Because our canine babies can’t actually speak to us, we read their body language, their tail wags, the way they hold their heads, and the messages that come from their eyes. Over the years we have seen happy eyes, sad eyes, angry eyes, fearful eyes, shameful eyes, and exhausted eyes. Sometimes we see the entire spectrum of emotional eyes in the same baby.
Andre’ was our first official rescue and as you can see in the pic on the right above, his eyes were sad and fearful when he first arrived off the streets. His body told the story of neglect, and his eyes reflected the angst that consumed him. After a few short weeks of care and attention, Andre’s eyes glowed with love and happiness. He blossomed physically and recovered quickly from the anxiety that sought to destroy his self-esteem. Andre’ was our Alpha Male for over 14 years and his eyes were proud, clear, and playful throughout his life with us.
Very soon after we opened the sanctuary I have found myself in different shelters all over the state. Most of the eyes that look back at me from their concrete stalls are conspicuously full of fear. But they also manifest a deep and oppressing shame. That look haunts me in my dreams as there is no justification for dishonor from these creatures of God that had no control over their situation. We all know that the breed we dearly love is a proud breed. We’ve all seen our Dachshund babies hold their heads high and look at the world as if they are completely in charge. That extreme expression of pride in their eyes tells us they are happy and secure. But when they are subjected to the horrors of street life or the panic-stricken sounds of the constant barking and crying from shelter dogs, their pride is replaced with a denigration that tears at the hearts of all of us who would love each and every one of them if we could.
Occasionally, we rescue a dog that comes from an abusive situation. Those babies that have not been allowed to activate their flight response from abuse, turn to the ardent aggression that is their last resort. Their eyes are distended and glassy. They watch for any opportunity to strike out at anything and everything as their confusion disallows any realization that they are finally safe. These unfortunate souls, that need love the most, are often the last to receive the tenderness and sympathy that is their only saving grace. As humans we also activate a fight or flight mode and when confronted with a snarling, snapping canine we are predisposed to escape. Most of these dogs are condemned to never leave the shelters alive as there are never enough avenues for their rescue and rehabilitation. I have personally received a very special gift from having watched Rick take several of these ostracized babies and turn them into the loving, cuddly, sweet babies that they were meant to be.
Because we rescue so many seniors we see earth shattering grief in their eyes more than the emotions that can control the younger babies. Our old babies have lived long enough to put aside any predisposition for overwhelming fear or aggression. They have the wisdom to forgo the shame or helplessness we see in the shelter babies. But they know grief. They walk hand in hand with sorrow. Their heartache devours their every movement. They are broken, and sadly they often accept that state of mind as their final destiny. These eyes are the ones that carry a heavy burden of a lifetime of experience. These eyes will never emanate playfulness or hubris. But what they can achieve over time is a dedicated look of eternal love and greatfulness that fills our hearts with joy.
Another result of our dedication to rescuing the old and the ill is the exhaustion in the eyes of a baby that has struggled long enough. Rick and I, along with the expert guidance of a dedicated vet give everything we can to these senior citizens. When the look of weariness and debilitation cannot be corrected, we make the hardest decision we are ever faced with in the care of these fragile beings. We take away their pain and illness through the only avenue left to us at that point as we hold them when they take their final breath.
How totally blessed we have been to watch the eyes of countless rescue babies change with time. Love, acceptance, tenderness, and care always triumph. Obviously, some recover more than others. A few babies will hold on to their pain longer than others. But with very few exceptions, we have experienced the joyful transformation that we seek in the eyes of the babies we so dearly love. Their eyes always tell us what they need. Their eyes always reflect what they receive. Their eyes allow us to listen to their hearts and look into the mirrors of their precious souls.