My dog got hurt on Tuesday. The why and the how don’t matter as much as that he’s going to be fine in a couple of weeks. There’s no one to blame, though the scared part of me really wanted to blame my husband. He got hurt because things happen that you can’t anticipate no matter how much you try.
Since Tuesday night I’ve not been myself. As I held my little dog, this dog I swore I’d never have, as he shivered and shook with a ferocity that terrified me, an untold number of images flashed through my mind; each one worse than the one before. At the time I didn’t know the extent of his injuries or how many of his lives he used up that night. I’m glad I didn’t know.
I couldn’t get a vet appointment until late on Wednesday afternoon. I tried to act as if nothing was wrong. It wasn’t like I’d been diagnosed with cancer or been in another life-changing wreck. My kids and grandkids and husband were all fine. Why couldn’t I settle down and work or carry on a conversation that wasn’t filled with mean words toward the other adult who lived in the house?
On Wednesday I went to the weekly Rotary meeting and took my turn at my Red Badge introduction. The talk is quite simple, a kind of expanded name, rank, and serial number with a dash of what you do for a living. The first two speakers flew through their five-minute time and then it was my turn.
It wasn’t until that moment that the full impact of Tuesday’s happening settled into my heart. I was fine until I got to the part about what I do and why. I shared how I came to have a dog and how I started volunteering and now work part-time helping NEW PAWSibilities rescue and find homes for dogs. As soon as I started talking about my dog I burst into tears. These were not the soft tears actresses use to make the audience believe them even though the audience doesn’t think the plotline is plausible. No, these were the spontaneous kind, the tears that urge others in the room to start to cry because they understand what you are going through. I hated but could not control those tears.
In 1993 an author by the name of Richard Carlson released a runaway best-seller called Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff . . . and It’s All Small Stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Taking Over Your Life.
During his life, Dr. Richard Carlson was considered one of the foremost experts in happiness and stress reduction in the United States and around the world. It was impossible to avoid him whenever I turned on the television as he was a frequent featured guest on Oprah, The Today Show, The View, NNC, CNN, Fox, PBS, and over 2000 other shows. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff spent over 100 weeks on the New York Times Best-Seller list and is still considered one of the fastest-selling books of all time and has sold over 15 million copies worldwide. Sadly, Dr. Carlson died of a pulmonary embolism in December 2006, at the age of forty-five.
I’ve sweated over my share of the small stuff as have you I’m sure. I’ve also brushed off stuff that should not have been swept away because not everything is small stuff.
I have no idea how many blog posts and articles I’ve written about the benefits of getting a dog. But I can tell you that not until this week until I stood crying in front of a group of respected peers on Wednesday, did I truly understand what happened to my dog was not small stuff. Dogs matter. Our relationships matter.
I apologized for my tears and said, “NEW PAWSibilities doesn’t just help rescue dogs from a high kill shelter. We complete families.”
To my surprise people applauded. And as the meeting ended people told me they were praying for me and my dog, they shared their dog stories and how much their dogs meant to them. Many people had adopted through NEW PAWSibilities and I could tell that they knew that the bond shared between dogs and humans is significantly more than small stuff.
The author’s premise continues to strike a chord with people because we all yearn for simplicity and to stop being stressed out. I think the number one reason that dogs matter to us is that they relieve stress. A huge bonus is that while they help reduce stress dogs offer companionship and unconditional love.
I’ve had many jobs in my life and most of them I enjoyed. But nothing is as fulfilling as rescuing dogs, completing families, and helping people reduce their stress. None of that falls into the category of “small stuff.”
We have dogs who aren’t relieving stress and offering companionship and giving unconditional love as they are wired to do. They are being well cared for and we will continue caring for all of our dogs until we find them homes. Please look at your life. Maybe you can push aside some of the small stuff and find room in your heart and home to add a dog. It could be the best thing you’ll ever do for yourself. And for your new dog.