There have been far too many times when I had cause to imagine how a dog felt after being abused, neglected or abandoned. I thought I was only able to imagine because somehow, dogs suffered differently than humans. Until recently, I believed they reacted and perceived acts of meanness and abandonment differently than we did. I was wrong. I have come to understand that dogs feel emotional pain just as we do, they simply carry themselves differently through it.
For over a year now I have struggled. On good days, I consider the physical and emotional pain to be an opportunity for personal growth and on bad days it is simply a journey of suffering. Hope, too often, has been discouraging and belief has, at times, become disgust. I tire of trying harder, of striving to overcome and thoughts of gratitude make me sad.
It is not the brain tumour that causes my days of darkness. It will not be physical pain that defeats me. It is sadness that saps my will to recognize remaining possibilities and chances for joy. The sadness stems from all that has changed. Some change was inevitable and to be expected but much has come through the choices and intentions of others.
My attempts to understand, causes my mind to wander and, as always, my thoughts turn to dogs I have known. Even when I just want to be miserable, the image of a dog will come to mind and a lesson will be learned. The hardships many dogs suffer are greater than any I will ever know so it was time for me to pay better attention.
No dog feels forever cursed and none would allow him or herself to continuously feel tortured. They share the same feelings of pain, uncertainty and sadness after being neglected, abused or abandoned as we do, but they do not wallow. I have witnessed confusion, disappointment and hurt in a dog and it is clear they suffer emotionally. Their depressed feelings linger for a time and they withdraw into themselves. They retreat, and gaze blankly at what appears to be nothing. I don’t know if, at these times, they are remembering or simply seeking peace within themselves. I do know they are not placing blame, planning revenge or contemplating the end of their lives.
A dog will take only the time it needs to feel able again. It will find just enough hope to stand and walk forward. Dogs instinctively know that just a few steps can move you out of the bleakness or away from harm. A dog will call on all that is left to it, and move on with that while humans seem to mourn all that is gone and they lay down with that. Counting what you have takes less time than remembering all you once had. And it is less painful. Dogs are far better to themselves than humans are.
Prior to being rescued, a dog will look at the next moment as being his or her future and find possibilities there. Rescued dogs will live in the moment and feel content. Either way, dark feelings are shed once they have been acknowledged and honoured. They serve no purpose and a dog will not carry unnecessary burdens.
I am not a dog so it took me longer to stand and move forward a few steps. I am not a dog so not all dark feelings have been shed but, because I know dogs, a ray of sun still shines. It was slightly shameful for me to realize that, without a paw to hold or a safe place to close their eyes and hide, dogs do better than I. I am far too willing to disappoint myself but I will never knowingly disappoint a dog. My dogs may accept lame excuses from me but they have suffered too much themselves for me to offer them any. Trumpet lived at the end of a short rope, away from shelter, water or food for many years in Attawapiskat. Will suffered neurological damage after being hit over the head with a shovel in Moosonee and the brain in his twelve-pound body never quite recovered. Mabel lived in a hole beside a highway in Mexico and she gave birth to, and cared, for her pups amongst rubble and debris. Just as most of the dogs we know have a story, so do we. Together perhaps we can overcome all things. So, with Mabel as my best friend and Paul, Trumpet and Will as my family, I will stand and be grateful for this moment and all those that follow. Living up to a dog is hard, but if we can make it, we will know the glory of being.