25: Saving Each Other

25: Saving Each Other

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Saving Each Other

Where there is great love there are always miracles.

~Willa Cather

Her teeth gripped the metal cage bars. Saliva ran down the sides of her mouth as she lunged forward in anger. The chunky brown and white Chihuahua had every reason to be angry. After seven wonderful years together, her human guardian had abandoned her in the local kill shelter.

Pure panic clutched the Chihuahua as the shelter staff reached into her cage with a catch pole—a long metal pole with a rubber loop on the end—and pulled it tight around her neck, allowing her to dangle in the air at head height. I couldn’t take a breath until her little feet landed safely on the ground. The moment her paws hit the floor and a leash slipped over her head, her tail began to wag.

Margo wagged her coiled tail and her eyes seemed to gain a spark. We knew we had to save her. What other choice did we have? We didn’t know anything about her, other than the fact she would die if we didn’t pay the safety fee and walk out the door with her by our side.

Margo sat on my lap with a sense of contentment as she looked out the front window of the Jeep. Never again would she know the pain of being locked away in a shelter. Never again would she be next on a list to have her life ended. Never again. From this point forward, as we promise every pet we rescue, Margo would only know love and compassion. From this point forward, Margo would be safe.

The bond between us grew instantly. Margo stuck by my side and I stood by hers. She followed me around as a puppy would. She slept snuggled up next to me at night. She wasn’t fond of anyone else, only me. After a period of time this began to concern me. I loved the bond that we had, but knew if Margo were ever going to have the chance of being adopted into a forever home, she would need to learn to accept others.

I began to take her on short drives, on regular walks and she was always present when regular company arrived. She would always throw her small fifteen-pound body in front of my legs when another human approached to say hello. She would snarl and bark; she was protecting me. Having endured a terrifying case of sexual assault and stalking in my personal life, I became concerned that Margo was sensing my fear of the world. Was Margo protecting me because she knew I was terrified of being harmed again? Was she simply protecting me the way I had protected her?

It is well documented that animals have a keen sense of intuition. If Margo was picking up on my internal struggle to reconnect with the world, I had to change. Although it had been several years since the incident occurred, I had never sought therapy, feeling that I was too strong to need assistance. Margo made me take another look at myself. When doctors diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder, which included frequent panic attacks, I knew it was time to take action. Margo had shown me that in order to take care of her and train her properly, I had to first take care of myself.

I began to talk to a therapist and I discovered yoga. When I would pull out my yoga mat at home, Margo would rush to my side. As I stretched, Margo would lie on her back, all four paws up in the air, staring at the ceiling. As I began to re-embrace loved ones in my own life, Margo began accepting others into hers. Margo’s progress encouraged me to continue working on myself. We were going through a journey of discovery together. I was happy to have a partner on my side and I think Margo was too.

Margo demonstrated a newfound sense of freedom in her life. She began to play with toys; she ran freely in the yard with other dogs; she greeted guests at the door. She was healing.

The day came when we received an amazing adoption application, nearly six months after her rescue. I admit, my heart sank, but it also fluttered. I had been fostering pets for nearly a decade and yet there was something about Margo that won my heart. We had been through an emotional journey together; we had an unbreakable bond. Was I ready for this? Was Margo?

Laura was everything her application had indicated. She was kind, calm and most of all she was patient. On adoption day, we brought Margo to her new home. Margo hid by my legs, but when Laura bent down with a small piece of chicken, Margo looked at me as if to ask if it was okay. I nodded as she took a step forward towards Laura’s hand. That was the start of their friendship and of my goodbye. Margo trotted after me as I approached the front door to leave that evening. I nearly broke down in tears, but I knew my emotions were being carefully read by Margo. So I bent down, gave her a big kiss and told her that she was going to have the happiest of lives here with Laura and that she would forever be in my heart.

I didn’t sleep for three nights after Margo’s adoption. It was bittersweet—it always is. You become so attached to your foster pets, yet you want to see them find a forever home surrounded by love. If you didn’t reach that goal, it wouldn’t be possible to save additional pets in need. Every pet, regardless of age, size or breed, deserves a safe, loving and forever home.

Nearly a week after her adoption, Laura contacted me with an update. Margo was not only sitting on Laura’s lap and following her around the house wagging her tail; she was sleeping with her in bed and loving life. Margo had found exactly what she needed, and along the way, she helped me begin my own journey of rehabilitation.

Margo’s strong spirit remains with me always. We’re all on life’s journey and life is best lived when we help each other out along the way. Whether or not you remember those who lifted you up when you most needed it, what’s important is that you have learned who you are and that you have surrounded yourself with love. Really, is there anything better than that?

There is a wonderful quote, author unknown, that sums it up for me: “It’s so much better to look back on life and say, ‘I can’t believe I did that’ than to look back and say ‘I wish I did that.’ ”

~Stacey Ritz

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