“Hey, Lady, I ain’t trying to rob ya,” are the hurriedly shouted words of a homeless man, a veteran, at a stoplight.
The light is a long red, and I had comfortably handed two cans of apricots out of the window when the man turns to ask me whether or not the cans are pop-tops.
“I don’t know,” I shout back in honest reply. (My husband had done the shopping the day before.) Trying to answer his concern, I lean over to the glove compartment and quickly pull out the Swiss Army Knife we use for camping.
“Here, this will work,” I shout again handing the folded knife and attached cord out the window.
This is the gesture that produces his concerned response. Yet, what holds me in wonder, before the light turns green, is observing the obvious joy and growing excitement the homeless man exudes as he begins exploring the knife’s many features.
It is as though that simple gift, this one gesture, has produced Christmas for the Divine Child inside of a scruffy, bent man.
A dog with exceptional social skills—both people and canine. I want a dog diplomat.
A dog who is safe to have off-lead and who comes when called.
A dog who is smart and learns quickly.
A dog who is reliable with children.
An excellent walking companion who can keep pace with me.
After volunteering briefly to walk dogs for a local animal shelter, I realize what I am feeling is not going to be fulfilled by simply being around “dog energy” once a week. I want a dog of my own—to enter into the committed relationship that is formal, long-term dog ownership. When I have this realization, we are living in graduate-school housing, which does not allow canine companions (except for service dogs). To honor my desire and ensure that hope survives, I find a dog leash and hang it on the coat rack next to our front door, holding space in my heart for the dog who would be.
Moving to a new region of the country a year later, we make sure to find older housing that allows dogs. In meditation, I am granted insight into the fiscal parameters required before I can begin searching for my new friend. In the mean time, I add more yoga classes to my schedule and make an official list of desired traits for my future companion, all while reading books on dog care and watching dog training media. Another year passes. I am finally financially secure enough to begin looking for my future friend.
The search begins at our local Humane Society. Soon, we are going about every two weeks. This ritual becomes difficult. Coming to know some of the dog personalities, I can sense their expectant hearts looking for a safe place to call home. Yet, no one dog feels like the match for the puzzle piece I hold fast in my heart.
Then, one day when we are out of town, we drive past a small, hand-lettered sign for another community’s newly opened animal shelter.
“Should we take a look?” I ask my family as we drive past the sign.
“We have the time today,” my husband responds.
Turning the vehicle around, we follow a series of small signs to a beautiful, brand-new facility off of a dirt road and a high hill. Pulling into the parking lot, we note the facility’s amazing design. We are facing full-length, slide-away “windows” that allow fresh air to circulate through the building.
Walking inside, there is the normal clamor of dog voices punching thick sanitizer air that pervades every shelter. Because we are in a smaller municipality and at a facility I have not checked before, the number of hopeful hearts is not quite as overwhelming and the personalities are new to me. My heart feels a little more settled about approaching this shelter’s walk-through.
“Are you the one?” I ask as I approach each dog, relying on my heart and spiritual sight to help me.
There is another aspect of this shelter that is unique. In some cases, it keeps dogs in “family” units, giving the shelter the feeling of a group home instead of a prison. Coming into a large, indoor play area, where the wall-length windows are recessed, I see my family through the open air about twenty-feet away. They are still in the parking lot, looking directly into the space where I am standing.
Along with other dogs, a litter of three-month-old puppies are in the play area, surrendered a week ago. There are two males, who look like Black Labs, and two females—one looks like a Doberman mix, while the other appears to have some German Sheppard in her, except that she has drop ears. But what catches my eye is the luminescent spiritual crown floating above the head of the female puppy who appears to be a Sheppard mix.
Receiving permission to move in among the dogs, I pet each puppy and then pick up the puppy with the spiritual crown. Turning to face my family, I ask, “Is this the one?” Everyone nods in affirmation.
This is how our dog, Sophie, came to live with us. We waited almost three years for a dog and searched for six months. We celebrate ten years together this week. The fulfillment of wishes, held deep in the heart, can take time, a long time. Patience and sincere willingness to be faithful to one’s feelings regarding “the proper order of things” creates an enduring sense of peace in those willing to abide.