Life lessons seem to be everywhere if you're looking for them. I feel that I've learned more through charity work than I could ever repay the, people, animals, or the organizations for. These are some of my adventures and snippets of what I've taken from them.
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I’m not sure if it’s just the day, the weather, or if I’m just on mental overload from yesterday….but tonight’s walk was very difficult for me. I’m honestly still in a bit of a daze from it. Walking into the shelter/clinic tonight, my heart just sank. So many barking dogs all calling out. I’m not sure what they’re saying, but I know that all of them deserve love. As I move about, there’s that overwhelming “I want to help them all” thing that creeps up and smacks me over the head…..repeatedly. This is a tough fight. I am here though and keep reminding myself of an earlier lesson…..”Never let ‘I wish I could help them all’ prevent you from making all of the difference for one”.
Through the window, I see Rudolph. Like the rest, he’s barking. Then he sees me in the window and he suddenly becomes a bit more calm. The barking is now replaced by a wagging tail. My mission became a bit more clear.
So I grab some poop bags (of which we only needed one this week!!!!) and a handful of treats. I head back to his cage, and tell him to sit…and he does. I opened the cage door and “sit” goes out the window. He’s not headed for the door though. He comes straight up to give me a good “Glad to see ya man!” headbutt in the knee. On goes the leash and a few “how are ya buddy?” pets and scratches later, we’re headed out the door.
He was ready. Although he’s still a touch skinny, he pulled like a sled dog. Rudy was bouncing around like a superball. I was ready for a walk in the park. He was ready for a run. So, we ran about ⅔ of a lap before he finally started to tire out a bit. It was a lot of fun. It was also a bit challenging as he likes to run in front, behind, and beside me….but fun. We walked. We sniffed other dogs. We hung out. We worked on “sit”. I'm finding that “stay” is still a work in progress, but I think that he’s getting it. I blame the teacher for being a bit too easy to get a treat from.
As we were walking back, again his lesson really started to hit me. 4 weeks ago, I first walked this dog with barely any fur and an upset stomach who was living in a shelter. Today, I was walking a strong, pretty healthy pup with loads of energy. This guy is going to take on the world! Just because someone is down, don’t count them out. This guy has gotten a lot of help from a lot of great people at www.OneofAKindPets.com, but he is the one that has pulled through the tough times. He is the one that has done the hard work. Perseverance is what’s gotten him to where he is today and it’s what will take him farther. This guy has moxy. He got dealt a shit hand and lost a lot of chips. He is well on his way back to the high rollers table though...and I admire him for that.
When times are tough, that’s when you have to fight the hardest. Thanks for the lesson Rudy...I guess I owe you a few more treats.
Today, I volunteered with the Akron Snow Angels. Their site, www.akronsnowangels.com, puts down the best summary possible. “We help the less fortunate by providing them with warm clothing, toiletries & most importantly great conversation, friendship, compassion & respect.” When it comes to what the group does…that nails it.
The morning started off with a great energy which carried through the whole experience. After some organizational items, we loaded up and headed out. I was to help two ladies pass out toiletries and underwear. I’m not really sure what I expected, but whatever it was, that’s not really what happened. I saw people. I interacted with people. We shared stories. We shared laughs. We shared respect. There are some great people! Any apprehension that I had entering into all of this very quickly melted away. What an amazing thing to be a part of!
Before leaving the second site that we visited, a few of us had a chat with a man named Mickey. He’s lived on the streets of Akron for 10 years now. Born and raised in Akron, he’s been here his whole life. I have no idea on what chain of events has led him to be where he is, but he blamed no one. He called himself a survivor, which to me, seems to be an understatement during a very chilly winter. Most of all, he had hope. “Someday it’ll get better” was what he kept saying. Wow…
Living in the moment is a pretty good description of how it all went for me. Things were happening so quickly that I was just focused on doing what I could to get items to the people that needed them. As I started to compile information and put things together in my head later in the day, that’s when it all started to get a bit too much for my neurons to handle. So having walked the dog, and some time in my favorite chair pondering, I’m finding that my brain is still having a difficult time getting through the big “What did I just witness?” question. I’m still not sure, but I know that it was good.
