Finding Healing Where you Least Expect It
Those of you who know us know that we have a Greyhound named Leroy. Some of you have even met Leroy. He has his quirks, but mostly he’s pretty easy. Like most Greyhounds, he sleeps about 18 hours a day, goes for a small walk, and has one run around in the back yard that lasts about a minute and a half. Recently we decided to foster Greyhounds. Fostering means taking a rescued or retired Greyhound into your home for three weeks, to help it learn about life in a home, including manners, walking on a lead, using stairs, getting along with other animals, etc. It’s amazing what many of us take for granted when getting a dog and and what we assume they know. We heard one story about a foster Grey jumping through a glass window, simply because he did not know that there was something between him and where he wanted to go. We decided to foster partly because we love Greyhounds, partly because we thought Leroy might like a friend, and partly because there is such a huge need to help retired racers adapt to home life so that they can get adopted and be successful in their new family. And, because how hard could it possibly be to have one more animal who sleeps 18 hours a day hanging around?
As is often true in life, what I expected and what actually happened did not quite match. In comes Madz, a four year old Grey who if I didn’t know better I would swear is part Black Labrador. Madz is everything I was not looking for. She definitely does not sleep 18 hours a day, and in fact I have a hard time tiring her out – which is saying a lot, because as many of you know, I like to run – far! Most days fostering Madz has been like looking after a toddler who does not take naps, has food sensitivities, does not acknowledge ‘no’ no matter how loud it is said, and is not predictable with toileting – i.e. has accidents sometimes, usually when you are sure you did all the right things to prevent it. When she came to us, she had to go through every door first, muddy feet and all, knocking others over in the process. And taking her for a walk was really having Madz drag me for a walk. We’re talking lots of energy – she’s strong too, like a little tank engine.
Every day for the past three weeks I have had the choice to get upset at her, to give her back, or to learn why these things upset me. And most days I considered all of those options. But I’m happy to say that the number of days that I chose to allow her to help me see what I need to learn about me has far outweighed the other choices. Choosing to learn about my issues created the openness to consider the best way to work with her quirks and to enjoy the process. Madz now waits happily at every door until given the ok to enter. She shares dog beds with Leroy. She calmly and excitedly waits in a down for her food. She accepts a toy in exchange for my slippers. She knows the lounge is off limits – not just this time but every time. She lets us clean her muddy feet after zooming around the yard after a rain. She responds to a very quiet and gentle ‘no’. And she mostly tells us when she has to go outside to pee.
Our thoughts create our world. As I chose to see and appreciate who she was, I saw an amazing dog. I was able to see how all of her boundless energy is extraordinarily happy, how contagious that happiness is, and I have been able to allow myself to get caught up in it; who wouldn’t benefit from having happiness around all day every day? I discovered that underneath all the energy, she is the most affectionate dog I have ever met; she would snuggle up to me all day if she could – between runs of course. As I have dropped the thoughts that she just has too much energy and starting observing the energy, I discovered that she is funny, cheeky, playful, and very engaging – she plays catch with herself, loves instigating Leroy in the back yard to race with her, and sneaks around looking for our slippers to hoard. Her energy soars – that’s right, her high energy can go even higher – when I’ve come home from being out; and it feels really awesome to be missed that much! When I come back from long runs, she licks my feet, which feels almost as good as a foot bath with none of the prep work. One of the greatest things she has taught me is that I can say ‘no’ to her, and she’s still by best friend! Actually, the truly bestest best part of all is that, even with all both of us have learned and changed, she still has the same amount of crazy, happy energy! It’s not the what that is happening, it’s the how, the process we bring to the situation.
Madz goes back to GAP (Greyhound Adoption Program), the foster agency, on Thursday, so that someone can adopt her into her forever home. It will be a lot calmer and quieter around here. I’m really going to miss her! But no one can take away what I have learned from her being a part of our family for 4 weeks. You might be thinking, “Why don’t you just keep her?” For one thing, if we started keeping every greyhound we fostered, it would get pretty crowded around here. For another thing, I feel it is important that Madz provide others with the opportunity to learn and heal. And lastly, one final and very important piece of the healing – the hardest piece – is letting go. She’s going to make some family very very happy; and just knowing that makes me smile!
© June 2017 Mary Robson