Who is your hero?
Do you know a lot of heroic people? I believe I know a lot of them…I think they are all around us. Everyone has their struggles…some people wear them on their sleeve…some people bury them deep inside….but we all fight battles and those battles makes living life on life’s terms heroic in its own right. Still, we have the more obvious heroes…like our soldiers. A hero comes in many forms…and sometimes its the sweet soul who wanders to the shelter and rescues a dog…and sometimes it’s the dog.
Sparky, my black lab, has been creeping in to my art more and more…he creeps in to my dreams more too. He is very old now and sometimes I think his presence in my dreams is his way of beginning to say good-bye to me. I love to draw and paint him. He is a fascinating dog. When I first adopted him he was near a feral dog. I could not touch him or even get very close to him…he was never aggressive but he had no use for me…would not even take food from my hand. He had no concept of how to live in a home with humans and destroyed miraculous amounts of things in my home and would jump up and down (several feet up) when I put a leash on him. What kind of crazy woman adopts a dog like that might be a fair question…honestly…one that didn’t know any better.
While I was clueless then I know now that dogs come in to our lives when they are suppose to. Sparky, who for years wanted nothing to do with me…turned in to a loyal companion. He never leaves my side and has become a hero to other dogs. Whenever I hear someone say a dog is not adoptable…I cringe. Sparky was in that category. The weekend I adopted him (he had been adopted out several times and returned to the Humane Society) was his last chance…he was on doggy death row for the following week. Don’t get me wrong…the early years with Sparky were not easy….sometimes I could do nothing but cry at the things he destroyed …at the frustration of trying to manage little things like getting him in to the car. But oddly enough…in the midst of a very dark time in my life he started to change and calm down…he became the dog I needed at that time. Eventually, Sparky was the dog that went through dog training school with me…all of which were efforts to help my other dog (Hercules) who was terribly reactive. Sparky rocked dog training school…my mentor couldn’t believe his ability to focus on me (neither could I really…I think now of all the years I was underestimating what he could do). Now Sparky is the dog that I use to work with other dogs…those that are fearful and those that are reactive in the presence of other dogs. (Reactive is the politically correct way to say dog aggressive). There is something about Sparky’s presence that calms and guides other dogs to better behavior. I won’t pretend for one moment that I understand it nor do I feel the need to.
Sparky has a way of communicating with other dogs…his body language, his eyes..in ways that say all sorts of things I suppose…its so hard not to anthropomorphize our dogs…I would imagine he says things like…”knock it off you obnoxious idiot” to dogs like Buster and “follow my lead I’ve got your back” to dogs like Turnip.
But make no mistake…he is a near 100 pounds of a take no prisoners bad ass if he needs to defend his family. Very few times in all the years that Sparky has lived with me have I seen him go in to a guard dog state…but each time it has happened I have been both startled by and also proud of his fierceness…I believe he would die defending our pack. The first time my husband saw Sparky defend the pack he was shocked.
Since we moved to Kentucky Sparky has worked his magic with our two foster dogs; Turnip and Buster. Turnip is a fearful dog and Buster is a reactive dog. Sparky is a dog that gives other dogs a second chance…it is really a magical thing. Turnip was afraid of his own shadow…taking him for a walk in the neighborhood was nearly impossible…a blowing leaf, a passing car, a garbage can…all were potential threats in Turnip’s eyes. We started walking him with Sparky and it changed Turnip’s world. After his Sparky therapy…Turnip walks the hood like he owns it! Buster was an obnoxious idiot that wanted to hump and bully every dog he encountered. Sparky very quickly taught him some manners. Turnip and Buster will be Sparky’s last miracles…we declare him officially retired and will focus on caring for him in his old age.
We all owe Sparky a lot….the dogs and certainly Bret and I. We enjoy every day we have with him…and relish in the grace with which he is dealing with his old age. He is totally deaf now, his kidneys don’t function well, his hips are weak and he farts all the time…still he hangs with pack, goes on his daily walk (slooooowly) and rarely leaves my side. While he isn’t going to live here on earth with us forever…he will be in my dreams and in my art until we reunite on the other side…and I find great comfort in that. He is like magic to me…or maybe a better word is grace. Sometimes I think that in certain moments with our dogs we get rare but clear glimpses in to the mystery of grace…the only other place I have felt it is in my marriage…dogs and husband…what more could a girl want.
I leave you with all these thoughts and images of my Sparky…my sweety, my magic and when he needs to be … a badass!
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