Their Eyes Speak Louder Than Words
A little over a year ago I took our 16-year-old black lab to be euthanized. Years of chasing a tennis ball coupled with the inevitable ravages of old age resulted in severe arthritis and a steadily diminishing quality of life for her.
Her eyes told us — “It is time.”
I took her on her last ride to the vet, laid on the floor with her, stroked her head, said goodbye, and held her as she painlessly and quietly took her last breath.
After we buried her in our yard (something we have done with every one of our former pets), I said to my wife, “I can hardly stand thinking about this happening again. We now have another hole in our hearts that will never go away. No more dogs beyond keeping our other senior dog.”
Two days later she said, “I have a picture and a story about a dog to share with you.” The picture was of Josie. Her story was she was pushed from a car in Texas and abandoned with eleven unborn puppies. Fortunately, a witness to her predicament took her to an animal shelter. They took her in, but it was made clear that due to overcrowding, she would be euthanized if she was not adopted. My wife said “Look at her eyes. They are silently saying – “I need you and you need me.” She also reminded me that while the holes in our hearts from the loss of all our beloved pets will never go away; they can be made to grow smaller.
Four weeks later, after giving birth to her puppies we brought Josie (now Maisie) to her new home. Prior to then, all her puppies also found new homes.
The rescue organization told us about the rule of three for rescued dogs. They need three days to explore their new surroundings. They need three weeks to get comfortable with those new surroundings. They need three months to settle in. They told us – “Please be patient with her, she has been through a lot.”
When we took Maisie into our home she wandered through and smelled every room. She met our cats and our dog. She even met our ducks in their backyard pen. All the meetings were uneventful. No growling, no chasing, and no fights. It was an indication of things to come. Later that night, Maisie climbed into our bed. When we scratched her ears, she let out a deep sigh and her eyes silently said “I like it here. I want to stay.”
Fast forward to today. She is more than settled in. She has turned out to be the best dog we have ever had, and we have had many great ones. The biggest adjustment was getting her into our truck for rides. Based on her dumping and abandonment experience, she was terrified of getting anywhere near any vehicle. After four months of bribing her with treats and McDonald’s burgers, we succeeded in taking her on short rides that always ended with her safely back home. The results have been heartwarming. She now wants to go EVERYWHERE with us. If we jingle the keys, she comes running from a sound sleep and waits impatiently at the door. Her eyes now “say” — C’mon guys, let’s go. I have places to go, people to see and things to do (mostly watching out the window knowing these rides will end well).
Maisie is a constant reminder of the story about the young boy on an ocean beach picking up stranded starfish and throwing them back into the water. A passerby tells him there are countless stranded starfish on this beach and you cannot make a difference for all of them. As the young boy picks up another one and returns it to the water he says –”Maybe so, but I just made a difference for that one.”
Sadly, there are countless dogs, cats, and other creatures like our Maisie that have been abandoned or given up on through no fault of their own. They need and they deserve good homes. They need someone to make a difference for them.
We hope that in sharing our experience with Maisie; more people will consider rescuing dogs, cats, and other creatures. Yes, they will die. Yes, it is very hard to bear the grief that happens when they do. It has been said some of the best days of your life happen with your pets and only one of the worst days occurs when they die. Their legacies are wonderful memories that with patience, love, and attention they will return deep loyalty and unconditional love.
Their eyes will speak louder than words.
David Reel is a public affairs/public relations consultant who serves as a trusted advisor on strategy, advocacy, and media matters who resides in Easton.