The love you give will be given back tenfold
In 2015, I adopted a dog. No one else wanted her. She had been with her foster mom for almost a year.
She was 10 years old. Most people want puppies.
Annie’s body showed the hard life she had. Even though she was a full blooded Scotch collie, she didn’t have the beautiful collie tail. Someone had shot it off her. Yes, with a shotgun.
She had some arthritis in her legs thanks to the shotgun pellets that were left behind. I didn’t find out about these until I’d had her for about a year, though, when a vet did an X-ray. At that point, we put Annie on pain medication.
More visible were Annie’s scars. She had scars on her muzzle. Scars on her legs and belly. Some of the scars were covered by hair, but others were raw, rubbery pink skin where hair would no longer grow.
The rescue organization and Annie’s foster mom told me the scars meant Annie had been used in dog fights.
They pieced together a possible history for my dog — she had probably belonged to a family as a puppy. Many Texas ranchers and farmers kept herding dogs like collies. So at one point, she was part of a family.
When Annie first came to live with me, every time she saw a school bus, she would bark frantically and try to chase it. So I figured out she must have had a little boy or girl she dearly loved, that was taken away from her by that dreaded school bus every day.
Annie’s foster mom told me that during the last awful drought, it was likely that Annie’s family had not been able to keep her.
That is when her life took a turn for the worse.
When I went to pick up Annie, her foster mom warned me — Annie was not friendly to strangers. She was slow to trust. She clung to her foster mom like a shadow.
But something in her picture from the website called to me. I looked at the eyes in the photo, and I knew this was my dog. I wanted her, even if no one else did.
When I walked in the door of her foster home, I anticipated having to do some work to win her over. That’s not what happened.
Annie came right up to me. We looked at each other. Then she sat down near me. From that moment, she became my shadow.
Even so, things were not perfectly smooth.
Shortly after adopting her, I enrolled us in Obedience School.
The first class, I was late. It was already dark, though the large open yard did have some lighting.
As the lesson commenced, I was disappointed. No matter what commands I tried, Annie didn’t seem to get it. I thought, well, I have a really sweet dog, but she’s not very bright. Maybe she’s too old…
The next class, I got there early. As we walked into the yard, the instructor looked at her and said, “Your dog is trembling. She’s scared.”
Then it hit me. I had just driven Annie to a strange place full of other dogs. She must have thought I was taking her to a dog fight!
For the next 15 minutes, Annie and I just walked around the yard. We took our time. I let her sniff things, I let her observe the other dogs, I didn’t rush her.
Finally, she seemed to calm down. Only then did I lead her back to her mat.
All of a sudden, I had the smartest dog in the class! Every command, Annie eagerly learned. She was so happy and so eager to please me!
After that, I decided Annie needed to spend more time with other dogs, to learn that they weren’t all enemies. So I arranged trips for her to dog parks, and doggy play dates with friends. She formed lovely friendships.
I also had been told by Annie’s foster mom that my dog had been kept locked up — that is the situation from which Annie had been rescued.
So I took Annie for hikes. She would never again be locked up — instead she would experience the freedom to explore wild spaces. I looked up the location of every park and green space within driving distance for our forays.
It was amazing to me how quickly she recovered from years of abuse. How quickly she went from fearing other dogs to wanting to be friends. From being mostly sedentary to enjoying long walks and hikes.
But the thing that amazed me the most was how purely she loved.
Despite having been abused by people, Annie had a sixth sense for when they were hurting. Normally, she was reserved with strangers. But when she sensed someone in pain, she would make a beeline for them.
One time she went straight for a 15 year old girl who was sobbing and nudged her head into the girls’ hand until the girl broke down and petted her. Of course I asked the girl what was going on, and asked how I could help…
Another time Annie went towards an old person on a park bench. After petting Annie for several minutes the person confessed they had just lost a family member.
It never failed. Annie always knew when someone was hurt.
And when I was diagnosed with a secondary cancer, and when I had a mastectomy, and when my husband left me… Annie was there for me. She loved me without ceasing. She gave me love purely. She never left my side.
People have told me that I gave a gift to an unwanted dog by taking in Annie. But for everything I gave her, I received it back ten-fold. Or twenty-fold. There is no way to count it… the love I got back was so pure, so unselfish, so unstinting… this is how we describe the love of God. Maybe there is a reason that dog spelled backwards is God… because the type of love that dogs give us is beyond anything human.
Annie has passed away. I still miss her every day. She was with me only a short time. But she will forever be in my heart.