Lessons We Learned From the Lessons You Shared
“One of the greatest gifts we receive from dogs is the tenderness they evoke in us” – Dean Koontz
Sunny and Eva (see submission here: http://bit.ly/UDOUTq)
When we decided to launch our ‘Lessons From My Rescue Dog’ contest we knew it would inspire people to really examine their relationship with their dogs. We knew there would be submissions that would cover a range of emotions, make our jaws drop, and our hearts swell. We knew it would help bring our community closer together and shine the light brighter on the message of adoption. But what we didn’t know was just how much it would teach US in the process.
Any dog, not necessarily a rescue, can teach us a lot. But only a rescue dog can teach many lessons, the ones that come from a place of resilience and forgiveness. The quote “Who rescued who?” really comes to life when reading the contest submissions. Adopting a rescue dog really does change lives and THIS is what we want the world to know.
1. Refrain from judgement, keep your heart open, and believe we all have a place.
The theme we saw over and over again was, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” This was most apparent in the entries from people who adopted pit bulls. They face adversity and discrimination just because of their dog’s breed. And yet, these people ended up being more courageous and motivated to help other underdogs because of the love they felt for their adopted pit bull.
“I have learned that no matter what other people say about you or how other people judge you, it’s your character that counts and that we should all try to have a dog’s outlook on life. A dog doesn’t care if people don’t like his breed or his color or his face, he just cares about being happy and making the people he loves happy.” – King and Cindy (see submission here: http://bit.ly/1kShRQh)
“Because of her, I have fallen head over heels in love with rescue dogs (especially pit bulls). She has taught me that love comes in all shapes, sizes and breeds. My life would be incomplete without her. She changed my life.” – Laura and Princess Grace O’Malley (see submission here: http://bit.ly/U9ZkJF)
“Raylan has taught me that the views of outsiders will always be judgmental; some good, some bad. Not everyone is going to like you because of how you look or how you act, but the people who are willing to give you a chance, care for more than just the surface, those people are the ones worth valuing and they’re never hard to find.” – Raylan and Caitlin (see submission here: http://bit.ly/1qaigGJ)
Keeping an open heart is a theme that closely followed. We heard many stories about challenges presented by dogs that had either suffered serious abuse or had not been socialized properly. Many people saw their own struggles reflected in their dogs and in doing so, grew in compassion and were determined to help their dogs overcome obstacles, no matter how great the challenge was.
“Sprocket has taught me that it’s okay to take chances. – Sprocket and Amanda (see submission here: http://bit.ly/1oiF3fo)
We learned about people whose dogs were full of quirks, disabilities, or other personality traits that could be a challenge for most. But their owners never gave up on them – because they believed these dogs had a place in life.
– Scarlett and Stephanie (see submission here: http://bit.ly/1q87cFC)
2. Show forgiveness, forget the past, and live in the moment.
The entries with stories of emotional and physical neglect were hard to hear. So were the submissions with stories of dogs whose past was being discarded like trash or abandoned to fend for themselves. Over and over again, we heard that the lessons people learned from them were about forgiveness. Through love, kindness, and empathy, these dogs all proved that they were capable of forgetting their pasts.
“One of the most important lessons she taught us, is that forgiveness is about healing yourself and that anger that motivates action is helpful, but anger that breeds hatred for others is not.” – Calista and Jeannette (see submission here: http://bit.ly/1xUDXut)
“This little dog truly rescued me and makes my life brighter each day!” – Lucy and Heather (see submission here: http://bit.ly/1zz5ALC)
We heard many stories of people catching themselves in moments of stress or during a busy time of day, and all they needed to do was look at their dog to see that he/she was living in the moment, being present to what life was offering at that given time. As simple as a deep breath or a wag of a tail, these rescue dogs helped their owners recalibrate what’s important in life.
– Mallory and Sara (see submission here: http://bit.ly/TFPCOJ)
3. Determination, face your fears, perseverance.
We heard from so many of you about the lessons of determination. Watching the courage it takes to overcome fear when there is a very sordid past provides us with inspiration for our own lives. Although a dog’s fear can stifle them, watching his/her resilience and ability to move forward reminds us all that we must not give in to our own fears. That with the right encouragement, love, and support, we too can move beyond that which holds us back.
