Anybody who has known me for a long time knows that I am not, or at least was not, a dog person. I have never understood why when I walk into people's houses they think I like touching and being licked by their dog (among the other awesome dog greeting habits). When I have been "greeted" by someone's dog I can still usually sit and have a turkey sandwich with its owner, talking about all sorts of things, but all I'm really thinking about is how to not contaminate my Diet Coke can and wanting to wash my hand. I sit there, maintaining eye contact, nodding my head and using all of my super strength counseling skills, but I'm totally preoccupied with trying to figure out what the appropriate time frame is between the licking time and the washing my hands time without being rude. This was especially an issue when we lived in Boulder, CO because people REALLY REALLY love their dogs in Boulder, CO. I walked into a friends house once and didn't get down on the floor to roll around with her dog before lunch and she was a bit confused and bewildered. She then told me how surprised she was that I don't like dogs because, had I not noticed, dog spelled backwards is god. Hmmmmmm....give me a break. This concept definitely felt like a stretch, created by someone who had been breathing in the mountain air a little too long.
I tell you this because all of this changed a few Decembers ago when, after years and years of my girls begging for a dog, a tri-colored King Charles Spaniel named Ralphie ran into the family room on Christmas morning and I fell completely head-over-heels in love with this dog spelled backwards is god-sweet-all loving-furry-beautiful baby boy. Ralphie sleeps in the bed with Eddie and I, sometimes Ralphie eats his own poop and then we kiss on the lips. When we are away on vacation, I Facetime him, but only for a short time because I get sad and it kills my vacation buzz.
Long story short...I love this dog. I do not understand why someone would not want his saliva all over them when they come over for lunch.
Last summer we were down at the Jersey Shore and Ralphie wanted to get off his leash as I walked him down to the beach one night. And since I lose all sense of rationale when that sweet face looks up at me, I took him off the leash. If you are a new dog owner, here's a tip- do not let your dog off the leash the first time he sees the beach. I let Ralphie go and he darted up the beach like a bat out of hell. Now, anyone who knows me, also knows that physical exercise if not my strong point. Running is FER SURE not my strong point. But I started running my fat ass off, chasing my beloved down the beach. The gap between us grew and grew and I had visions of him being found two days later all the way down in Seaside Heights, under the boardwalk, unconscious from overdosing on funnel cake, chocolate covered Oreos and hot dogs. While I would have been found not far from where I was, unconscious in my own boob sweat.
And then...all of a sudden... my hero intervened. I saw up in the distance a man jump up from his chair, run straight to Ralphie and scoop him up out of nowhere. HOLY CRAP was I relieved! I started to slow down (and let's not kid ourselves, I wasn't going very fast) and finally reached them, gasping and putting my hands down on my knees the way marathon runners do as the volunteers drape the silver sheet over them at the finish line- I could have used of those silver sheet thingies. Anyway, when I caught my breath, I started to thank the guy profusely and noticed the scene behind him. He and his wife were sitting there having a beer and watching the sunset. I said to him that he had just saved Ralphie from a lonely death under the boardwalk and I can't believe he would interrupt his romantic moment to jump up, spill his beer and save my dog when he could have just as easily said "not my problem." He then pulled up his sleeve and exposed an enormous tattoo, from his armpit to his wrist which read, in beautiful script the name
"Ohhhhhh", he said," I could never let him keep running, I lost my tri-colored, Wilson last year and I miss him everyday. I know the pain of loosing a dog." And he choked up and introduced himself as Jimmy, as he handed Ralphie over to me. It struck me in that moment that his response was actually directly in line with the main philosophy of Heartworks. So, I hugged Jimmy (of course) and told him about Heartworks. That I had founded an Acts of Kindness group based on this principal of using our own loses and struggles to help someone else. Jimmy could have taken his grief in any direction. Had my new bestie Jimmy never allowed himself to love Wilson in the first place, or had Jimmy shut down when Wilson died and swore to never be around another King Charles Spaniel because it was too sad, or had he wanted someone else to be sad because he was sad and life sucked and dogs die, then he would never have helped me that night.
So the question is "What is your Wilson?" What is an experience from your own life that you can use to help another human being? Too often we bare knuckle through our pain and then make a career (sometimes literally a career) of getting as far away from the issue as possible. This concept does not work as well as we think it would. I see lives transform everyday at Heartworks when we reflect back on our own losses and use them to help someone else walk (or crawl) along a similar path. Think of how different our experiences with illness and grief would be if every person who ever suffered or grieved used their experience to help someone else?? This is what Heartworks is about and the offering is two-fold, the healing takes place for the receiver as well as the giver. I see it all the time and it is a doorway out of the isolation and fear that loss creates.
That summer night, back at the house when I poured my glass of Pinot Grigio, I toasted a thank you to Wilson for opening Jimmy's heart and to Jimmy, for the willingness to get up out of his chair and share this heart with Ralphie.
Reflection for the week:
What is your Wilson and how are you allowing the healing to continue (for yourself and others), even long after the event has taken place?