The first time I saw Cleo over 12 years ago she was in a small kennel, and had been up for adoption for months. She was terribly thin and anorexic, could not walk and no one wanted her. She was a stray beaten up rescue dog that one veterinarian strove to save, but her shattered body and mind seemed locked in space. One look at her button brown eyes, and the silent plea within them, and I was lost.
Life with Cleo has not been easy. My little rescue dog came complete with a ton of psychological and physical issues, but through the years I have seen her bull her way through her fears and physical limitations. Today she is a feisty fireball, true to her Terrier nature, and she has taught me some valuable life lessons along the way.
5 Lessons from a Rescue Dog:
1. It’s Okay to Be Afraid
Cleo is a rescue dog who used to be afraid of everything, and today she is still afraid of many things: lightning storms, strangers, new furniture and the UPS man to name a few. But she’s never let her fears stop her from experiencing life. She meets each one of her fears head on, even when she is quaking with anxiety and panic.
2. Find Your Passion
Cleo’s nickname is “Little Sheriff” and she takes her duties seriously. She guards me, her property, and her kitty pals with nothing less than gusto. I noticed many years ago that her need to guard and protect the home-front helped her to overcome the worst of her anxieties. Once she found her passion, there was no stopping her.
3. It’s Okay to Get Dirty
Cleo is a beautiful dog, for about 10 minutes after her bath. Shortly thereafter, she begins to resemble a dust mop. I learned a long time ago that Cleo will never be one of those pristine glowing dogs; she’s my perpetual disaster, and she seems her happiest when she gets really dirty.
I’ll never forget when Cleo and I were living on a farm in Panama near the Costa Rican border. Cleo escaped one day and I was running down a cow trail, frantically calling her, when I saw her little lithe form running towards me from a distance. I fell onto my knees, arms outstretched, and she bounded down the trail – full speed – and leapt into my arms. It was then I realized the true source of her joy: she was covered, head to toe, in cow manure.
4. Everyone Needs a Friend
When I took Cleo in as a rescue dog, I knew that she needed me – what I didn’t realize until much later was that I needed her too. Along with her lessons for good living, Cleo has taught me patience, given me more than a million smiles and laughs, and she’s even helped me to become a more sociable person. I thought that I was doing a great deed when I adopted Cleo – but her limitless love and friendship has given me back so much more than I ever expected.
5. Celebrate Each Day
Almost two years ago, Cleo was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Fortunately her medication regimen has kept her condition from deteriorating, and many days she still has the energy of a puppy. Some days though, I can tell she’s not feeling so great – but it’s never stopped her. She still smiles, and sheriffs and does all the things she loves to do, and this I think is her most important lesson of all. That no matter what we face, when we celebrate each day there is no such thing as the impossible.