“Dogs are resilient in a way that humans will never fully understand. They don’t pity themselves. They work with what they are given. Her perseverance and strength gave her the ability to walk. She also taught me to not take advantage or obsess over the small things that I pity myself for because It could be worse. Blossom is my inspiration, she is an overcomer, and she made me a believer in miracles.” – Blossom (See submission here: http://bit.ly/1oBRReb)
“Dayzie has taught me innumerable great life lessons, but this one was definitely the biggest one. Even if you’re scared at first, facing your fears will change your life for the better.”” – Dayzie (see submission here: http://bit.ly/U1Lqc9)
Special needs dogs taught many of these lessons. There is little more remarkable than observing a dog with a disability proceed through life as if nothing is different. What does this teach us? That challenges in life can be easy to overcome with the right attitude.
“Biala has taught me to shift my thinking from “disabled” to “differently abled.” She is confident, smart and joyful. I don’t want to think about my life without her. I did not rescue her; she rescued me.” – Biala and Lisa (see submission here: http://bit.ly/1qaxKdW)
“Rhett has taught me that no obstacle is too big to climb. With the determination and will power taught to me by “just a dog” (as someone with less sense once told me), I can conquer anything life throws my way.” – Rhett and Misty (see submission here: http://bit.ly/1v62AkF)
4. Patience. Gratitude. Compassion and Unconditional love.
Stop. Listen. Smell the flowers and feel the breeze. There is no rush. Enjoy this moment. We have daily opportunities to learn lessons like this from our rescue dogs. They can be our biggest spiritual teachers if we are willing to listen. It’s said that joy is the simplest form of gratitude. And joy is what rescued dogs experience! Dogs are inherently kind souls, and when we can learn to live life like a dog, we have learned one of lifes great lessons.
“Jeffrey changes my life each an every day by inspiring me to be a better person.” – Jeffrey and Michelle (see submission here: http://bit.ly/1npNlQN)
5. Second chances.
One of our favorite quotes from the entries was from Erika about her rescue, Martin.
– Martin and Ericka (see submission here: http://bit.ly/1sb50kR)
Consider this. We humans tend to think second chances should be earned. We calculate whether a second chance is deserved. Will the individual learn from their mistake? So often with rescue dogs, their rough start was no fault of their own. They landed in a bad situation in the wrong hands. Their second chances need not be weighed or earned; rather, giving them a second chance provides them with the opportunity to be the dog they always could be and wanted to be.
And aren’t rescue dogs always ready and willing to give us a second chance? Think about what happens when we accidentally hurt them (like step on their foot, shut their tail in the door, or other unintended mishaps), they run to US for comfort. There is no grudge or second-guessing – but rather forgiveness and a willingness to give you a second chance.
“If I wouldn’t have given Jayce a chance or judged him at first, I seriously would have missed out on an amazing best friend that means the world to me now. He really did fill a gap I didn’t know was missing in my life.” – Jayce and Haily (see submission here: http://bit.ly/1iRBdL5)
“I can’t imagine what my life would be like had Jakob never “rescued” me.” – Jake and Hillary (see submission here: http://bit.ly/1sAiSX9)
We received a treasure trove of lessons. The contest forced us to choose winners … which we weren’t comfortable doing. So, in the end we declared everyone a winner! Because isn’t anyone who opens their heart to an underdog really the winner here? And by making everyone a winner we were also making everyone a PBC Ambassador. What could be better than that?
We learned that opening your heart and home to an underdog changes lives. In addition to all of the lessons listed above, just being given the opportunity to watch something outside of yourself overcome the challenges, the past, the prejudice and the abuse with the ability to give unconditional love all while holding their head high, something we don’t very well, is a lesson to live by. Everyday. In the end, everyone of us is so lucky to have this opportunity.
Prudence and Sarah (see submissions here: http://bit.ly/UxdYLv)
We thank everyone who submitted lessons. We invite you to read all of the submissions (http://bit.ly/UDsMIK) as this was just a small, but important sampling. We will be preparing a video to showcase our winners. We are hoping there is a book in our future to put the spotlight on all of these wonderful dogs and the lessons they are teaching.
Carole & Kristin
Co-Founders, Project Blue Collar