As a dog lover, each time I visit the DR, my heart breaks for all the stray dogs. Most of the dogs are skinny, dirty and sickly looking. Unlike some of the stray dogs you might come across in America, I’ve not once encountered an aggressive dog in the DR. Most of the animals are simply in survival mode…darting out of the way of motorcycles and trucks or curled up in a shady patch on the side of the road taking cover from the heat. Stray dogs are so common that they just seem to be part of the landscape. They just exist. Not once, on any of my visits, has a dog shown any interest in approaching me. We’ve also been warned to not touch any of the stray dogs, since we can’t be sure whether or not they might be carrying disease.
However, on Friday, as our week in the DR started to wind down, I shared a moment with this Dominican dog. While our group waited on a busy sidewalk for the Solid Rock bus to arrive and take us the last leg of our trip back to Santo Domingo, this dog wandered slowly and tiredly up the sidewalk. At one point, he simply stopped, stood motionless, and gazed at the ground. Our group was standing a few feet away. I couldn’t help but start talking to the dog. “Hi,there, puppy dog.”
After a moment, he slowly walked directly over to our little group and right up to me. He stood next to me as if I had called out to him by name. He showed no emotion whatsoever. He just stood next to me. I spoke to him over and over. “You are such a good puppy dog.” I wanted to pet him so badly. I took my finger tip and barely touched his head. Then I took my knee and brushed it up against his shoulder a few times. Then, he sat down. I kept talking to him, “What a nice puppy dog.” Then, he laid down.
It broke my heart that I couldn’t give him a big scratch behind the ears (which looked as if there was a rash behind) and a tummy rub. Thankfully, one of our team members, Tammy, had an idea. Tammy offered me a plastic bag to put over my hand. I put the bag on and for the next few minutes I offered this stray all the love I could. I stroked his back and continued to reassure him that he was a good puppy dog. He continued to lay there receiving all the love I was willing to give. Never once did he show any emotion.
Our bus arrived and I lifted my plastic bag glove. It was filthy. I said good-bye to my friend, stepped onto our bus, and held back tears.
This brief interaction reminded me of something. Sometimes, someone comes into our life who is simply needing to feel as if their life matters. Sometimes, someone comes into our life who needs to feel loved and acknowledged. Sometimes, someone comes into our life who needs the encouragement of a kind word or a caring and gentle touch.
What about you? Be on the lookout for someone you can reassure this week. Be on the lookout for someone who needs to know that their life matters. And if this someone is you, let me reassure you today. You matter. You are not invisible.