Today has been a difficult day for much of the Northeast and beyond, the first of many impossibly difficult days to come for so many people. We are amazingly fortunate that, despite being so close to Boston and having friends and family in the area, all of our loved ones are safe and home tonight. Many were not so lucky, and our hearts go out to them as they (as we, as the rest of the nation) struggle to understand what happened in Boston today.
I considered leaving tonight’s post silent; continuing such normalcy seemed odd, wrong, in light of today’s tragic events. Silence didn’t seem right either, though. As I searched for updates this evening, any news about how or why, one thing has become increasingly clear – the overwhelming power of love and support in the face of a day wherein a few brief but violent moments forever changed all days following.
The Gotcha! Project was started in an effort to root out that brief, beautiful moment when love was born into our lives. The love of a canine companion, perhaps, but still that one important thing: love. Today was full of irreversible tragedy and shock and fear and loss but, more importantly, today was also a day where, more than any other day, people have said “I love you”. As you read this and past Gotcha! stories, think about how you first came to love the people in your life; you need not put those moments into written words, but making them into conscious thought can have a power all its own, and can help everyone moving forward. If you have not already, take a moment to tell someone that you love them and, please, hold all of those affected by the tragedy in Boston today in your hearts.
I wish you all peace and safety, and healing, and love.
“I finally managed to quit smoking in August 2009, and when I made it to December with nary a puff, I decided it was probably going to stick and I deserved a reward. I had a fenced yard, and I had the extra money from not smoking that could be put toward food and medical care, and it was finally time to find a dog. My mom had adopted a great dog, Maddie, from Pals Animal Rescue (www.palsrescue.org), so of course I checked out their web page. I had a couple of criteria in mind: I wanted a girl dog, and I wanted one somewhere between 15 and 20 pounds—small enough to be a lap dog, or at least a snuggle-on-the-couch dog, but big enough to go on some nice long walks. I wasn’t picky about breed, but of course “cute” was a requirement.
While I was scanning the photos on the web page, I noticed a weird-looking little black dog with a startling white mohawk in the middle of his head. It never crossed my mind to consider adopting this little guy, but I read the description anyway. He was a boy named “Wally” by his foster mom, and the description said he was a little timid and needed acalm, quiet home. “Well,” I thought, “it doesn’t get any quieter than this house.”
Even so, when I went to that Pals meet-and-greet back in December 2009, it was to meet a sweet little girl dog I can’t even remember now. I don’t remember her breed or her name or even her face. I do remember that she was very cute and outgoing and everyone loved her, including me. But as I was leaving, in walked Wally’s foster mom with him under her arm. All I did was say “Hi,” and she practically shoved the wee little black dog into my arms. (I think she knew a sucker when she saw one.)
“Wally” did not make a great first impression. Now that I know him well, I know that when he’s in an unfamiliar situation he likes to hold perfectly still and pretend he’s invisible, but at the time I thought he might be, well, not all there. He never moved a single muscle. I don’t think he even blinked. He was so still I asked in all seriousness whether he could take walks!
As I held him, a motionless, warm little lump, Foster Mom told me what she knew: that she found him hiding on her front porch during an August thunderstorm; that it took days and days for him to let her touch him, but when he finally decided to trust her, he never looked back. She said the fur on the top half of his body was long and matted and that he had no fur at all on the lower half because he had chewed it all off! Darned fleas! She said he had internal parasites, too, and it took a good long while to get him healthy again.
I talked to Wally’s foster mom for a few minutes, and then I politely handed him back and went home to fill out an adoption application for that girl dog. But when I went to the website to download the application, there was Wally’s picture. I started thinking that mohawk was pretty unique. I read the description again and thought about what his foster mom had said about how he needed a quiet home with a calm person. I knew it might be hard to find a home for Wally, that he needed me in a way that the sweet, outgoing little girl dog who would attract lots of adopters didn’t. On the part of the application that asks for a list of “Dogs interested in,” I listed that girl dog’s name. But I listed “Wally” first.
Now it’s four years in, and Wally, now Brewster, is taking a snooze with his new sister Bertie Sue (also an unidentifiable mutt from Pals) and I’m listening to that whistle-grunt-snore thing he does. I love him because he taught me or led me to learn a whole lot about dog behavior and training that I never would’ve bothered to find out if I’d adopted a dog who wasn’t fearful and reactive, a “Dog In Need of Space” (http://dogsinneedofspace.com/) in the first degree.
But mainly I love Brewster because of thewhistle-grunt-snore. And the Snuzzle Game. And how much he hates baths, butloves, loves, loves to rub himself in the towel to get dry afterward. And the way he learned to keep his treat ball out from under the furniture the veryfirst time he used it, and how it takes exactly three tries to learn any new skill like “Sit” or “Down” or “Touch.” I love him despite that weird crunchy crud he gets in his eyes. I love him because he trots around the backyard like he is on his way to somewhere very important. And I love him because every time he sees me, he wags his tail so hard he almost knocks himself over. Most of all, I love him because he is not the dog I expected.”
A version of Brewster’s story first appeared in the wonderful blog Notes from a Dog Walker when Noelle submitted it during a Valentine’s Day contest.