Today, my hero is a scrappy, 15 lb. puppy named Wendell Berry.
My wife and I foster dogs for Perfect Pets Rescue, a group that pulls dogs from Georgia shelters and transports them to the Northeast for adoption. Wendell Berry is about 4 months old and due to some kind of infection, had to have his left front leg amputated just below the shoulder. The probability of a happy ending for dogs like Wendell isn’t very good.
Wendell’s recuperating nicely after his surgery, but he remains terrified. He understandably is unsure who he can trust at this point in his young life. However, like all of the dogs we’ve had the opportunity to foster, he remains curious, tenacious, even forgiving. He’s one resilient little dude.
Wendell wakes up every morning looking and yearning for connection. He whines and howls for attention. He runs away with his tail between his legs when we give him the attention he deserves and desires, but he knows what he wants and he intuitively knows where to get it! He ventures further and further from his crate. He explores his new, albeit temporary home, and he rolls with the reality of missing one leg. In fact, he’s already taught himself how to use the food bin as a prop to get up on the “dog sofa”!
Oddly, Wendell leads me to reflect on my clients and all of us who struggle in this life. Despite the fact that suffering is unavoidable, it is possible to be hopeful, to be curious, to experience joy despite the inevitable pains of life. The scrawny, scrappy tripod dog curled up next to me does it multiple times each day. In his fear, he repeatedly forgets that we want to comfort and help him, but he always remembers that he yearns to be comforted. That wish gives him the courage to hop forward, over and over again. That wish drives his resilience.
Inside each of us there is an innate longing for connection. We yearn for secure attachment. We want to know that someone will be there for us, no matter what. I see all of this and more in this little lop-sided dog who is learning to navigate life on life’s terms. As Monty Python’s Black Knight says, “It’s just a flesh wound!”
Today, Wendell the foster dog is my inspiration.
Who is yours?