Updated: Apr 10, 2019
I began volunteering with a local dog rescue two years ago, and began fostering a year and a half ago. Since then, I have learned so much about dogs and, even more so, I have learned so much from dogs. Each foster dog has surprised me by teaching me something new and showing me a different outlook on life.
Basil, our tenth foster dog, was no exception. After her owner passed away, she and her brother (a shih tzu named Elliot) were brought to the shelter by that person’s family, where they spent nearly a month before being pulled by our director. Besides dealing with the sadness and confusion over losing her family and home, Basil had some serious medical issues that would result in both of her eyes needing to be removed.
As I was driving to pick up Basil on the day she was pulled from the shelter, I was pretty worried about what her temperament would be. Small dogs especially get extremely stressed out in the shelter, sometimes causing them to act out. That, on top of being confused and in pain were all things that pointed to “this dog is going to be difficult.” I remember carrying her out of the car, and as I went to reach for her, asking, “Is she going to bite me?” Well, she didn’t, and much to my dismay, I could feel her wagging her tail against me as I was holding her for the first time.
That last sentence pretty much sums up Basil’s two-month stay with us. Even after her surgeries, she was such a happy girl, wagging her tail any time you talked to her and coming to you any time you called her. She loved people, other dogs, snuggling, and napping. It was almost as if she didn’t remember that her owner passed away, that she was no longer with her brother, and that she lost both of her eyes. And that’s because she didn’t remember those things. A number of people made comments to me like, “Poor thing,” or “I feel so bad for her,” but Basil acted happy, was in a comfortable home, and was being prepared by us to move on with her life. Of course, a dog’s experiences shape who they become, but they don’t sit and dwell on the past like humans do. They live in the moment.
And that’s a truly amazing thing when you think about it. Many of us have instances where we wallow in self-pity, harp on the past, or fear the future… over things much more trivial than what Basil was dealing with. We read articles and books on being present, but how often do we actually put it into practice? It’s hard, I know. But if dogs who are sick, damaged, neglected, and abused can do it, then so can we. Since having Basil, whenever I find my mind going road that takes me away from the moment, I stop and challenge myself to just think like a dog.