I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to join a collaboration of people across the globe in a project called Composers for Relief. This project is a joint musical and writing effort to provide a CD full of inspiring and hopeful music, accompanied by uplifting short stories. Even better, the sales of the project are helping fund relief efforts to the Philippines after the typhoon caused so much damage there.
The song that I was able to write for is titled “Right Time” by Brisom, and I really like the song. To me, it definitely is about coming together.
It was Tuesday, the 17th, that was just the right time.
The storms had passed in the world around me, but in my head, they continued to rage. Taking an afternoon walk to clear my head, I found myself traveling back streets and alleys. A pile of trash drew my attention away from the weight of the world trying to take me down. On top of crushed furniture was a brown sack, strangely shaped. As I passed, still glancing at the flies buzzing around another signpost of squalor, the bag moved. I stopped suddenly, realizing it was no bag, but a dog, so thin that skin stretched over bones tightly. Bloody sores covered the skin, and almost no fur remained in place.
I couldn’t leave another creature to suffer, and approached him gently. He could hear and smell me, but his eyes were so matted that he couldn’t even open them. As I got closer, he seemed scared, but too weak to run.
“Can you hear what I’m saying? Don’t run away. I’m here to help. I’m here to stay. Shh. That’s a good boy.” I whispered to him calmly. I wrapped him in my coat as gently as I could, but he cried with every movement. He seemed so brittle that I was terrified of hurting him. Holding him and continuing to whisper to him, I took him home with me. My own problems vanished, I was focused so completely on helping him.
At home, I made him a bed with my coat. I offered half of my dinner to him, but he was too weak to eat. He could barely drink water, if it was placed right against his mouth. He drank gently at first, and then greedily. I heated some broth, because it was fed to me when I was sick as a child. Placing it in a saucer, my new guest sniffed it suspiciously. One tentative taste, and it quickly vanished. Without moving, the dog let out a sigh and his breathing softened into sleep.
I made use of the evening to find a veterinarian. The veterinarian’s assistant listened to my circumstances and agreed to save time for him the next afternoon. Her grim assessment of his situation was that if he survived the night, they could probably help him.
I hardly slept that night, and never left his side. Every whimper of pain, I was there to reassure him. Sometime in the darkness, my own turmoils caught back up with me. In the face of such pain and suffering, those fears lost their power. The self doubts that I was carrying were impotent in the face of the literally blind faith and trust that had been given to me in another’s darkest hours.
The next morning, the dog was given another saucer of broth. This time, there was no hesitation, merely hunger. The famished creature even lifted his head afterward and sniffed around before going back to sleep. As he slept, I bathed his wounds with a damp cloth. Each pass of the cloth against his scabbed skin removed a layer of grime. Looking him over, already the skin seemed to hang just a little more solidly on his frame.
Later in the day, I carried him to our appointment. The veterinarian was gentle and kind, but dire. The wounds had nearly finished him, and the starvation might have gone past the point where his body could recover. A barrage of medicines, examinations, and tests were done. The whole time, the dog laid still, terrified and confused. I kept reassuring him, but whether it was for his benefit or my own, it couldn’t be said for sure.
When we got home that evening, we had more broth, and began a regimen of pills and creams. The vet had asked if I was sure that I wanted to start it all, or wait to see if he survived a few days first. I was determined that he would survive. He cowered as I helped him swallow the pills, but was able to hold his head up on his own for longer, and even stayed awake for a little while just listening to the world around him.
I continued nursing him, and he improved. Soon, he was walking and exploring his new world, tenuous at first, and then with excitement. The first time he looked at me with clear brown eyes, his expression could only be called thankful. Throughout the next few months, we set out to explore the world. Taking him around, I met new people and saw the kindness of humanity every time someone would stop to give him a treat. Each person who heard our story wrapped him in their arms, many in tender tears. The veterinarian could hardly believe the bouncing bundle of energy was the same dog that they doubted would survive.
The world around me has changed nearly as much as his did. No longer feeling alone and overwhelmed, stepping out and being part of the world, I finally became a part of the community of people that helps each other as we can. Even those problems that can’t be solved immediately are made much easier to endure by the loving eyes and supportive nuzzling of my companion. I’ll never understand how we found each other, but have faith that it was meant to be.
He’s become somewhat of a symbol for the people around us. Everywhere we go, people know his name, and share his story. He takes it all in with a wagging tail and a gentle good nature. He’s filled out into a healthy and vibrant dog, curious and full of joy. He’s never met a stranger, and seems to know just when people are having a hard time, running up to them and placing a reassuring head in their lap.
And now, 3 years later, he does love to play…
“Okay, Buddy, I’ll throw the ball one more time.”