark of energy that your son shared with his science class last week. We were discussing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to conceptualize odor particles in the air. As part of that discussion I introduced the use of canaries in coal mines to indicate the presence of poisonous gases. I set up a staged debate between two positions: should canaries be placed in danger to save a miner’s life or not. He was impressively engaged in the activity. His eyes sparkled as he justified his thinking with ease and confidence. He succinctly stated his position and other students nodded in agreement. After his statement, others felt more comfortable in joining in the debate. Plus, he was smiling:) Please pass on this compliment. I really enjoyed watching his conviction and passion”.
Wait, what? Could it be that Roo has given my boy a boost of confidence? Has he found some self-assurance? Enough to speak up in class? And he’s smiling! He’s happy! No signs of anxiety at all! He has a zest about him now that I haven’t seen in so long. I see him playing with Roo and petting her and I have no doubts that we did the right thing. My eyes have been opened to something I had shut out long ago. My heart knows a new love. I missed out on a lot of things because of my fear. Thankfully, I was able to overcome that enough to see things in a new light. Rescuing Roo was a lesson in compassion and healing. I decided on a rescue puppy because who doesn’t want to be a part of something so wonderful? I didn’t know what this puppy had been through, I just knew that she needed to feel safe and secure and loved. She needed a fresh start. And my son needed all these things too. And maybe, just a little bit, so did I.