There’s a second hand store in Espanola I like to support because all profits go to the Espanola Animal Shelter which is a very, very good shelter. AND they have stuffed animals, their lesser stuffed animals, for 50 cents each. My whole crew, Kelee (A Three Legged Man of the West), Skye (Night Skye) and Finn (Rescue Dog: Meet Finn (Survivor)) all love stuffed animals and they go through them like water—Finn especially. I brought a new bagful home today.
I’ve often wondered how they so naturally know these things are for them. And there’s no question that they do. As soon as Finn had regained marginal strength that first week when I brought him in, he picked up the toys without any invitation from me. Yet none of my guys come from pampered lives. Far from it. Kelee is a tough llano dog, Skye’s an ex-feral and Finn never knew kindness. Still each one of them seems to instinctively know that these toys are for them. And they know exactly what to do with them.
They know how to play. Where do dogs from such dire circumstances learn these things? Does something like Jung’s collective consciousness include beings beyond we humans? Because it just doesn’t seem to me that play would fall under the concept of instinct. What reason would natural selection have for building in a play mechanism? But always, once each of my dogs became confident of their surroundings; once they felt safe, they began to play.
I first brought a big bag of animals home for Skye shortly after she started coming out of her shell. She was such a little puppy I thought she’d be ecstatic. But I was met at the door by Kelee instead. He immediately rummaged through the bag and came out with a big, fat, Polar Bear. He was grinning from ear to ear, I swear, and he proceeded to unpack the whole bag. I was dumbfounded. It never occurred to me to buy such things for him. He’s a big working dog after all. But Kelee was the puppy that day. The ecstasy was his. He still carries a bear to bed with him, and even up the stairs when we’re moving from the studio to spend our evening in the living quarters, and back down again to the studio in the morning.
I’ll admit I was a little disappointed in Skye’s reaction that first time. I expected her to react as Kelee had. But she has some pretty fierce prey instincts so anything out of the ordinary is a potential threat to her. So instead of being excited about her new gifts, she was pretty fearful of them. She’s still cautious about a new influx of animals, often hiding under the bed for awhile before summoning the courage to check out the new bunch.
Finn is rather shy about it all, as he is with most things (except for chasing creatures off the property, be they coyotes, horses, cows or dogs). He seems to be thinking something to the effect of, “You’re kidding, you mean this is really for ME?” all the time, which, of course, is very endearing.
But here it is the end of the evening and each dog has chosen their favorites—a little blue teddy for Finn, a big fat bear for Kelee, and pretty much all the rest for Skye. It’s such an easy thing to do. For $5 my whole gang is happy. And so am I. And it occurs to me that this kind of simple happiness, these kinds of small pleasures, are available to each of us all the time. The dogs know this and they regularly remind me.
And they are teaching me how to play. What comes so naturally to them is not at all natural for me. But by living with them, by witnessing their out-and-out joy, their endless energy for life, for play, they are teaching me by example. What’s that they say about once the student is ready to learn the teacher appears?
And then there’s the fact that each one of them comes from difficult pasts, but they have somehow forgiven their misfortune, their bad treatment, and are wide open to trust again.
Bottom line, my dogs are great teachers and guides. They live in the moment, full out, day after day. They let the past go. And I am blessed to live with their example. If I pay attention, if I am open to the lessons, the dogs help me stay real, to be conscious. Do I really need any other reasons than these to rescue animals?
Finn just trotted up to me and plopped his little bear in my lap, tail wagging, his chin resting on my knee, big brown eyes an invitation. And my heart swells with love; laughter spills from my lips and I am reminded once again of the anonymous quote, “Just who rescued who?” My feelings exactly.
Love to you all,