The bonds that we share in this world are what makes our lives full. Whether those bonds are with two legged loved ones or four legged babies, we all cherish those relationships. Rick and I have been blessed with 43 years together. We raised two amazing children, and we have been blessed with four beautiful grand children. We have loved hundreds of dogs, quite a few cats, a handful of horses, more rabbits than we bargained for, ten siblings, and many incredible, devoted friends. These relationships have filled our hearts, our lives, and our minds with love, joy, companionship, fun, drama, heartache, disappointment, and sometimes great loss. I began that list with love because it is the sustaining element in our lives. The list ends with great loss because that can consume our souls and prevent us from enjoying or even remembering the other components of our relationships.
The same list holds true for our babies here at the sanctuary. They experience many of the same emotions that we as humans do. They flourish when they feel love, and they grieve when they experience great loss. Because so many of our babies come to us alone we have no way of knowing the bonds they have been blessed to know during their lives. We can certainly tell when a baby comes directly from an owner, or an owner’s child that they are in the throes of great loss. For many of our babies, heartache and disappointment are evident in their sunken eyes, and their fear of accepting even a gentle touch.
These shattered lives almost always begin to flourish right away. What they need in the beginning is to feel safe, and thankfully that happens quickly with most rescues. Once they realize that the meals will be coming every day, the beds will always be dry and warm, the hugs and gentle words will be plentiful, and the friends are accepting, they blossom into the beautiful little beings that God so graciously gifted us with.
Rick and I love watching the babies making and choosing their closest friends from our pack. Almost without exception our new residents will find one or two other babies that they bond with. They can be found curled up together on the same bed, walking side by side in the yard, and standing strong while they bark at the wind and other threats in their guarded little world. Often Rick and I will make guesses on which babies will build these strong bonds.
Striker, who is not a Dachshund but was desperately in need of safe place, was a loner for several months after he came to the sanctuary. Then one day Rick came home with Rudy who was found wondering on a lonely highway in the oil fields. These two boys started out their friendship by challenging each other. Rick and I worried that their challenges would become more serious. But shortly after Rudy arrived they began to be partners in crime. They played tug of war with more than one stuffed toy and a few beds over the first few months of their friendship. And now they are buddies that keep each other in their sight so they can combine forces to warn the birds, the sirens, and any passing horses of their might. They prove, every day, that new relationships can come at any point and fulfill our need for life changing bonds.
Just as it is in the human world, once in awhile we have a baby that prefers to live a more solitary life. The first one I can remember was a fat little silver dapple that came to us from a shelter years ago. She did not want to be touched and even seemed disgruntled when we spoke to her. Cricket was the name I gave her, and she never wanted to be touched. It took weeks before I could easily pick her up to put her in a wire crate to eat her meals. She was always off to herself in the yard and by herself on a bed. I worried myself sick about her not being happy. But after many months I came to realize that she too deserved to choose her own way in this world. Who was I to try to change what made her happy? That baby lived with us for four years before she passed in her sleep one night. I knew that we had done our best by her, and that she had lived the life that she wanted in spite of our wishes.
Many babies over the years have come into our lives with their best friend by their side. Often they have just lost their human Mom or Dad and the four legged companion they curl up next to is all they have left in this world. These babies are, of course, blessed to have that long term love, and we are grateful that they don’t have to start out their new lives feeling alone. Some of these bonded pairs have branched out and added friends to their little “family”, and some never do. We have always done everything in our power to hold these bonds sacred. Once in awhile, however, life gets in the way.
Max and Ginger came to us a few years ago and they were mother and son. I was amazed at several things about this pair. The first thing I noticed is that they always slept side by side, and Max always had his head laying over his Mom as if he were protecting her. They reminded me of a mother/son duo we rescued years ago. The son was a big standard, and his Mom was a tiny little old lady. She slept on her son’s back for the few months that they enjoyed together here at the sanctuary. Old age took this Mom away from her son. He accepted his loss better than we feared, and Rick and I decided that he knew she had lost the quality of her life. Max and Ginger’s story ended much more tragically than that when a pack of stray dogs managed to jump our fence and attack this precious little family. Max fought hard for his Mom and had the wounds to prove how brave he had been. Ginger, sadly did not survive the attack. For several weeks after his tragic loss Max could be found lying on the spot where his Mom took her last breath. He lost weight, ignored the rest of the pack, including Rick and I, and wanted nothing more than to have his Mom by his side again. Eventually, Max began to come out of his grief and now enjoys the companionship of Pete, one of our longest term residents. They are always together on the same bed, and they cuddle closer together each night when I spread their blanket out over their heads. Max learned to move on with his life, and we feel Ginger would surely approve.
Each day, I read and try to respond to multiple posts telling the Facebook community of the loss of a dear loved one. All of these loses are heartbreaking, and a few are unexplainably tragic. Friends pour their hearts out to the people they know will understand their pain. Their great loss is something that we all experience multiple times in our lives. Those of us who have felt that loss commiserate with the incapacitation that seems so horribly permanent at the time. We all pray for the broken spirits that someday, somehow, they will learn to live again. And we are so very thankful that most of us eventually find that new relationship, that new forever friend, that new cuddly baby to share our love with. Someday we all will feel that bond again, and we will say to that special someone in our life, “I Got You Babe!”