There are Angels Among Us
angels among us whose wings may be seemingly silent yet their
tails telegraph deeply felt emotion. As I look upon this photo
yet again, I am reminded of the dog’s innate ability to lighten
hearts, dry tears, elicit laughter, and brighten lives.
The day of
this photo had been like so many before, a show day filled with
the usual grooming, showing, packing, and driving, until we
decided to take a drive down the coast to Dana Point,
California. We thought a respite along the shore might do us all
a bit of good and so we stopped for a bit to gaze upon the ships
and gulls while Emily (Ch. Gleanntan Grandxpose) dozed upon the
cool brick walkway.
moments, she roused herself from gentle slumber to welcome a
newcomer to our bench and offer a gift from her heart. Following
the human ‘hellos’, Emily gracefully moved towards her potential
friend to extend her own greetings. The moments which followed
will long be remembered not for their length measured in time,
but for the inspirational potency of Emily’s caring.
long before we, that the kindly gentleman, whom she’d only just
met, was unable to use his left side, following a recent stroke,
and so, instinctively, she moved carefully to perch upon his
right knee. Emily then proceeded to kiss his nose and encouraged
his caress until his energy waned, and she gently moved to his
feet to curl for a nap.
In time, he
needed to return to his day, and thus, the man rose to bid adieu
to his new friend Emily and to thank us profusely for allowing
her to visit. He shared that only recently he’d lost his beloved
German Shepard and given his stroke, he feared he’d never have
another dog. He said visiting with Emily was one of the nicest
things that had happened to him recently.
In the midst
of life’s frenzy, it was wonderful to be reminded that the
simple acts of caring may be those remembered the longest. It
was also heartening to witness Emily’s ability to give
selflessly to bring another joy, a characteristic she, like many
dogs, offers with sincerity and without expectation.
readily admit to being ‘over the moon’ for my dogs, I am also
inordinately proud of their goodness, and inspired by their
gifts of self which they give often, freely, and sincerely. Each
of them bring unique personalities to brighten my world, and
keep me focused on the good, which exists all around.
months of loving, conditioning, and training culminate in
stellar show wins and ranking ascension is truly rewarding, yet
it isn’t all there is, thankfully. At the end of the day, as at
the beginning of each day, it is the Skyes’ unconditional love
and support, which cause me to propel myself into whatever life
past many years, we’ve enjoyed showing our Skye Terriers, not
only for the accomplishments, but also for the friends we’ve
made, the places we’ve visited and the experiences we wouldn’t
ever trade. However, like anyone loved by a dog, a Skye in
particular, there will always be those whose paw prints leave a
permanent mark on your heart.
and me, Emily shall forever be one such special Skye. While we
had always admired Emily, we didn’t have a chance to form a bond
until our friend Donna’s untimely death, as we united in sadness
and brought each other comfort. Emily was in the truest sense,
Donna’s girl and it was her intent to bring her back into the
ring. Soul searching and I suspect, Donna’s bidding from heaven,
encouraged us to work with Emily and to bring her into the ring
in 2001. As Donna had been planning, we would show Emily, and
hopefully, in some small way, send a message of tribute for our
love of Donna, as well as to Ben, both cherished members of our
ebbed and flowed with shows, wins, and special memories shared.
During this time, we learned more about Emily including her love
of hotel beds, roasted chicken and squeaky toys. In time, Emily
rose to Number One Skye Terrier in the USA, which mirrored her
number one status in our hearts. While this accomplishment is
considerable, particularly for a Skye bitch, it has been the
time spent with Emily helping her through her loss of Donna, and
witnessing her loving self, which has been perhaps the most
satisfying. Spending time with this special Skye, keeps another
special lady close in our hearts and minds, and reminds us that
life is incredibly precious and fleeting.
the years, I’ve lost people and animals whose departures I was
certain would shatter my heart and splinter my psyche. But for
the love of dogs, I fear this would have been fact. Thankfully,
I’ve been blessed by the presence of angels whose tails aflutter
beckoned me to skirt the depression, to rouse one more day, to
go into the world once again.
learned of what I call forever loss at the age of five when my
mother was taken from an aneurism. As an isolated fact, this is
indeed tragic, yet coupled by the reality of a New England
blizzard and my ‘home alone’ status; it took on the sheen of a
I would have
been afraid I surmise, but for the love of a dog, a strange dog
no less, who apparently came to the back door and barked until I
let him in. My father would tell me years later, that the dog
was a big shaggy, loveable creature who refused to abandon me
until he was assured he could return home, that I was safe once
That dog had
not been previously, nor would ever again, return to my side.
