January 24: Change a Pet’s Life Day – How Changing One Dog’s Life Changed MY Life

January 24 is Change A Pet’s Life Day and there is no easier way to change a dog’s life than to adopt from your local animal shelter. If you need a reason to adopt a dog, just read my story.

On October 13, 2003 my husband and I adopted a malnourished and timid pit bull from our local animal shelter. I knew we were changing this dog’s life. What I didn’t know was how much she would change mine. Jumper’s story is just as much my story. Let’s start from the beginning.

Sweetest face ever.

Sweetest face ever.

Our local animal shelter is a stone’s throw away from our local airport. My husband, a private pilot, was a regular at this airport and decided to visit the shelter on a whim. As he walked thru aisles of homeless dogs, one pup didn’t excitedly beckon for his attention. Rather, she sat quietly in the back of her kennel. No barking. No jumping around. No whining. Just sitting.

Jonathan walked over and put his hand through her cage. The dog cautiously approached, sniffed then licked his hand. Immediately, he called me. “You need to come see this dog at the pound. They say she’s a pit bull but I don’t think she is. She is too sweet. Meet me here.”

He was right. She was sweet. But she was most certainly a pit bull. Despite unsupportive warnings from friends and family to NOT adopt a pit bull, she became our dog. She became Jumper.

Doggie Smile!

Doggie Smile!

Within a month, Jumper transformed from a dog too frightened to come into the house to a dog sleeping under the blankets in our bed. The insecure dog frantically eating every crumb of kibble slowly disappeared. She learned food was no longer scarce. She learned to sit and stay. She learned that car keys equaled car rides and leashes equaled long walks. Most of all she learned that we loved her. And she loved us. My husband often looked and her and remarked, “She is nothing BUT love.” He was right.

We learned the power of a connection between living creatures. Jumper hates water. During a camping trip, Jonathan and I waded out into narrow, slow moving river while Jumper sat patiently watching from the riverbank. Ten minutes later, and much to our surprise, Jumper gathered up all her courage and stepped slowly into the water and began to swim toward us. Real love is greater than fear. I think my heart grew 10 sizes that day (to borrow from Dr. Seuss).

Trite as it may sound, she became part of our little family. Vacations and holidays weren’t complete without our sweet girl. The back seat of our small single engine airplane became Jumper’s seat. A once unloved stray pit bull traveled to New Orleans, Washington D.C. Savannah, and Chicago (just to name a few).

Almost four years later, I woke up snuggled between my sleeping husband and my sleeping dog. I felt so loved by these two beings that I lingered an extra ten minutes. I wanted to memorize the feeling. I knew I was lucky. The next day, my husband died in a car accident.

Four years earlier, Jumper needed me. She needed rescuing. Now, I was the one who needed rescuing. I needed her. I’m not sure how I would have survived the acute sadness of the very earliest periods of grief without my dog. She forced me out of bed for food and walks. Her ears caught an endless quantity of tears. Her snuggling and snores made the bed less empty. Her kisses and wagging tail made me less empty.

Every bed is a dog bed!

Every bed is a dog bed!

A homeless dog shrinking into the wall of an animal shelter showed me humanity. She showed me love and compassion and expected nothing in return. I did very little to deserve this kind of love. She took me in. I owe a lot to that dog. I am indebted to her. Not the other way around.

To this day, Jumper remains the only consistent thread of the last 11 years of my life. Her muzzle is now peppered with white hair and our walks are not nearly as long as they once were and her coat is now littered with scars of successful cancer treatments. But she is still my traveling companion and best friend.

Most of all, she is still nothing but love.

Written by Natural Dog Blog’s Friend – Mariah P.