New life seeking … new life.
I’d left Chicago and started my new life in a small town three hours away from any major cities with the intention of slowing down, cultivating more authentic relationships, and saying “no” a lot more. And, I’d made a lot of decisions about this new life based on the idea of having an animal companion again. Only, this time, it would be my first doggy as a single doggy mom.
So, I found a spacious, original wood floored apartment with two bedrooms, a big yard and a small open park space just behind it. It was close by work in case I needed to come home quickly. I was in a great, walkable neighborhood nearby the local private college campus. And, it had not-too-distant access to a large park with hiking trails.
And here I was hunched over my laptop for hours, days, weeks searching for breeds and scanning local breeder websites trying to zero in on this specific puppy who was a specific color and type, and not too far away.
As I poured over site after site, listing after listing, it seemed as though the costs just climbed. I was potentially about to pay thousands of dollars, and hundreds as a deposit, to make my personal bid in what felt like a tacky online auction of this tiny new life having just emerged from its mother’s womb.
And it was ever more complex! I was suddenly thrust into a world of bidding on beings who hadn’t even come into form in this world yet. Or, trying to beat out the other doggy Mom’s-to-be in an intense “competition” by timing my bid just at the right moment to make sure I got the first dibs on the cutest, fattest one. My attention was sucked into this game of God Chess—strategizing about what might be if you mate a standard sized father and a miniature-sized mother—size forecasting, coloration and demeanor forecasting.
It was starting to feel like I was sitting around online customizing my very own dog to perfectly match my millennial-esque lifestyle; like I customize my bra choices, my classically dutch-designed bike or my macbook air:
My Custom Millennial Chocolate Labradoodle Puppy Baby must be a perfectly sized, perfectly colored and coated, non-to-low-allergenic yet playful pup who … isn’t too playful (so as not to be irritating), and has all the best mannerisms that are cute, but not offensive or dangerous, mind you. Oh, and what about his health? Will he have any predispositions to anything horrible that I can’t quite bear? What are his living conditions? Does he come from a line of intelligent and healthy dogcestors? But, back to the hair … his hair will have the perfect chocolate color and hypoallergenic curl, right? And, he’ll be just the right height—not too small so I don’t have to carry him or bend over too much, but just past the knee, kind of like the perfect tea length dress!
Agh!!! The overwhelm was setting in.
Not just at all the considerations, but more the soul-less, egotistical feeling I was noticing within myself. This had become all about what was optimal for me and me alone. I saw my original intentions crouched in a dark corner of my psyche plugging their ears against the incessant internal dialogue of contrivance you just had the misfortune to witness.
“Love comes when I’m ready and willing to Give.”
(Also this song! It’s the theme song to this story. Pssst! Listen while you read.)
“It might be kismet,” she said.
“Come and meet him,” she implored. “No pressure, but when I’ve had this feeling before people have gotten married.”
That was my friend, Jessie. (No pressure, my ass.) But, she had suddenly and excitedly reached out to me from the city I had just left months earlier, and it felt important. She couldn’t believe she hadn’t thought of it sooner, she’d said. He had been their friend for years, used to live in Chicago but now was in California … and he was single and handsome and successful and awesome (and *whisper* with accent). And I was single and awesome and all those things including handsome, but also pretty. “So, just come for the weekend and meet him. I have a feeling about this,” she’d said. “It might be kismet.”
I agreed with one, little kismet-blocking caveat: I’m not really dating, and I’m not really interested in long distance. Perfect, right?! With that the weekend-long blind cross-country quasi-engagement was set.
“Something primal and magical happened when we both caught a glimpse of him …”
White wolf in need.
We both saw him in the distance as we were leaving brunch that Sunday. Laura and Brad, old Chicago pals, had made the three-hour drive out to see me and we were just closing out the visit with a meal.
Something primal and magical happened when we both caught a glimpse of him: tall, lean, white. He looked to be a white wolf in the distance. We slowly followed our feet toward him, as if under a spell. Amazed that a white wolf would be here, in the middle of a yard in this small central Illinois town.
As we came upon him, the reality of the situation began to reveal itself in the posture of the animal, his emaciation, soiled coat, the aggressive barks with tail tucked between his legs, the almost lime green colored diarrhea that dotted the grounds around him, the worn grass pathways around a simple dog house that extended only a chain’s-length. Something was wrong here.
A car pulled up. A woman and a man exited, noticing that we were crouched down speaking with the white wolf creature. The woman hastily entered the house. The man exited more slowly, and began to talk to us from the car, friendly enough.
Until he sensed our concern. After a couple of questions about the health of the dog, a shallow friendliness quickly turned. He began to yell and berate us until we had to walk away from the confused and mistrustful creature.
I had to do something. So, after my friends and I had said our goodbyes, I returned home to scour the web. But this time for some type of protective organization that enforces obvious animal abuses. I found an organization called PAWS, or Peoria County Animal Protection Services, and after talking to a rep there, learned that this particular house, owner and situation was not new. This owner was doing the bare minimum to keep the dog from being confiscated by PAWS. One more “report” and they were taking the animal. It was then that I offered my home in the event they took the creature and needed a safe foster setting, but didn’t have the resources to keep the dog there.
“It was all about what I would get from this dog. Until I saw the white wolf. I realized that there is some dog out there who really needs a home, and help … a dog who really needed me.”
Soul mate material?
