written by Grace Saalsaa
Melissa sat on the floor, unable to sit straight and tall like her mother had always admonished her to do when she was a child. Today, it would be impossible. And tomorrow... it probably wouldn't be possible then either. Her mind was too busy thinking about the dog that lay across her lap.
When he came to be with her, he had no name. She remembered that day very well. The first sight of him was enough to break her heart into little pieces.
The woman, who had taken this dog from the rough streets where he had lived, had tried to save him because she was unable to watch this young dog find his own food in a dumpster outside the crack house where he lived. Nobody cared that he was gone.
His fur was very thick; so thick that she had to wiggle her fingers down to feel his bony body. And as she pulled her fingers away again, they were coated in old dirt. Black and tan, he was supposed to be. But on that day he was beige and dust. He sat in the back of her car panting continuously, ears laid outward for he had lost his courage and couldn't keep them proud and tall. He sat motionless, waiting and limp. But the thing that was the most disturbing was the look in his eyes. They were quiet eyes, sunken into his head - and they watched her. They were alive with thought. He was waiting for her to do something "to" him.
Little did he know at the time that, instead, she would "give" something to him. She gave him one of the little broken pieces of her heart. She reached out to stroke his head and he instinctively squinched his eyes shut and dropped his head, waiting for the heavy hand. With that little bit of movement she gave him another one of the broken pieces of her heart.
She took him home and gave him a bath. She toweled him dry and brushed some order back into his coat. For that, he was grateful and even though his own heart was loaded with worms, he accepted yet another piece of her heart, for it would help to heal his own.
"Would you like some water, big boy?" She whispered to him as she set down a large bowl of cold well water. He drank it up happily. He had been dehydrated for a long time and she knew it would take him most of the week to re-hydrate. He wanted more water - but it was gone. Ah... that's how it is, he thought to himself. But he was grateful for what he had been able to get. "Would you like some more?" and she gave him another bowl along with another little piece of her heart. "I know that you are hungry. You don't have to find your own food anymore. Here's a big bowl of good food for you. I've added some warm water and a little piece of my heart."
Over the four months that he stayed with her, his health improved. The heart full of worms was replaced piece by piece with little bits of her loving heart. And each little piece worked a very special kind of magic. When the warmth of love and gentle caresses are added, the little broken pieces knit together again and heal the container it resides in. That container becomes whole again. She watched each little broken piece fill a gap in the gentle dog until his quiet eyes radiated the light from the little pieces. You see, kind words gently spoken turn the little pieces into illumination for the spirit that resides within.
He rested beside her, happy to be with her always. Never had he known such kindness, such gentle caresses; such love. His health had returned, his spirit was playful as a young dog's should be and he had learned about love. Now his heart was full. The healing was complete. It was time to go. There was another person who had another heart that was meant to be shared with him.
So she sat shapeless on the floor because all the broken pieces of her heart were with the dog. It is difficult to sit tall when your heart is not with you. She wrapped her arms around the dog that sat with tall, proud ears for her. Lean on me, he said. And she gave him one last thing that would keep him strong; that would keep the pieces of her heart together long after he had gone on to live his new life. She gave him her tears and bound them to the pieces with a simple statement made from the ribbons of her heart. "I love you, Joe." And Joe lived happily ever after.
Melissa sat on the floor, straight and tall like her mother had always admonished her to do when she was a child. Today, it would be possible. And tomorrow... it probably would be possible too. Because her mind was busy thinking about this, the next dog that lay across her lap.
Where did she get the heart to help yet another dog, you ask?
Ahhh... it came with the dog. They always bring a little bit of heart with them. And when the rescuer breathes in that little bit of heart, it quickly grows and fills the void left by the last dog.
ATRA Needs Your Help
We are always in need of foster homes. If you would like to consider becoming a foster home, please click here to fill out an on-line application. If you cannot foster, we understand, but perhaps you can help by making a donation to help defray the cost of boarding for our dogs waiting for a foster home. If you would like to donate towards our boarding expenses, please follow the links here.
To make a credit card donation, click here.
To make a paypal donation, use AML9848@comcast.net
To to make a donation by check, make your check out to "ATRA" and send it to
1123 Vesper Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48103