Sometimes, if I’ve behaved, one of our two boxers will grace me with a writing buddy while I’m working. If Bella, the ten-year old, can get between me and my laptop, she thinks she’s had a pretty good day. That whole plan would work better if she were an eight pound Chihuahua instead of an eighty pound boxer. Raylan, who we believe is about five-years old, doesn’t get in the way intentionally, it’s just what happens when he’s being his goofy self. He’s a little smaller at seventy pounds.
They’re both great dogs, well-behaved and eager to please. My wife found Bella several years ago while volunteering at the local SPCA. Of course, she had a different favorite every week, but Bella was different, and pretty soon she was ours. Raylan came from another shelter as part of the boxer rescue we work with. He was going to be euthanized the day after we picked him up. As a foster family, our plan was to get him healthy (a tall order) and adopt him out to a good family. Simon Sinek says, “Always plan for the fact that no plan ever goes according to plan.” That proved to be a good plan with our foster boy.
Bella came to us ten to twelve pounds underweight, but with no real physical problems. She was skittish at first, and spent a lot of time checking to be sure we were still around. According to the limited information we could find, her original family ran into health issues and felt they couldn’t take care of her any longer. At least they took her to a low-kill shelter instead of just dumping her, but her life changed in ways she couldn’t imagine even in her nightmares.
All Bella knew was that she went from a loving, comfortable home to a cacophonous, smelly, concrete and iron kennel. She tries so hard to be good, I’m sure she felt she was being punished for doing something wrong. If she could tell her story, it would no doubt be one of happiness followed by rejection, intense fear, and despair. The ending, though, would be happy redemption. And she’s spoiled rotten, so she really does get a happy ending. I wish we knew more. I wish she could tell us her experiences.
If Bella’s story would be something by Jane Austen or one of the Bronte sisters, Raylan’s would be straight from the mind of Elmore Leonard. In fact, he’s named after Raylan Givens of Justified, the TV show based on a Leonard short story. The shelter that picked him up estimated he’d been alone on the streets for at least several months. He was severely underweight with many health problems. He was also nearly hairless, even though he didn’t have any type of mange. He slept in a tight ball for several months, jumping at even the smallest sounds. With his diagnosis, we were able to get treatment for all of his symptoms, and now he’s a happy, handsome fellow.
We have no idea how he came to be on the streets. He might have run off, leaving a broken-hearted family. He could have been dumped because of his illness and the expense involved in treating it. We’ll probably never know for sure. But what stories could he tell of his fight to survive? Fending off bigger, meaner predators, scrounging for food, locating a warm, dry place to rest every night, then going to sleep with no protection. How did he remain so loving and trusting?
Even though both dogs were cut off from their families and the love and security their humans provided, they persevered through the hurt, confusion, and fear. Instead of turning bitter, as so many people do, they waited patiently for someone else they could love unconditionally to come along. If they could talk, their accounts would be fascinating, exciting, and heartbreaking, I imagine. And, ultimately for these two, inspiring. When one of them comes to help me write, I wonder if maybe they know what I’m doing, and they’re trying to communicate what they went through. Or, maybe they’re working out how to make the keyboard work with their paws, impatient with my lack of understanding. I wish they would figure it out. I’m pretty sure a world where our dogs wrote most of the literature would be a better place than we can ever create.