By Rubin the Labradoodle
Humans are overly dependent on speech to communicate. As a dog, I’ve had to learn human language, which is mostly words, in order to understand my human friends. Words like “wait” and “stay” and “good dog” are only a sample of the simple human words I know, but I know a lot more complicated and abstract ones as well — like “commitment” and “patience” and the most complicated one of all — “love.”
I’ve often wondered if the humans in my life are as baffled by my form of communication, which is dependent more on my body than on any verbal skills (though as you read this, you can tell I’m rather (humbly) adept with words). My head, ears, tail — actually my whole body expresses a great deal about how I’m feeling, how I’m perceiving the world around me, and my “thoughts” as they were, about my interactions with other dogs, people, and experiences.
Still, I know the humans in my life wish I came equipped with thought bubbles — round circles over my head like the ones found in comic strips that can relay everything I’m thinking and feeling. In fact, I bet they wish all dogs came equipped with thought bubbles so they could know exactly what kind of food we like, what is ailing us, or perhaps even our views on mystical and spiritual matters.
But we don’t have thought bubbles and so the gap between what we say and how humans interpret what we mean remains and while I do my best to help bridge that gap, sometimes I am even at a loss for words.
So it is with the return of Max, my dear Great Pyrenees friend who has struggled his entire short life on the road to wellness. Max returned to Wellsprings K9 in hopes of continuing his journey to a better quality of life. When I found out Max was coming back to the pool, my tail danced in circles and the giddy bubbles of happiness rose up in my belly to form a sweet little bark that escaped without any control on my part. “Max is back!” was all I could sing and I begged and begged and begged to be allowed to see him, so much though that I think my humans thought I’d gone off my rocker.
Unfortunately, I was not allowed to go to the pool, but I was given the full report after his swim and massage session.
Ironically, the first words I heard are that when Max arrived at the pool his tail wagged. In human and canine terms this is good news. Of course, once Max realized he was back at the pool and going to get in the water again, his tail stopped wagging because unlike me, Max and water aren’t his favorite combination. But Max is and will always be a gentle soul and so he allowed himself to don his life jacket and go for a swim.
And this is where the words get lost. Max’s journey has involved every test known to humans (or perhaps just veterinarians) and still there are no real answers. He’s fought skin infection after skin infection and though he has a chronically low thyroid, the medication appears to be helping with his energy and appetite. But it’s not helping in other areas. His shoulder muscles are severely atrophied and he has difficulty places his front paws properly when he walks. Walking is, in fact a challenge and so he was helped up the driveway to the pool on his first visit back.
Max currently lives with another foster family — members of Vashon Island Pet Protectors — and he is surrounded by other foster dogs and a 24-hour caretaker named Janet. When he first arrived at his new home, he wasn’t interested in going out or walking at all, but slowly, with the loving patience of his new foster family, he increased his walks and showed a lot more initiative. He now goes out on his own now, strolls around the yard, and then heads back in to rest on his large, comfy bed while watching his foster siblings play and cavort.
He has one special friend — another foster dog — who wants nothing more than to curl up next to Max when he rests and follow him about when he goes on his outings.
But this is merely his history — his day to day life on this earth. What I can’t explain — what no one can explain is what’s wrong with Max’s body. Neurologists and vet specialists are all stumped. He’s been on Chinese Herbs, received Reiki and other energy work, acupuncture, homemade food, and is once again back at the pool for some hydrotherapy and massage. He gets supplements and vitamins and more love than any dog has ever known and still he struggles.
Through it all though, Max keeps his head up and smiles. Yes, even though he was not thrilled to be back in the water, he was thrilled to be weightless, massaged, and stretched. About halfway through the session, the therapist reported, Max let out a big sigh and gave that Max smile that has warmed the hearts of everyone he’s met.
I wish I could have been there to see it. I know I could have been a most excellent interpreter, but alas, the humans caring for Max will just have to pay really close attention to hear what he’s saying. Or maybe if they look just above his head they may, in fact, see those thought bubbles. I’m certain the word you’d see the most would be “love.”
Miss you, Maxie! Hope to see you soon!
Your forever pal, Rubin