Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
~attributed to Plato but documented as being written by Ian Mclaren, pseudonym of Rev. John Watson (1850-1907)
This morning as I got the dogs out of the car, I paused to rub LuLu’s head. I put my face down beside hers and let her nuzzle my cheek. Tenderly and lovingly, she rubbed her face beside mine, so close that I even felt a “butterfly kiss” from her eyelashes.
For those of you who don’t know LuLu, this might seem like a typical gesture in the life of a furry friend, but for her, it is a sign of vulnerability and growth and trust.
You see, LuLu was rescued with her young daughter a couple of years ago by an organization in neighboring county. My daughter found her photo through a regional pet search website and fell in love with her quirky underbite. LuLu had given birth to a daughter too young in life, and although Bella and LuLu lived together for a short period, LuLu’s chances for adoption would increase if she entered the New Leash on Life program at a local prison. Bella was too young to go with her and remained behind for a later entry date.
It is a long story how LuLu came to be in our home along with an unexpected sister, Chula Grace, another dog from the same program. But what you need to know is that initially, the two girls couldn’t be more opposite. Chula Grace, the lover. LuLu, the fighter. Chula Grace, needy. LuLu, independent. Chula Grace, affectionate. LuLu, guarded.
And so, as you can imagine, as we introduced our new family members to people, everyone fell in love with the sweet Chula Grace and noted how prissy or snobby or stand offish LuLu was–all assumptions made on her looks (a Pekingese/Spaniel mix) and her initial behaviors. And sadly, she’s born the brunt of ongoing stereotyping about who she might be by how she responds to new people and situations.
But our family knows and sees what’s underneath. We’ve experienced how she reacts when you get a broom out of the closet or her reaction to a large, fierce dog. We’ve soothed her spirit after we accidentally step on her or calm her trembling after she thinks she’s been abandoned again.
Sometimes, due to our own insecurities, we find ourselves making assumptions about others around us. Rather than approaching each connection with love and compassion, we make make quick judgments because of someone’s surface looks or behaviors.
Yes we are imperfect human beings with our own challenges, and it is easy to let those shadow the light in our spirit at times.
And yet, if we are willing to risk putting those insecurities aside, we actually learn that the other people aren’t much different than us. They too have insecurities and challenges and traumas that have resulted some unappealing behaviors, and rightfully so.
The grace of reaching out with a gentle and open heart? You find the light behind other people’s shadows too. Perhaps, it was even your kindness that gave them permission to be trusting and let that light shine.
As I paused at the car this morning to love on my LuLu girl, I reveled in who she’s become since she’s joined our family. Her fighting spirit has kept the squirrels out of my bird feeders and protected her sister a time or two. Her independence has allowed her to go outside without a leash and hang out with me in the garden. And her guarded nature? Well, once she realized she was loved unconditionally by all of us, she blossomed into the mama she never got to be. She now bathes Chula Grace and our cat, Prissy, every day and is the first one to hop on my bed at night and “tuck me in.”
Isn’t it awe-inspiring what the power of Love within us can do?
Interested in learning more about the New Leash on Life program? Click on the link embedded in the post. We are very grateful to the New Leash on Life program in Rutherford Co., NC for the love and compassion they offer both dogs and people in prison.