When has an animal lifted your spirits and eased your pain?


Leaf and I (Allen) enjoyed our guy time Saturday ritual at the dog park yesterday.  It’s our time away from daily responsibilities and duties with my writing deadlines, website updates, newsletter tasks, and preparations, and of course, the always looming need to cut the grass.

Being our rescued cocker spaniel, Leaf has decided he has jobs too. He mixes his days with watching for the mail carrier whom he has made into an uninvited monster. He always keeps an eye on the cats just in case they begin any movement toward his chew toys, food bowl, or anything he views as his procession.

He also takes many naps between looking out the front window at the world of squirrels in the trees, rabbits in the yard, cars and busses in the street, and people walking by on the sidewalks.

Yesterday, as we begun our mile-long walk down a wooded path to the dog park that expands a mile or two next to the Mississippi River, Leaf kicked his hind legs with gusto. He ran around with excitement and showed how much he loved being a dog.

He would see a dog he liked and run up to initiate play. Often, it would work, with a temporary pack being formed for playtime.

On our long walk down the wooded trail, we looked upward at crows making a lot of noise.  With both of our heads pointed up toward the treetops, we watched dozens of black crows yelling at each other. I got a quick image in my mind of one of the birds swooping down and clutching on to Leaf, trying to fly away with him. I quickly got rid of the thought. Without any arguments from him, Leaf and I moved on.

When we adopted Leaf, he was not a touchy-feely kind of dog. It took time for him to trust that people were not bad. Now, he relishes our touch but still, not all the time. Each night, Linda is the focus of his kissing campaigns, as he talks to her, kisses her nose, and confides in her about his day.

Leaf was in his element as he greeted other people and dogs at the park. He was the host, and they were all in his park for him. It was fun to see him so happy.

As we explored, a lady walked up, looked at Leaf, and asked him if he wanted to be petted.  He played coy at first, allowing only one pat on his head. Then he circled and returned for another pat on his head.

I could tell that the woman was in some sort of pain, and it seemed important for her to pet Leaf. She mentioned to me that she had lost her dog. She was enjoying the dog park and being around other dogs. I mentioned how hard that must have been to go through. She said it was and that her dog had died due to kidney failure.  She quietly walked past us.

Leaf and I continued up the path with the Mississippi river on one side and a heavily wooded forest on the other.  Men, women, and families with small children and their dogs were all having the time of their lives after a long workweek.

By this time I had given Leaf his bouncy ball to chase and retrieve. He is like a retriever in an odd sort of way, chasing the ball each time and bringing it back to be thrown again and again. He likes for me to throw it, because I send it far away, making a challenge for him to retrieve.  Very much guy stuff.

Leaf is picky about whom he gives his ball to throw. On other visits to the dog park, he soon decided that Linda throws like a girl, so he drops the ball at her feet once or twice. Then he returns the ball to me for the rest of the throws.

I sat on a large fallen tree yesterday that was lying on the sand near the river. Leaf trotted into the water, all the while, greeting people and dogs as they walked past.

The lady whose dog had died walked along the beach area. As she came near us, I asked her how long it had been since her dog passed. I quietly said, “Losing a dear friend is very hard.” Tears started to roll down her face.

She sat down on the log next to me and started talking about how much it hurt. I listened. Leaf looked up and was still for a moment, as he, too, listened.

Then he jumped up and sat next to the grieving woman on the log. He shook a little. I said that I was concerned he would get sand and dirt on her. But she laughed and said, “You’re supposed to get dirty when you go to the dog park.”

Leaf still had his ball in this mouth and dropped it next to her feet.  She bent over and picked up Leaf’s cherished procession and threw it.

Like Linda, she also threw like a girl, but it didn’t seem to matter to Leaf. He chased the ball with his floppy ears flying in the wind and brought it back to her to throw again.

She began talking more about her dog and how much she had meant to her. With each throw of the ball Leaf would return, sit very close to her, drop the ball at her feet, and jump again as she threw it for him.

Her mood had changed in those few minutes of remembering the love she shared with her dog and the special memories of their time together. She said her dog was in a better place, and one day they would be together again. I said, “Absolutely.”

I mentioned how it helped Linda and me to have a memorial service when our yellow lab, Taylor died of cancer.  It was important to us to remember the love. While we will always miss Taylor dearly, we had also celebrated her life and had closure.

As we finished our conversation, Leaf came over to the woman and sat next to her. This time, he didn’t carry the ball in his mouth to her. Instead, he sat very still for a few more minutes until she got up to continue her walk.

It was touching to see the two of them sitting with Leaf, the woman’s eyes growing brighter and less filled with pain.

I am often amazed at how far Leaf has come.  From an emotionally injured, fearful, scared, adopted dog to one who freely gives so much love to those, like the sad women, who need a boost from him.

When has an animal lifted your spirits and eased your pain?

Visit www.facebook.com/#!/album.php?aid=164944&id=711934289 to
see Leaf playing at the dog park.
Allen and Linda Anderson
Angel Animals Network – Where Pets Are Family!

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