So he was handsome. He was foreignly accented. He was kind and fun and had good taste. And, we were only slightly nervous (thanks Jessie!). So, there in the back seat of their whatever-kind-of-vehicle-it-was-that-they’re-going-to-be-disappointed-in-me-for-not-remembering-because-they’re-all-really-into-vehiculars-and-vespas (deep inhale), we awkwardly tried to get to know one another.
He pulled up a picture of him with a dog out on a hiking trail. Oh, good! I thought, he loves dogs and hiking. That’s easy, me too! But this dog wasn’t his, it was a friend’s. Great! Well, I don’t have a dog right now either, and with that I began to fill the awkward space of being in the backseat of a truck together like teenagers by sharing my recent realization with him:
The Realization: My searching for and, by its nature, violently forcing the perfectly bred dog into my life had started to feel off. Wrong. Full of perfectionism and expectations and the playing of a role that I don’t actually play. It was all about what I would get from this dog. Until I saw the white wolf. I realized that there is some dog out there who really needs a home, and help, and so I’d given up the crazy-person-bred-dog search and would maintain the space for a dog who really needed me.
Unbeknownst to me, within about an hour of my speaking that aloud and being witnessed by my potential soul mate in the back of a truck (no pressure, remember?!), Jessie and her hubs had received a random and extremely unexpected call from a woman who had recently adopted a dog they’d fostered. It wasn’t working out, she’d explained. She had to bring the dog back, and immediately.
Luck O’the Irish.
On our way home from downtown Chicago St. Patty’s Day festivities—which had included a buffet-style corned beef and cabbage meal at Morton’s Steakhouse just off the green-dyed river—they broke the news: Remember that foster dog you asked about when we posted on our Facebook page? Lucille? Well, you’re going to get to meet her today.
I’ll never forget the first time I laid eyes on Lucille in their kitchen. She was so beautifully spotted in three of my favorite colors, her ears dangling from the sides of her red head, as long as fuzzy winter socks. But she was still. Frozen, actually. Terrified to move an inch for fear of what unknown boundary she may cross or human she may upset.
I’d heard her story long before then. As I rounded the kitchen island, slowly, toward her I came down to my knees beside her placing both hands atop her back as tears filled the corners of my eyes. “I’m so sorry for what has happened to you,” I whispered to her inside myself. She looked back at me with ears relaxed back and open, and these big brown eyes that almost popped out of her head. I knew she knew what I’d meant.
“I’m so sorry for what has happened to you,” I whispered to her inside myself.
Take me home.
By the weekend’s end I was having mixed feelings about leaving, but was gathering my things and slowly shuffling out saying my goodbyes.
As I descended the few steps down to exit Jessie and Duane’s front door, I noticed the sounds of struggle behind me. Confused, I twisted around uncomfortably at the waist while holding my bags to catch the source of the noise.
At the top of the steps I’d just descended I saw Jessie (an average-sized women with a fiery spirit who I’d bet could arm wrestle Duane twice her size and win) using all of her strength and her entire body in an attempt to hold back a suddenly fierce and focused Lucille. I looked on, amazed. The scared-frozen traumatized, tip-toeing rescue dog I had just met was struggling like hell to come home with me.
April showers bring May familiars.
It was overcast and sprinkly the next month when I returned to the doorstep of Jessie’s suburban Chicago bungalow to gather up Lucille. But just earlier that day the sunshine had burst through the clouds just enough to shine down on Lucille, who had also suddenly burst out herself in a sweet playfulness that Jessie captured in this pic. “She’s excited to go home with her new Mommy.”
I’d stepped inside to say hello and grab Lucille’s few things. She did seem excited and more confident—like a decision had been made that we were both clear on. I clipped her leash to her, and with absolute ease she walked by my side out of their bungalow to my pickup truck, and hopped right inside … like we’d done it a hundred times before.
Jessie, Duane and I chatted as the sky darkened, and began to hug and say our goodbyes as the first raindrops fell. As Jessie and I held our embrace, a horn sound pierced the silence. Momentarily caught off guard, we released our torsos back still holding one another’s arms at the elbows and, realizing Lucille had leaned her big Coonhound butt up against the steering wheel to honk the horn, burst out into teary-eyed laughter together.
It was as if she’d communicated: “Welp, I’m ready to go start my new life, Maw, let’s get a move-on ahead-uh this storm!”
Soul … hound searching.
I hadn’t found my soul mate that weekend, I’d found my soul hound. And it wasn’t out of need for perfection or force from myself. In this case I believe The Great Mystery that moves this planet’s tides, the deep kinetic “hummm” that animates the cycles of whole planets, seasons and the processes within you and me had played a little match-making game—matching the one who created space to give with the one who needed space to receive.
I finally understood, Love does come when I’m ready and willing to Give … and not a moment sooner.
Six Steps to Find Your #Soul Hound (Infographic)
Are you ready to invite more than an animal companion—a soul hound—into your world? Stop for a moment. Get quiet. Close your eyes and follow these six steps.
Ready to find your soul hound?
Adopting, or rescuing, a dog nearby you is a great way to make an offering to the needs that are alive in your own community. There are tons of pet adoption websites, like Petfinder, AdoptaPet, or PetBond where you can find local shelter puppies, find a dog for adoption or rehome a dog through local owners or pet shelters. Also pay attention, or just show up in person, to adopt a pet programs at your local pet store(s).
If you feel called to adopt a specific breed, due to special needs of yourself or one of your house members, breed specialized dog rescues offer dog fostering and adoption programs that are a lot easier on the pocketbook—and the heart. You can also learn how you might match with different dog breeds by answering about 21 questions in this online dog breed selector tool.