Wednesday, December 26, 2012


A dog's nose in the palm of your hand can cure almost anything!
You can almost feel the peace.  A feeling where you can fix, repair and mend those many things that might need attention.
I like to think that our dogs have a license to  'practice medicine.' And as for me, when I need their messages and medicine more than anything else, it is almost as if my dogs are telling me to .' 'get busy living or get busy dying.' And then there are those times when even their silence has a sound.  A simple sound of their presence ~ a sound of grace.
"Sometimes we know that without silence, words lose their meaning.  Without listening, speaking no longer heals.  That without distance, closeness cannot cure." ~ Henri Nouwen
For our warriors who are processing pain, I find it difficult to explain the plain and simple abilities of a dog to break into that silence, that processing, and offer something almost magical or mystical. Even after witnessing it time and time again, I am unable to string the words together to explain it.
From combat to crisis to celebration of life, the power and spirit of a dog is all encompassing. Can it be explained?  Sure, I suppose.  It may depend upon credentials or perhaps just witnessing and becoming aware of the moments where a dog enters an equation and brings solace, truth, reality, comfort and peace.
I have been blessed to have witnessed that, without a doubt, life changes often happen with a little thing.  Sitting with a dog on a hillside on a warm summer day or snuggling on the sofa in silence for long enough, we just might find that small whisper of grace that has been there all along.  My dogs have a special intuition as to when a warrior needs them the most.  With me, I can understand how they decipher my moods and attitudes, but how can they do so with a total stranger? 
Dogs are without a doubt the most glorious of creatures. 
Kelsie, my golden lab, and Matt are best friends.  From the first day they met, just an hour after he entered his room at the VA Polytrauma, she knew it.  She just knew it.  There was no magic or secret button to punch, Kelsie just knew.  She walked up to Matt's wheelchair and didn't even notice that he had no legs.  She sniffed and ever so gently nudged and then laid her head as close as she could to the stump.  He reached down and began stroking the top of her head, then with one finger he traced a line down her muzzle to her nose, then under her jaw, then began scratching.  She gently moved a little closer and simply stared up into his eyes and was encouraged by the slightest smile that came to his face. His mom looked at me with tears beginning to glisten in her eyes, as a slight smile began to brush her lips.  There had been a break through for both of them.
Sitting in silence and holding the leash, I backed up as far as I could and watched something most powerful taking place.  Something inexplicable and probably unnoticed by anyone else, but nonetheless amazing.  They were speaking a language known only to them. Afghanistan disappeared.  Pain disappeared. The blast of an IED that took his legs vanished, at least for a while. And in its place a friendship began and trust had opened the door. 
Does it matter? Absolutely!  Can we explain it?  Perhaps by attempting to stumble through several sets of words.  But can we understand it?  Most likely not.  Does it matter that we can't? Not to me.  It is enough that it happens.
For me and for the wounded and severely injured warriors that I work with, it is easy to surmise that spilled on this earth are all the joys of Heaven.
"Teach us to care and to not care - teach us to be still."
~ T.S. Elliott
So for today, look for and find the stillness within yourself.  You might just be surprised at what you find.

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