2: Finding Peace

2: Finding Peace

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Random Acts of Kindness

Finding Peace

All God’s angels come to us disguised.

~James Russell Lowell

I heard her tiny body hit the wall before he slammed shut the bathroom door. She sounded more like a child than an eight-pound dog when she cried out. That sound pierced the wall that separated us. On the other side, my heart was pounding in terror.

My stalker was inside my home, raping me. And all I could hear was my heartbeat, his rancid breathing, and my little dog’s sudden silence.

I was bleeding from places on my body I could no longer feel. She was whimpering, in the soft delicate way she had whimpered when we first met.

I had rescued her from the colorful alleyways of Venice Beach, on a Sunday evening vibrant with music, laughter, and the other sounds — those of discontent — that fill Los Angeles after dark. She was curled up in a shadowy corner, lying atop discarded debris and broken glass, ignored and alone.

At first I thought she was a large rodent, but it was her huge ears that drew me closer. I saw that she was a tiny dog, trembling from her infected wounds, the worms that had invaded her empty belly, and, most of all — fear.

Had I not found her when I did she would have died right there in that rat-infested alley. Had I not found her when I did, I would have died too — of sadness, self-loathing, and the bondage of memory that kept me prisoner. It was destiny. We were waiting to find each other.

After she recovered at the local vet, she came home to me. The first few months were challenging. She hid beneath my bedroom dresser, never allowing me to touch or cuddle her in any way. I simply slipped a bowl of water and kibble in front of her hiding place each morning, and opened the French doors that led to my gated yard for her to relieve herself. I was content to know that she was safe. It was enough that she had a home, that she was loved, and that she had given me both a challenge and a purpose.

That frightened little dog was a mirror to my brokenness. I understood her lack of trust. I had stopped trusting too after I walked in on my husband naked in the bathtub with the babysitter. I hid from intimacy in darker places than she could ever squeeze her tiny body into.

But one day, after months of hiding, I woke to find her on the pillow next to my own. From that day forward, we were inseparable, until my rapist ripped us apart.

He had a tattoo on his hand of an Om. Ironic, because I had named her Om Shanti. “Om” is a vibration often defined as the sound of creation. And “Shanti” means “peace.”

For years we clung to one another. She was my very best friend. She was the only living being who truly saw me, and still cared, without pretense, when I walked into a room. She was the pulsating-with-life reflection of God that I trusted with all of me. She was the wag at the door that welcomed me after long days, and her smile at the end of the leash reminded me that life was still unfolding outside my home and outside my head. She was the friend who licked my tears when life demanded more than I had to give.

When the ambulance arrived, Shanti was freed from the bathroom. The policeman who found her said she was too swift; he tried to catch her but could not. The front door had been left open, and Shanti was last seen chasing behind the ambulance that carried me away on the busy streets of Los Angeles.

When I finally was released from the hospital I spent each waking moment posting signs outside and online in search of my best friend. I couldn’t breathe without her, couldn’t heal, and couldn’t sleep.

A month or so went by and I had given up hope of ever seeing her again. I was pulled from a sedated sleep when the phone rang. It was a woman from Boston, 3,000 miles away, who just so happened to be going through missing pet announcements when she read my story. She said the mental image of this poor rescued dog chasing an ambulance led her to call and that she felt compelled to help me search. Her name, she said, was Angel.

One week later Angel called again. “I don’t know if it’s your Shanti,” she said, “but there is a dog with the same huge ears wearing the red collar you described, but without any tags, in a kennel in the city of Downey.” Downey was 150 miles from my home. Although I knew it was an impossibility, there was something in the spirit of her voice that gave me hope — that restored a semblance of my faith and propelled me to drive the distance.

I walked into the kennel shaking, and handed the flier and pictures of Shanti to the woman behind the desk.

“There’s a dog here that fits this description,” she said. “A nurse from a hospital in Los Angeles found her hiding under a bush. But apparently she was headed out here that night, so she brought the dog with her and dropped her off the next morning. If you’ll follow me, I can take you back to her. I do hope she’s yours. The poor thing is scheduled to be put down by end of day.”

As I turned the corner I heard her yelping with excitement. It was her! It was Shanti. I had found her 150 miles from home. She jumped into my arms and I fell onto the floor. She was climbing on my head, wagging every part of her body, and I was laughing and crying at the very same time. We had rescued each other again. And we had both survived to love another day.

The drive home was the very first time I truly exhaled since the trauma. I cried out in gratitude and awe to God until I reached my front door. I immediately ran to the phone to call Angel. When I dialed her number, the automated response said, “The number you have dialed is a non-working number; please check the number and dial again.”

~Piper M. Dellums

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