If you’ve been following anything I write for more than one post you already know I am a dyed-in-the-wool-from-birth bird lover. If the bird happens to have a hooked bill and squawks like a parrot, even better.
My folks are as ardent about dogs as I am about birds. In fact, our extra-long brown standard dachshund, J.P. Morgan, has earned the title of “honorary bird” in my book. Morgan and I share a birthday and a love of naps, Cheerios, and soft fuzzy blankets. Clearly we’re related.
Every year we travel to Cape Cod for a family vacation. During my vacation I read – a lot. Usually I read a huge stack of books about birds but this year I branched out. My first book was called “The Divinity of Dogs” by Jennifer Skiff. The book is divided into sections like love, comfort, intuition, healing, gratitude, loyalty, passing, compassion, and forgiveness. I can share that I was feeling more of each of these things with each passing chapter.
The subtitle of the book is “true stories of miracles inspired by man’s best friend.” The stories – compiled from dog lovers around the globe – include amazing tales of how dogs saved people from suicide, cancer, seizures, heartbreak, isolation, disabling illness, and more. Some storytellers are dog lovers from birth. Others came to love dogs through a chance life-saving encounter at just the right moment. Over and over the storytellers refer to their canine sidekicks as “soulmates” and “best friends,” “confidantes,” “mentors,” “teachers,” and “the love of their life.”
Since I feel that way about my bird, Pearl, I can wholeheartedly relate. It is hard not to love a being that begins screeching for you to come right back before you even leave the room.
One of my favorite stories from “The Divinity of Dogs” is by a storyteller named Nancy Kaiser. She wrote, “Animals live fully in the moment; they let go of their past and don’t drag it around with them. This is one of the greatest lessons they offer humans.” Of her dogs, Hana and Saba, she writes, “Because of them, I feel worty of being loved, I’m able to give love without the fear of being hurt, I have forgiven my ex, and most important, I now love myself.”
But then again, I have learned these same lessons from Pearl.
Another one of my favorite stories is from storyteller Vivian Axmacher, dog parent to Mr. Handsome, a long-haired Chihuahua found discarded from a puppy mill. He was full of infection and his mouth was so sore he couldn’t eat. A team of kind souls nursed him back to health, all the while vying for the honor of adopting him. Vivian eventually won out, and of her tiny mentor she writes, “I have learned a lot from Mr. Handsome. He has reminded me of the evil in some and the goodness in others. He has shown me that cruelty can destroy the body but not the soul. He has taught me that when life seems difficult and the pain is more than I think I can bear, if I just believe in life and what I deserve from it, if I just keep wagging my tail, everything will be all right.”
But perhaps the most moving story of all – for me personally at least – came from the author herself.