This morning as I was checking my Facebook news feed, a post came through from Monique Anstee of The Naughty Dogge, a training center based up in Victoria, British Columbia. I often find useful and insightful thoughts through following the page on Facebook. Today, she writes about “soul dogs”…or as I think they’re more commonly identified state side, “heart dogs.”
But then as I thought about my two boys, I got to thinking, maybe there are heart dogs, and maybe there are soul dogs. One of the definitions for heart if you do a quick Google search says “regarded as the center of a person’s thoughts and emotions, esp. love or compassion.” Do the same search for soul, and it comes back “the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal…a person’s moral or emotional nature or sense of identity.”
In so many ways, Ollie holds my heart and is the key to so many other dogs we have supported. While he’s almost-but-not-entirely perfect (don’t tell him or my husband that), he’s been able to roll with and support every single foster dog we’ve brought home, and also taught them how to be a dog and accept human love with the same wide eyed and trusting affection he seemed to have from day one he came to us almost 3 years ago. Also, it never escaped us that on his left side, he’s got a spot that looks like a heart.
But if what is written below is true about soul dogs, then Balton most certainly is mine. Somehow, every new day with Balton allows me to find some part of myself that had been hidden or overlooked. It’s hard to really describe completely, and the intangibility of that somehow can only be reflected in our immaterial souls.
I cried a little bit when I read this, because it hit me so hard, and if ever there was something written by someone else that sums up our relationship, it would be written below.
“To really understand some words, we must know their opposites; for example, you cannot understand ‘fast’ without knowing ‘slow’. The same goes of appreciating beauty, if you have never seen ugly. And likewise, you cannot understand good, without knowing bad. That is where our dogs come in….
We as dog-owners will experience different levels of bonding with our dogs. We have dogs that we love, then we have dogs that connect to us on a whole different level; they read our minds, they know our actions before we have even had more than a flicker of a thought of the action – they become a part of us. I define these as soul-dogs.
The Soul Dogs are almost always the ‘bad dogs’ or dogs that have been a struggle, or made us work way harder than we had intended. By pushing us and making us dig-deep to get them to become what we needed them to be, they truly teach us what ‘good’ means. And in the process of turning your monkey from a challenge to good, you will develop a bond that people with more normal dogs won’t comprehend. You must experience both opposites of a word to really appreciate what the power of that word means. Most Soul Dogs forced that upon us.
It is only through experiencing and understanding bad that we can begin to appreciate the good. If you’ve only ever had good, you don’t have a reference point to be able to fully appreciate exactly how great ‘good’ can be.
And when you do get to work through that with a dog, you will have a Soul-Dog that only those who have walked in your shoes will be able to comprehend.”
So, yeah, I think I have in my life a heart dog and a soul dog, and I am so profoundly grateful for both, from the bottom of my heart and the depths of my soul.