Dog and Girl

By Jeremy Gulley

What does it take to be a friend? Sometimes in life, our past experiences allow us to better understand people if we allow ourselves to open up and connect. This week, I was taught a lesson on understanding and friendship.

Three years ago my family adopted Daisy, a black Great Dane who had been abused by her owners. She was eight months old at the time, and had been kept in a cage big enough for a poodle, not allowed to stand up to eat, never taken out to walk and given limited human interaction.

All because she had a little white on her paws, tail and chest. To her owners, who bred Great Danes, any white on a black dog was considered an imperfection.

So we took her home and overlooked her imperfections.

She spent about three weeks in a corner of our house, shaking. She wouldn’t stand to eat, so we had to pour her food in front of her on the floor. When we walked her, she jumped at every little noise and movement, and shied away from everybody who tried to pet her.

Three years later, however, and she is a different animal. She loves people, she adores children and she seems upset when anyone walks by her without stopping to say hello.

She has adopted my younger son, and is protective of him. If she feels as if he is threatened, she intervenes and makes sure he is okay.

Daisy has a gentle nature and loving attitude, which evidenced itself when the 2-year-old daughter of a friend of mine met Daisy, and began pulling Daisy’s ears and nose, hugging her in a non-gentle 2-year-old way; and Daisy calmly tolerated every moment, and even seemed to enjoy the attention.

When I told Kristen McBride, the Level 1 Special Education teacher at Trojan Elementary, we both had the same question at the same time: would Daisy react the same way to her students?

Worth a try, so on Thursday morning, Daisy and I visited Kristen’s classroom to find out.

What ended up happening was beyond my expectations.

Daisy was comfortable after a few minutes in the room. The students were excited and Daisy was calm. The students crowded around her, petting, grabbing, laughing and pulling on her, and Daisy was calm and seemed to love the attention.

Then, after about an hour in the room, most of the students had moved on to other activities and one student, who hadn’t had much time with Daisy, ended up being the only one near her. This student doesn’t talk, spends most of her time in a wheelchair and communicates through eye-movement, but has a smile that shows there is a lot going on inside of her.

Daisy helped bring that out.

The dog that was so badly treated as a puppy let this student lean on her, grab her fur, pull on her ears, and even grab the skin on Daisy’s back and chew on it. Daisy never moved, never flinched, never growled and seemed to understand that the student needed special attention. The student laughed like I’ve never heard her laugh and smiled a smile that filled the entire room.

It’s difficult to tell what a dog’s emotions are, of course, but I swear Daisy was smiling, too. The dog and the girl had some kind of connection that I don’t think anyone in the room fully realized, or ever will. We were all in awe of the dog, who calmly let this little girl manhandle her, and of the girl, who lit up at the discovery that this large animal in her classroom willingly let her express herself without flinching, running or judging. For 30 minutes, the abused dog and the girl who has trouble expressing herself showed us all what it means to be a friend. It just takes tolerance and patience – and the willingness to let the other person be who she is. It takes a willingness to overlook imperfections.

I am proud to have been part of this experience, and grateful that Kristen and Trojan Elementary were willing to give the experiment a shot. I look forward to next time.

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Posted by admin on Dec 22 2010. Filed under Jeremy Gulley, Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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