I am nearly finished with a book on animals. Whereas I have always felt connected with any kind of animal or bug, after doing much research on our furry friends, I was blown away.
Here is one of the stories:
“HE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW HE’S DISABLED!”
“Max, remember the interview I had with Mandy and her therapy dog Chaco?”
“How could I forget it? Chaco’s eyes were so mysterious.”
“Well, before leaving the interview, Mandy suggested I contact a friend of hers who also has a therapy dog that was born in a puppy mill and had only two legs. Unfortunately, both legs were on the right side. This makes walking and running rather precarious.”
I had done some research on puppy mills before our meeting.
“If you don’t know what a puppy mill is, let me enlighten you. Primarily, it is a commercial breeding facility that is operated for profit and with little emphasis on the well-being of the dogs in their care. Females are often bred every time they go into heat to ensure the highest profits, but this eventually begins decreasing the size of their litters. The puppies are usually weaned (taken from their mothers) way before the recommended eight to ten weeks. Because of the vastly crowded conditions, most of the dogs become poorly socialized to both other dogs and humans. Puppy mill dogs are more prone to developing respiratory ailments, pneumonia and an array of heredity defects. Oprah Winfrey, on MSNBC in May of 2008, revealed puppy mills had cages way too small for the animals, chicken wire floors (that can trap dogs’ paws and legs) and cages that were stacked in rows from floor to ceiling. She said that many of these dogs spend their entire brief lives in these tiny cramped cages.”
Max was shaking his head in disgust.
“This is where the little two-legged, Sheltie dog named Dare To Find the Truth About Puppy Mills. Originally born with all four legs, one leg was most likely gnawed off by his mother. You see, many of the dogs go cage crazy in the cramped conditions, and the poor mother probably didn’t know what she was even doing. The other leg had been caught in the cage wiring and broken in so many places it proved beyond repair. It had to be amputated by a veterinarian when Dare was given to animal rescue.
I know that there are great tragedies that occur in the human condition also, but I wondered how many of us humans could continue on after such a dire beginning.
“When I asked Dare’s owner, Tami, why she decided to keep a two-legged dog and agree to all the extra work it would entail, she first looked at me like I was nuts, then explained, ‘Because the first time I saw him I just knew that I was just somehow tied to him and he to me … that somehow I sensed that Dare had a higher purpose for being here on earth … plus,’ she smiled big, ‘he has quite an attitude. He never quits!’”
“The higher purpose soon revealed itself. Dare and Tami do volunteer work at hospitals where Dare inspires human amputees. Tami says that she has heard many times from amputees, “When I see this dog who is missing two legs, it makes me realize that my one amputation is not so significant. I mean if he can do it, so can I.”
They also spend time at a school for kids with severe physical disabilities. “Dare provides those kids with acceptance,” Tami said, “where other kids might say, ‘I like you but …’ (meaning they don’t like the kid’s disability nor drooling), Dare simply doesn’t look at them as different. Dare simply gives them acceptance as they are; acceptance with no conditions … and don’t forget, they accept Dare right back.”
“But my most memorable experience,” she began, “was a thirty-year-old man who needed to have his foot amputated in order to live but kept cancelling appointments. One evening, he finally showed up and immediately gravitated to Dare. When it was time for the group meeting, he asked if Dare was going and when told yes, shocked everyone by deciding to attend.
“During that first meeting,” Tami explained, her face aglow, “I was surprised even more when the man spoke up during the meeting and talked about his fears about going through with the amputation all the while holding and stroking Dare. He concluded by saying, ‘If Dare could handle it, so can I.”
Tami also shared this charming little story. “When Dare plays with his four other Sheltie brothers, they all play well together. But what is so amazing is that when Dare becomes tired sooner than the other dogs because of his only two leg situation, one of the other dogs will allow Dare to lean on him—will stand perfectly still – until Dare recovers.”
“Dare, like Chaco, is an animal-assisted therapy dog. He and Tami went through rigorous training classes to earn this title and work as a registered team as part of a nonprofit organization called American Humane, just like Chaco and Mandy.
“People so often tell me that Dare is so lucky to have me,” Tami quietly said, “but the real truth is that I am the lucky one. He has enriched my life beyond words.”
“Dare inspires me daily,” she added. “You know, when a human is injured, they focus on the damaged area, the negative, and feel sorry for themselves. But an animal doesn’t – they accept it, adapt and move on with life. Dare has the most phenomenal attitude … Why, he doesn’t even know he’s disabled.”
Of course, Max had tears in his eyes and couldn’t speak, certainly a rare situation for this storyteller.
* * * *
I suddenly recalled the poem by D.H. Lawrence:
I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough,
without ever having felt sorry for itself.