Birch has a question. It isn’t how somebody could harm him they way they did or why he was starved, almost to death. He isn’t wondering how, when he looked up at his people with trust and loyalty, they were able to turn away with indifference and neglect. Birch isn’t even questioning whether to forgive the humans who let him down so terribly, for he already has. Birch simply questions why the tin, that holds the dried chicken strips he has come to love so much, is kept on a shelf, out of his reach. That, to him, is the real mind boggler. It would make so much more sense to keep it on a low shelf, with the lid off, so he could help himself without bothering others. Birch is considerate that way. He cannot, for the life of him, figure out why no one has thought of this before. Yes, that is Birch’s only question.

Birch learns quickly. He solved the problem of closed doors getting in his way by simply giving one good push while standing on his back legs and pushing with his front paws. Only rarely does he need to scratch or push repetitively to remove an obstacle from his path. He quickly forgave us for making him work so hard to get into the food pantry whenever he fancied a nibble. He was supposed to be gaining weight after all, and he was happy to be doing so much for himself.  We explained the reasoning behind pacing oneself but he didn’t accept that concept any better than he originally grasped the idea of fair play. It took him a while to understand that sitting on Will, the twelve-pound Shih Tzu, was really only fun for him. He wasn’t yet able to read body language, so didn’t interpret Will’s bulging eyes as a sign of displeasure.   

I don’t know if Birch ever worried, but knowing him the way I now do, I doubt it. Concern over where his next meal was coming from would long ago have become a moot point and he just squinted to overcome the strain and irritation caused by the scratch and infection in his eyes. His sinus infection and constant nasal drip were merely incorporated as habits but the yeast buildup in his ears caused problems he was simply forced to ignore. I think Birch’s life had always been so miserable, he didn’t know there was anything he could worry about. He was giving his best so I am sure he thought his humans were too. He wouldn’t have worried over things he thought they couldn’t do anything about. All he had ever known was that people eat, and dogs don’t. He wasn’t entitled to more, so why worry?

I know he chooses not to remember. He has forgiven so there is no need for recall or to look back. His heart is big and he is a better dog than any human could ever hope to be. He lives in the moment, and looks forward with gratitude and praise.

It wasn’t until all the medications kicked in that Birch was able to see, breathe or swallow without pain. There was great concern over his kidney function though and whether he would ever be able to process and absorb enough nutrition to gain weight and strength. We waited patiently for muscle mass to develop, knowing that if it didn’t, nothing could be done to correct his failing kidneys. Not for one moment did Birch consider being anything but wonderful though, and we knew he would be content with any diagnosis, as long as he was loved.  

So, time has passed and he has gained weight and strength. Just being able to walk with confidence and without wobble surprised him but when he mimicked the other dogs and galloped in play, he was stunned. So many possibilities he had never even considered.

Birch is hope on four legs. He begins each day with joy and rests his head at night with gratitude. Birch inspired people to donate and we are grateful that our call for help was answered. There is more to be done though and the need for contributions continues. He still needs monitoring tests, medications and neutering.

Every day looks brighter for Birch and we hope the same will be true for a ten-week-old pup we just received. I named her Fizz and she is suffering from rickets due to severe malnutrition. Always, so much more to follow.