A Sense of Belonging

Some of you may remember the story of a Boston man who was walking his dog in January when he was struck by a school bus.  The dog was killed and the man was seriously injured.  Many people were touched by the tragedy and the students on the bus were met by counselors when they finally arrived at school that day.

Today, the Boston Globe reported the rest of the story including background on the man, Jeff Schwartz, his dog Buddy, and the numerous obstacles Jeff has faced since losing his leg in the accident.  You might be tempted to skip the article for fear of it being too depressing but I would encourage everyone to read it.  It is a harrowing tale to be sure but it is peppered throughout with inspiration and hope, revolving around the special bond we share with our pets.

Pets are so many things to us.  Pets are our motivation to battle adversity, our source of comfort, and our sense of home.  When Jeff awoke from his month-long coma, he was unable to speak but could hold a pen, although writing was difficult.  He wrote down two questions for his wife who was at his bedside:

Where do we live, and did Buddy survive?

In that moment, Jeff’s sense of home was so limited that he could not even remember where he lived.  But he remembered Buddy.  Perhaps it was because memories can be dodgy in patients who awake from a coma but possibly there was something more at play:  a house is a physical structure which keeps the wind off, a pet is part of your identity.  A missing limb can be inquired about later.  Pets are family.  We belong.

Due to the physical limitations and setbacks which occurred during Jeff’s lengthy recovery, he was unable to care for a new dog as soon as he wanted one.  Amidst progress and despite the challenges, he and his wife recently decided to go ahead and adopt a dog from an area rescue which pulls pets from southern pounds.  Her name is Mandy.  Jeff has a walking partner again.  And so much more.

Mandy is reportedly shy and doesn’t like most men.  She would make a likely candidate for killing at many pounds based on those traits alone.  Or she might have been killed for space or because her mandatory holding period had expired or any other arbitrary reason.  But it is Mandy’s natural birthright to live.  And it was her destiny to help provide a sense of identity to Jeff.

For anyone working in a so-called shelter to violate Mandy’s right to live and rob her of her destiny should be a crime.  Instead it’s standard operating procedure at far too many public facilities.  That needs to change.  Lives are at risk – precious lives of all varieties interwoven with one another.  The fact that these needless killings are happening by the millions each year diminishes our collective identity.  The sense of loss is palpable.  What is needed though, in spite of the horror, is for it to be motivational too.  Start here.

12 thoughts on “A Sense of Belonging

  1. And you know, this is very true. Pets change people’s lives. Sometimes in big ways, sometimes in little ways. But to destroy an animal simply because it’s inconvenient to keep that animal alive at the moment destroys everything that that animal might have been to someone.

    You’re not only killing an animal, you’re killing that animal’s potential. You’re killing the gift of love and laughter and joy that that animal might have given to a person. You’re destroying all the little moments that would bring a smile, all the warmth that would bring comfort, all the love that would ease the hardships of life just a little.

    It’s not only killing, it’s a theft of joy.

  2. This is wonderful, as my dogs age I cherish them more and more. They have been sometimes all that get me up in the morning, all that keep me going. That someone could have snuffed out their precious lives with no thought, no care is chilling. They were abandoned, no longer puppies and had some baggage. But I’m no prize myself and we suit.

  3. I know this: when I think back about my life, I associate each period in it with the animals I knew and loved, and I remember more about each of them than I do about almost anything else.

    I tell myself, so longer as I recall their names, they’re never entirely gone.

    Thank you for linking this story.

  4. The whole reason I got into animal rescue was a little chihuahua who was there for me when I had major Depression. People told me to exercise, to shake it off, to just get over it. It’s tougher than it sounds. It was her that gave me a sense of purpose, compassion and a reason to fight to get better.

    Once I got better, I promised her that I would work to save her friends just as she has saved me. So when I hear, “It’s just a dog,” it’s personal. She was my best friend. She was my lifesaver.

    I’m not sure I would be here today making an impact, if it wasn’t for “just a dog.” That dog changed my life and made me who I am today. Her love has multiplied as her legacy has saved hundreds of pets’ lives.

    We, as a society, can help people and animals everyday and create these kind of win-win situations for everyone involved, instead of the tragedy that happens every day in today’s shelters.

  5. Tears here. Thank you so much for sharing – the article is splendid and the way he and Mandy bonded immediately, well, it is a blessing. We need to hear the good parts of rescue, too, like this. A man who could have died saving a dog.

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