Canine Compassion

Canine Compassion

From Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul

Canine Compassion

A rather unusual overnight guest stayed at our home recently. When I was asked to provide overnight accommodations for a rescued dog being transported to her new home in Boston, I readily agreed. Though I was a tad worried that my own two dogs might not like this new intruder in our home, I wanted to help and figured I could manage if it became a problem.

The visiting dog’s name was Meadow, and she was an extremely sweet old canine soul. She had been rescued from an abusive animal-hoarding situation, and a kindhearted person had agreed to adopt her, even though she was a special-needs dog. Poor Meadow had suffered some type of severe head trauma before being rescued, andwhen our guest arrived at my front door that afternoon, her acute neurological ailment was painfully obvious. She teetered precariously on four wobbly thin legs, and her aged, furry brown face incessantly wobbled back and forth, as if she were suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Immediately, I thought of the great actress, Katharine Hepburn, who had also suffered from Parkinson’s. Katharine Hepburn had not allowed her illness to get the better of her, and obviously, neither had this sweet old girl.

As Meadow gamely tottered into my unfamiliar living room, she heard my two dogs growling, snarling and scratching incessantly at the inside of the closed bedroom door upstairs. Stopping, she peered nervously in that direction. I was afraid that the getting-acquainted canine ritual that was coming might be extremely painful for our already stressed overnight visitor. While I contemplated the best method to introduce my two dogs to our special guest, they somehow managed to pry open the bedroom door themselves. Before I could stop them, they both came charging down the steps with only one thought in their collective canine minds: the urgent need to rid their home of this unwanted intruder. But then, instead of witnessing a vicious canine attack, I witnessed something truly remarkable.

Suddenly, both my dogs stopped in their tracks on the long wooden stairway and gazed wide-eyed at the quivering, wobbly-kneed stranger below. Instantly, they instinctively knew that this new guest of ours was not a threat to anyone. They came down the stairs and stood looking at the unfamiliar dog. Blanca, my tiny female Chihuahua/spitz mix, who can be quite mean to other female dogs at times, approached Meadow first. She slowly walked up to our elderly visitor, sniffed her and quickly planted an affectionate kiss of greeting on Meadow’s tremulous left cheek. I was immediately reminded of the kisses I, as a child, had lovingly set on my aged grandmother’s quivering cheek so many years ago. My large male dog, Turbo, soon followed suit—although his wet slobbery kisses on Meadow’s chin were much more exuberant than Blanca’s had been. After all, our overnight guest was a female. I was delighted that my dogs had so readily accepted our guest, and I felt a little sheepish that I had been so worried about it.

Soon it was afternoon nap time, that part of the day when both my dogs always find a comfortable piece of furniture to do their snoozing on. Today, however, they had other plans. They both had watched in silence as Meadow wearily plopped down on the blanket I’d set out for her on our cold living-room floor. They seemed to know that our special guest could not crawl up onto any comfortable bed or sofa as they so easily could. To my utter amazement, my two pampered pooches immediately plopped down on the blanket next to her, one on each side. And soon three tired, newly acquainted canine comradeswere dognapping and snoring away onmy living-room floor—together.

I was extremely proud of my two lovable mutts that afternoon, but there was more to come.

When bedtime finally arrived, my two dogs sped upstairs to their usual cozy spots in our bedroom: Blanca perched next to my pillow, Turbo at my wife’s feet, gently mouthing and licking his beloved teddy bear, just as he does each and every evening before falling fast asleep. As I was about to crawl into bed myself, Turbo suddenly jumped off the bed with his teddy in his mouth. Curious, I followed him out of the bedroom.

There he stood in the dark, at the top of the long staircase, silently gazing down at our overnight guest below. After several seconds Turbo silently carried his favorite teddy bear down that long flight of stairs. He slowly approached Meadow and then gingerly dropped his prized possession next to Meadow’s head, as if to say, This teddy comforts me at night; I hope it does the same for you.

Our canine guest seemed to sense how truly grand a gesture this was on Turbo’s part. She immediately snorted her thanks and then, quickly placing her wobbly head on the teddy bear’s plush softness, she let out a loud contented sigh. As my generous pup turned to head back upstairs to bed, he stopped abruptly, turned around and looked back at Meadow once more. Then he walked back to her and plopped down on the floor at her side. My gallant Turbo spent the entire night huddled there with Meadow on the cold living-room floor. I know that our overnight visitor, somewhat stressed and frightened in yet another strange new place, must have been extremely grateful for both his noble gift and for his comforting overnight company.

The next morning, as we all watched Miss Meadow happily departing in her new loving owner’s car, I bent down and gave each of my dogs a big hug. Why had I ever doubted their canine compassion? I knew better now.

Ed Kostro

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