Hemi came to Angels of Assisi last April, when the Roanoke pound called and asked us to transfer a group of dogs and cats to our adoption center. Happy for the help request, we arranged to take 12 dogs and 11 cats. As we were loading the precious cargo into new crates, they asked us about one additional dog- he was a "tail banger", a "little crazy", had a bad leg, and not high on the adopt-ability charts.
The added on Tail Banger was named Hemi, and he certainly does have issues. He twirls constantly in his kennel. His banged and gnawed tail had to be docked. He has a really hard time keeping any weight on his bones, despite special food and extra calories.
Hemi has worked through some of these behaviors, but still has a way to go. We have moved him from the general dog population, to a quieter area, and now up to the clinic for even more attention and a change of scenery.
At one time he was aggressive with other dogs, growled over toys and treats, and just kept up the incessant spinning in his kennel. However, with some patient TLC and creative energy from staff and volunteers, some of these problems have resolved. Underneath it all, we have discovered a very sweet and very smart dog.
Last Sunday, a few of us were in the clinic doing some cleaning, sorting, and overall on-going organizational chores. Before we started, I took Hemi for a walk; he was a perfect gentleman on the leash- no pulling, so spinning, no tugging, just nice and easy walking. There were a few loud noises that made him drop to the ground in fear, but he bounced back well after some gentle pats and reassuring words.
When we returned, we let him have the run of the upstairs clinic. Being a Sunday morning, the place was quiet and empty, and he could go any old where he wanted. Eventually he found a bouncy red ball, brought it to me, and we played fetch for about an hour. Me throwing the ball, going back to cleaning, Hemi chasing the ball as it bounced, grabbing it, and bringing it back. If he did not drop it at my feet, he let me take it from him- a big step.
Another milestone: although craving attention, he tried his best not to jump on us, instead doing a little half jump and holding back the best he could. This resulted in more gentle pats and reassurance. In return, Hemi showed us how he has learned to sit, stay and shake on command.
Overall, it was an awesome morning with Hemi, the misunderstood guy who has made great progress. Yet as pleased as we are with him, there is something missing. When you look at him, his eyes seem, for lack of a better word.... flat. There is no mischief there, no eagerness. The lack of any type of sparkle makes your heart hurt.
We finished our chores, and it was time to go. I put Hemi back in his kennel, he spun around a few times, and settled in for a nap. He got some hugs and an extra treat, and although I looked at him hard and willed some life and spark to enter his eyes, it did not.
As human schedules dictate, life went on after leaving Hemi. Later that night, I had the very good fortune to attend an outdoor Steel Wheels concert at Lime Kiln Theater in Lexington. If you have not been there, you need to check it out, because there is nothing like a night under the stars to renew the spirit. The companionship was safe and easy, the music was beautiful and the weather- just cool enough for a sweatshirt- was perfect. I sat back in the wonderfully wooden and rustic seat, and took a good long mental picture. It was the kind of night you want to soak in and remember always.
There was an older couple in front of us, and the lady had some trouble navigating the stairs to her seat. Her husband carefully guided her to her destination, and they settled in and started to enjoy the music. I noticed she was wearing a wig, and had some bandages on her hands that may have been from IV sticks, and wondered what type of illness she had. Throughout the concert, her husband would lay his hand on her shoulder, and between the collaboration of music, a beautiful starry night, and his reassuring touch, I bet she did some healing in those 2 hours. I know that I did.
As I watched the husband lay his hand on his wife, I thought of Hemi, how badly we want him to heal, and wondered when he lost that sparkle, and why.
Fortunately, he has a team of staff and volunteers working to get it back. Thank you to Bobbie and the clinic staff for attending to his physical needs, but more importantly for attending to his mental needs.
Thank you to the volunteers who take him out and walk him, and especially to Leanna for taking him to the park and to her house for the day yesterday- he needed that.
We'll never know how or why Hemi lost his groove, but like the little lady at the concert, he has a support system working to guide him back, lay reassuring hands on him, and ease him into healing. Don't give up on yourself yet, Hemi, because we certainly are not. Better days and starry nights will be here soon.
Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion.