Another Dog’s Purpose

“We keep what we have, only by giving it away”-Narcotics Anonymous

A Cheyenne storyteller once said, “Stories are gifts. It is up to us to give and receive them.”

Today I am going to be on the giving end of storytelling. Some stories just need to be told. Yeah, it’s a break from my normal “recovery” topics, but sometimes big messages come out of the most unlikely places.

My wife, Kristin is a passionate dog lover (even more passionate than I) so, naturally she attracts like-minded people into her life. Recently, she met a new friend in our community in Florida, who shared a story of hers that touched me so deeply, I knew I had to share it.

Debbie, Jim, Buddy, and Chase are actual names. I changed the others out of respect for their privacy.

This is a story about a young boy and his grieving father. It’s a story about a family with big hearts and open arms. It’s a story about timing, surrender and purpose. It’s a story about an angel — several angels, actually.

It’s a story…about a dog.

Someone had found him — skin and bones, matted, full of mites, ticks and fleas — wandering the countryside in Kingston, Ontario. No story attached, no ID, no connecting pieces. Just the story he told through his depleted, infested body.

The shelter cleaned him up and got him ready to be put up for adoption. Sadly, as with most shelters, this one gave him 48 hours to receive a miracle. This poor black mixed-breed dog had already been through Hell, and now he was facing the ticking clock of euthanasia.

A certain shelter volunteer, however, had her eye — and her heart — set on this sweet boy with nothing else going for him. She had seen the stories come through the shelter doors. Some had walked back out on a leash of love…and many more had been dealt an unjust fate.

Debbie and Jim remember the day their daughter came home from working at the shelter, begging them to adopt this helpless boy who was so full of love. He had impacted her deeply, and she couldn’t bear to let time run out on him because of a shelter policy.

Her parents loved her so much and didn’t want to disappoint her so Jim decided to investigate further. Once he met this creature of pure love, it was a no-brainer.

Jim kept calling their newest family member his “new buddy,” so it only made sense to make the name official. Buddy quickly wove his way throughout the fabric of his new family and home, the way dogs always do when they know they are loved.

And remember that angel who had her eye on Buddy in the shelter? Buddy walked her down the aisle at her wedding.

When the time came for Debbie and Jim to go on a 6-week vacation, they hoped their friend Jan would again be able to take care of Buddy. A little pair of ears was listening in on the conversation, and overheard Jan say she couldn’t this time.

Tyler, who was visiting Jan with his father Jason, pleaded with his dad to offer their dog-sitting services in place of Jan, who shared their request — and their story — with Buddy’s family.

You see, Jason had lost his wife (to cancer) and the family dog in the past year. As if that wasn’t enough, his grief had also cost him his job. He was now an unemployed, widowed father of an autistic son.

Debbie and Jim saw the blessing waiting in the request, and decided to let Buddy stay with Jason and Tyler. Jason, after all, could use the money, and Tyler could use a Buddy. Literally.

Upon their return, Debbie called Jason to arrange picking up Buddy. Something about the energy in the call felt awkward, even concerning. A few minutes later, Jason called back.

“I know this is going to sound weird. And I have no right to ask. But…Buddy…Buddy has healed our family during his time here, and we were wondering….Is there any chance we can keep him?”

Debbie burst into tears, and handed the phone to her husband. Her heart was telling her what she could barely find the words to say. “Tell him…tell him…yes…they can keep Buddy.”

As is so often the way, it was only in looking back that Debbie and Jim realized Buddy’s purpose and their role in it. From wandering the Kingston countryside to healing a grieving family, Buddy is an angel whose assignment in this world relied upon the help of other “angels” to be completed. Everyone who was instrumental to his story was in the right place at the right time…and with the right intention.

There’s one more little piece to Buddy’s story that wraps the whole thing up in magic and sprinkles it with fairy dust.

An angel doesn’t just “pop in” and then move on without leaving a void, a “yearning,” behind. While Buddy was about the business of mending lives, another dog facing the ticking clock was weaving his way into Debbie and Jim’s hearts and home.

Just as Buddy is helping Jason and Tyler to rebuild their lives, Chase the Labradoodle is filling a big void left in Debbie and Jim’s home and lives since Buddy left. Debbie still can’t bring herself to visit Buddy — love isn’t without its hurt, we all know — but she knows she played her role perfectly in a story, a purpose, that was bigger than hers alone.

And for those of us hearing the story we all know that Debbie could only play her role by understanding that love is our true currency and it is meant to be exchanged.