Monday, March 19, 2007


Last night at class we had a visiting family observing the Monday Night Dogs as they worked on their cues. After class, the family took the time to talk to some of us and ask questions about the program and our experiences as foster homes. Reflecting on the discussion brought back memories of my own pre-placement visits. But it also made me think about what, if anything, I wish I had known or done differently or would do just the same if Belle and I were given a do-over - this time with the experience of the past year to draw on.

Wish I'd known then...

That the presence of Belle would cause such a profound change in my life. And not just in doggy ways. A year ago - I rarely wrote. Writing for me usually required a full head of steam before I could summon the effort to let out the words and thoughts that made being me such a noisy place to be. That writing would become one of things I love most of all to do each day. It no longer matters that others can and do write so much better than me. What matters is that I tell the story of Belle and our journey together and if once in a while, I find a way through the words to touch others as I have been touched? That's just Belle's "Golden" influence.

Would do differently...

This one's tough. My first instinct is to say that I would have volunteered to become a foster home much sooner. However, time has taught me that sometimes things happen in our lives that are special because of when they arrive not because of what they are. Ten years ago, could I have really appreciated all that Belle and her training has wrought in my life? I can't say, and it's useless really to try. What I am glad about is that I did pursue this opportunity despite the doubts, fears, and obstacles that were so easy to see, feel and erect in my head before Belle (or BB as my husband liked to put it when referring to the eras of his life). It's hard to imagine today that I ever agonized over how I'd be able to care for a puppy and work full-time.

My second instinct is better - get to know the other foster homes in my group much sooner. What a wonderful group of people I've come to know! Question and answer periods in class are my favorite times - hearing the stories from those who are taking this dog walk with me - priceless.

Would do the same...

Everything, and nothing. Everything because to not have experienced one moment of the past year would be a kind of living death. Nothing, because each new cue taught, or moment shared with Belle is precious in its own right. It can't really be duplicated in the same way that each child, even an identical twin, must be unique. And that uniqueness demands a unique response.

Finally, if I was asked to give
a pearl to a prospective foster home from the strand started by Belle and I from one of the gazillion grains of sand trekked in to my house on the paws of Belle, it would be this; regardless of the reasons that brought you to Helping Paws, or the time and type of volunteering you will do for this organization, know that you will be forever changed by your decision to get involved. You will grow and find new ways to be an even better human than you are today. And all because you took the time to love a dog and share your life and in doing that made the life of one of our graduates so much richer as well. A worthier epitaph can hardly be found.

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