Today is the 4th anniversary of the adoption of our beloved dachshund.
CJs adoption story is surprising in some ways because in truth I was not really looking to get another dog. We had recently lost our beloved 13-year-old terrier and I was still heartbroken. No one could ever replace the dog that had died, so why should I even try to love again?
But life is not all about me. There were other players in this drama, mainly my spotty little hound dog. My hound dog was also heartbroken at his brother’s death and was not taking it well.
He laid on the sofa and moped all day. He stopped wagging his tail.
He missed his brother. He felt sad and alone.
We tried to comfort the hound dog with walks and outings to the dog park. The activities provided only a momentary distraction from the grief within my dog’s heart.
A few weeks after our terrier died, I noticed my hound dog’s tail. He had begun licking a spot that was now balding and red. We assumed maybe he got a scratch or bug bite and it would go away.
It did not go away. It got worse and worse as time went on.
We would find our dog sad on the sofa with his tail raw and bleeding. Eventually I broke down and took the spotted hound to the vet. We gave him prednisone for a couple of weeks. It helped a little, but I think only because the medicine made him feel so bad he didn’t even feel like licking his tail. The vet advised that if the prednisone didn’t work maybe we should try Xanax.
Xanax. For my dog. Who apparently has was having depressive/anxious symptoms.
Because we are not meant to be alone. We are meant to be surrounded by a community of creatures who get us. Who share life with us. Who walk the path with us.
The Xanax comment sent me to the papers to start checking out rescue pups. I think I knew the chubby dachshund undergoing heartworm treatment was our guy when the vet nurse caring for him started interviewing me on the phone after I called to ask about him. She even got a little choked up talking about how great he was and how they had all grown very fond and protective of him.
So off we went to visit the chubby dauschund in need of a family. In need of a community.
I’ll be honest that it wasn’t love at first sight between the dauschund and the spotted one. Our big guy moped and pouted for a day or two that someone new was getting attention in the house. But then we noticed them playing together. And then we’d catch them cuddling on the sofa at night. After a few days, the spotted one had a new bounce in his step out on walks again. He would come back from our school run car rides with a look of joy I hadn’t seen in quite some time.
And then about a week and a half after we got the new dog I noticed it.
The Spotted one’s tail. It was almost entirely well. There was no more redness or bleeding at all. The skin had all grown back and new fur was coming in.
With great relief, I shared the news with my husband. My guy, the therapist, said he was not surprised. He talked about how horses that are kept in pastures alone often suffer from tail biting. He went on to say that when he sees a teenager or young adult that is self-mutilating he always asks them about what kind of community they have.
Because we are not meant to be alone. We are meant to be surrounded by a community of people who love and accept us. Who share life with us. Who walk the path with us.
Four years after the adoption of Cj the dauschund, he and the spotted hound dog are the best of friends. They are so fond of each other that the hound dog spends the evening grooming his beloved brother. Because in a community we take care of each other. We have each other’s backs.
The older I get, the more I am convinced that community is key to our life and health.
When we feel isolated and alone, bad things happen. We become sad, depressed, anxious or angry.
So, if you notice someone today sitting by themselves with that sad look in their eye, might you be the one to step up and say hello? Or even just sit with them for a while? The presence of another is more powerful than we could ever imagine.
And if you are the lonely and hurting one, is there one step you could take today to bring you closer to having a community?
Reach out to a friend or relative you haven’t spoken to in a while?
Say hello to the friendly looking person at work?
Maybe your step is just sitting in a coffee shop full of people while drinking your latte instead of going through the drive-through and drinking it alone.
Community matters. It not only helps, but it heals.
Let us all be brave and take a step from isolation to community today