I believe that I will never quite be the “person” that my dog is; I can only hope to be. It may sound strange to many that I refer to my Lizzie as a person, but she is to me, and many pet owners might agree. Lizzie has taught me so much about unconditional love and moving past human cruelty. When I first saw her, cowering in a corner of her kennel at my local humane society, this scruffy little dog tugged at my heartstrings. She was not available for adoption that day, so two days later, I made sure I was back at the kennel when the front door was unlocked in the morning. I thought that a mix of instant love would transform a frankly terrified animal. Our first three months together were difficult, and she spent most of her time huddled under my bed. When I could not coax her out, I gave her a blanket. I thought maybe she needed space, and I gave her all she wanted. She eventually came out for longer periods of time, and when she did, a spunky personality developed. I slowly learned that quiet and distance heal better than forced love, and that she would come around on her own terms. She slowly learned that not all hands hit, and that rawhide sticks are God’s gift to the canine world. Her confidence blossoming, she added delightful words to her growing vocabulary: park, walk, outside, no no, good girl, stick, and cork. I still haven’t figured out the fascination with cork, but she apparently is amused. Who can read the mind of a dog? “Ice cream” is easily her favorite term, but because she can recognize it in conversations and when spelled out, it is now referred to as “frozen dairy product.” She’s not all take, however; after an excruciatingly bad day at work, I came home and collapsed on my bed in tears. She hopped up quietly beside me, cautiously worked her way up, and dropped one of her favorite rawhide sticks on my chest as if to say, “Here. You give these to me, and they make me feel better.” I have given Lizzie my patience, time, love, and discipline, but she in turn has given me infinitely more. She has taught me that it’s okay to trust again, even when you have been beaten. It’s okay to love someone unconditionally, even when they let you down. Wouldn’t it be great if every time you came in the door, your loved ones rushed to great you, smiling widely, as if it were the best thing to happen all day? What if it happened every day? Maybe when my husband comes home, I will join Lizzie at the door. Maybe once, I can be a ray of sunshine for someone else in the same way that she is for me.
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