Zach’s last day on planet Earth would have been December 13th. 😦 By pure luck, I stumbled upon his information by doing a Google search on pitbull/lab mix dogs: He was a puppy, homeless, and asking for a superhero to save him. The call moved me so much so that I begged my husband to let me help him. Begrudgingly, he accepted and we became his foster parents.
Today, 21 days after he moved in, I can’t imagine a life without Zach. After the layoff, which resulted in spending 9 months by myself, I wanted the challenge of a companion, or at the very least of making a new friend that would understand me. The countless years of losing all faith and hope of becoming a mother had finally worn me down: I had so much love to give and no one to give it to. My husband has a great piece of my heart but I still felt that a piece of me was missing. The affinity Zach and I share is wonderful, you’d think we knew each other forever!
Life is a journey full of serious business and happy memories; it is nice to have someone to come home to that lights up your smile the moment you see them approach the door. The first of many lessons and gifts he has given me. Every time he goes out for a walk with his friend Jeremy (his favorite walker and person), he dons his muzzle proudly. He is so enthralled by the idea of braving this new suburban life that he is willing to wear protective gear to ensure his safe return home. The cute orange rain/cold jacket he wears is adorable too.
Because of his anxiety and dog PTSD, my daily routine has gone through a few adjustments. When I leave, I say goodbye to him in English and in Spanish (his first fosters were Latin American) and he patiently awaits my return in his living room bed. Returning home, I open the door slowly to let Zach know I have arrived. The beeps and chirps of the house alarm don’t phase him but I still think it is good etiquette to announce yourself when entering the premises. He comes up to me all wiggly and excited, welcoming me into my home, his home. This is where he belongs; he is safe with us and he makes us feel protected. Hard to explain but he is our guardian angel.
I’ve learned a lot about myself from this experience, mostly about my ability to love, trust and care for another living being. Zach puts all his love and trust in me, relies on my judgements and makes sure that I feel his approval. Just as I praise him, he praises me and my efforts by snuggling beside me. At the risk of anthropomorphizing him, I can honestly say I feel his pain, his anxiety and his sorrow. His soulful eyes reflect the longing of waiting for a family to call his own. He is a son searching for a mother, an animal searching for a pack alpha; to him I can be all these things and so much more. To him, I can do no wrong. It is refreshing to feel appreciated and cared for. Without having to say one word he gets me and a I get him too. The stress melts away when we are together.
Zach also taught me that dogs can emphatise with their humans. That he can channel my sadness and vice-versa. He can see the thoughts racing through my head. He breaks me away from over thinking ideas and lets me finish sentences and tasks when he senses I am in the zone. With a toss of the ball, he helps me stay on the moment concentrating on his moves to catch and retrieve the ball, letting me fully appreciate his prowess. I’ve had many Zen or flow moments playing fetch with him, soaking up the winter sun and watching the ice melt from the plants and grass around our house. He has shown me to find joy in the simple things, to ignore harsh noises or a sudden movement that may send our imaginations flying. Just as he builds his confidence in life and its nuances, I build my own by standing right beside him through his training. Together, we can do the impossible.
In the end, I think he saved us from a dull existence. He has been able to teach me about overcoming fears and embracing change. Gracefully he has accepted our support and patience throughout his adaptation process and in return gives us a reason to live, to work together as a team and to grow as caregivers. We are as close to parenting as we can be, and we love it! The burden of not feeling like a family has been lifted; we have found a member of our tribe.
As he patiently waits near the back door to go out to relieve himself, and play with his jolly ball, I can tell he likes the people we are: the warrior and poet inside me and the playfull comedian in my husband. He loves his humans with his heart and soul. We are glad we get to love you too! Welcome home buddy, welcome home. 😀