How amazing that the one fateful day, I needed him most, he
found me and stayed for an entire day until rescue workers and
my father arrived. Perhaps that is when my belief in angels as
dogs first began.
dog lovers, I think of the antics my dogs display and their
willingness to just sit quietly on the couch if I don’t want to
play, walk, or frolic with toys. Anyone who has ever tried
changing bed sheets while a Borzoi lounges gleefully upon the
mountain of pillows can attest a smile erupts unwittingly. My
Borzoi knows that if he stays put long enough a game of toss and
fetch will surely ensue; he thinks it’s a great game; I know
it’s the only way I can make my bed!
have been written about the bond between humans and dogs, and
for Skye lovers, every library must have a copy of “Grey Friar’s
Bobby” by Eleanor Atkinson. I also have a pile of favorites
which include: “Cracker: My Dog Friend” by W. Harold Thomson
(1924 London) the story of a special little dog whose kindnesses
illuminated the author’s life. “ never once has she wavered in
her big hearted friendship. Always when I return home she is
ready with her boisterous welcome..little paws against my knee,
a quick lick with her tongue, and then round and round the
garden like a dog gone crazy..”
Call a Man a Dog” by Will Judy (1924 Chicago), comes the
following description of a dog: “The most loyal thing in the
world is your dog. Whether you come home from Congress or from
jail, whether you have lost your fortune or made a million,
whether you return dressed in fashion’s splendor, or in wretched
rags, whether you have been hailed a hero or condemned a
criminal, your dog is waiting for you with a welcoming bark of
delight, a wagging tail, and a heart knows no guile. The world
likes dogs because dogs are nearest to mortal perfection of all
experience of Emily’s visit with the elderly gentleman in
California, we’ve taken our Skyes and our Borzoi on more outings
to visit people young and old, healthy and ill, to keep us
focused on what’s really important-making life just a bit nicer
for someone else simply by letting our dogs telegraph their
messages of kindness.
trip to the Farmers’ Market in Gettysburg, found our Borzoi
Java, visiting with a host of young and older people. Yet it is
one visit, which like Emily’s in California, caused my heart to
soar. He spotted an elderly lady sitting on a bench accompanied
only by her cane, and thought he’d saunter over to say ‘hello’.
He gracefully walked alongside her, nuzzled her gently, and
stood for her petting. Within moments the face of a lonely
women, became aglow with happiness and she shared that years ago
she had a tiny dog, yet life in an apartment prevented her from
owning one again. She was so appreciative that Java had stopped
to visit and said it really brightened her whole week. How
wonderful that our dogs instinctively know when a human needs a
simple act of caring, and pauses long enough to give just that.
entitled “The Complete Dog” (Holt, Rhinehart, Winston, 1985 NY)
is an informative read and offers a chapter I particularly like
titled “The Faithful Friend” which features “The Dog as a Health
Therapist”. This section chronicles the bond between human and
dog, but most importantly substantiates the belief that I, like
many have, which is that dogs help to heal physical and mental
anguish. “ It is the health benefits a dog may give to the
ordinary owner which has attracted the greatest interest
recently. This was stimulated by a study in the United States of
ninety-two patients recovering from coronary artery disease.
Researchers founds that all of the possible factors which might
be associated with remaining alive one year later, pet ownership
was the most significant, excluding the severity of the heart
additional explanation for the health benefits derived from dogs
has been studied experimentally. This theory holds that pets,
including dogs, have a direct physiological effect on humans. In
a pilot experiment, the blood pressure of adults stroking and
talking to pet dogs was measured and proved to be no different
from when they were resting quietly alone, and it might even
fall in the presence of the dog. This contrasts strongly with
what happens when people engage in human conversations, when
blood pressure almost always rises.
further been suggested that the presence of calm animals,
unconcerned with any dangers from their environment, has been a
sign for relaxation and safety to man for most if not all of his
evolutionary history. Set in a modern-home context, the sight of
a contented dog may fulfill the same role and explain why a dog
can reduce stress and make people feel secure.”
humans I’ve lost beyond my mother, I realize that more often
than not, the presence of a dog or dogs has guided me gently
beyond the gates of grief back into the land of the living.
Instinctively, my dogs knew I needed their loving comfort to
heal, perhaps even more than the loving support of well-
intentioned friends and family.
recently, two of my beloved Skyes, stricken with their own life
threatening illnesses, stoically stayed by my side to comfort me
as my father, and then Donna passed into heaven. Once they felt
some of my strength had returned, they too headed to heaven,
sure that someone there needed them even more than I.
book “Faithful to the End” by Cecil Haddon (1991 Great Britain)
comes the following: “…and when we bury our face in our hands
and wish we’d never been born, they don’t sit up very straight
and observe that we have brought it all upon ourselves. They
don’t even hope it will be a warning to us.
come up softly, and shove their heads against us. If it is a
dog, he looks up at you with his big true eyes and says with
them “well, you’ve always got me, you know. We’ll go through the
world together and always stand by each other, won’t we?”
confess dogs have, and will continue to leave paw prints on my
heart. They have given my life richness beyond compare. They
have offered me unconditional love and they think I’m pretty
special and worthy of their love. That realization is the
greatest elixir of them all, for it propels me to work to
emulate their goodness, to rise above life’s nonsense and to
work to bring someone else a bit of kindness each and every day.
indeed angels among us. May their warm noses, loving paws, and
heralding tails be forever blessed. May our hearts and lives be
forever enriched from the love of our dogs, as we strive to
think and act with their hearts.
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