Ellie has been my ballast, my guide, my companion, my healer since my youngest daughter and I picked her out of the litter when she was six weeks old. When she came home with us 3 weeks later, she was a bundle of squirmy, squiggly, oozy joy that could not get enough of being hugged and held and loved.
Not much has changed since that August day in 2001 when we brought Ellie home from the breeder — except perhaps that she’s gotten to big to hold in our laps! Oh. And the difference she makes in our lives keeps growing.
When I was going through the relationship from hell (check out the sidebar on Recover Your Joy for more info), Ellie was by my side. She endured what I endured. Some of it I sheltered her from as best I could — but I was pretty sick in those days and not in my right mind and didn’t do a great job of protecting the ones I love. Regardless of how poorly I did to protect her, however, she always took care of me. She knew my fear, my terror, my sorrow, my angst. And she stuck by me.
Dogs do that. They stick by their owners. They protect us. Stand beside us. Guide us. Console us.
Dogs make a difference.
As I type this, Marley, the great cat, sits on the mousepad beside me, leaving just enough room for me to manipulate the mouse, one paw stretched out to touch my arm as I type, a loud purr emanating from somewhere deep within his body. Rescued from the humane society, Marley came into our home two and a half years ago to clear the mice out of the house. He did and he still does. And in between patrolling for mice, he graces us with his presence, demanding affection and food and commanding us to open the door whenever he wants out, or in. He is a cat and he rules. And we know it.
Recently, I met a woman who was coming out of an abusive relationship. “I’d get a dog,” she said tearfully, “but I’m terrified I couldn’t take care of it.”
Get a plant, I counselled.
Get a plant and if it survives three months, get a fish. If the fish survives three months, then, and only then, consider a dog.
Sometimes, we have to teach ourselves that we have the power to sustain life, to nurture it, to cherish it, to worship it, by starting small.
Sometimes, starting small is the only way to know, we can make a difference. Sometimes, starting small is the only way we can teach ourselves, we have the power to make a difference.
If you are worried about ‘how will I make a difference’, or ‘does my difference even count’, start small.
Smile at a stranger. Pick up a piece of garbage on the sidewalk. Let another driver merge — and keep your heart gentle and your mind open while you do it.
Teach yourself, one act at a time, that you have the power and the capacity to make a difference. And eventually, your difference will be felt deep within you. and in your difference you will know — My difference counts because… I make a difference.
Ellie teaches me this everyday. In our relationship I know the difference we share is, Love. When I needed to heal, she was there. Today, no matter my mood, my feelings, my state of mind or being, she is always there, loving me into knowing, I make a difference.