So what did I learn by helping? Being my first time out with Akron Snow Angels, there were many more lessons than I’ll be able to grasp in one sitting. The lesson that stood out to me from the day as a whole is that I learned that everyone deserves respect. We all have different circumstances. We all have different tools and excel in certain areas. Thankfully, what Mickey and many others in his situation excel at is holding onto hope. I’m not sure that I could do what these people do day in and day out. It takes a very different skill set than what I have. They all have my respect for that.
Today gave me an amazing feeling. I’d love for you to experience it also. Please find something to get active in. Make a difference. Make a lasting legacy of compassion.
So despite the cold, I went for a walk with Rudolph tonight. The staff at One of A Kind saw me on the way in and said, "we figured that you would want to walk with Rudolph tonight. He has his sweater on and is ready to go."
Rudy is getting baths to help him get past mange. His hair is growing back. His skin is healing up. With all of that going on, he is "scratchy dog". We had to stop a few times on our walk for itches and scratches. I'd do my best to help out and try to scratch the right spots. Once we got going though......this dog just wanted to run and play and run some more. We had an absolute blast together. I did learn that carhartt overalls and work boots are not the best running combination. That didn't matter though. We were having an absolute treat fed riot. (He ate the treats......not me).
About 20 minutes later, I noticed that the tail wasn't wagging as much. Turns out, Rudolph was cold. Can't blame the guy either. In addition, his paws really started hurting from the cold/parking lot salt combination. The other bad part? We were about 1/3 of a mile from the clinic. So here I stood, thinking, "this is a stray/shelter dog that's a bit rambunctious. Can I pick him up without him chomping on me?" As I'm thinking this, he sits on my foot and leans against my legs while looking up at me like "hey man. I need some help here. Maybe we overdid our walk? I hope you know how we can get back because I can't really walk". At that moment, I knew that we'd be good.
As soon as I picked him up, he was shivering a bit still, but once we started going, he was totally relaxed. It wasn't but a few steps before he rested his head on my shoulder. Moments before, we were both a little worried. As we went back to the clinic, we were both totally relaxed. Except for my arms.....my arms were screaming as I was carrying 45 lbs of shivering dog 1/3 of a mile.
No one at the shelter knows his back-story. I hope it's not a bad one. I hope it's just some dumb bad luck. I really hope that Rudy finds a loving forever family once he is out of the clinic and up for adoption. Whenever we walk, I try to do some training with him so he is as adoptable as possible. We do good on the proper way to walk, sit, stay, and "let's go". Shake and lay down still need some work though.
Tonight, Rudy taught me "no matter what your past is, sometimes, you just need to trust each other."
Tonight, I went for another walk with Rudolph. He looks a ton better this week! He has been getting medicated shampoo baths and that's been helping him out. A lot less sores and a ton more fur. It really makes me smile to see him getting better. As soon as Rudolph saw me through the window....he perked up. I honestly felt that he rememberd me from last week. He was excited. We walked....and ran. 2 more miles together. Tonight, I brought a little more sunshine into a life that was in desperate need of it. It's just over an hour out of my week. I'm pretty sure that it'll be remembered for both of our lifetimes.
It was earlier today when I had a thought that really hit home tonight with me.....
Don't let "I wish I could help them all" prevent you from making a difference for one.
It feels amazing. Don't take my word for it. Get out there, make a difference and experience it for yourself.
The picture is terrible, but who cares. That blur in the black sweater you see is Rudolph. Tonight, I went with a group to help walk some shelter animals. When I showed up, a lot of people were walking smaller dogs. When I saw this guy, I knew that he needed some fresh air......so off we went.
I don't know his story, but from the looks of things, Rudy (as I affectionately nicknamed him this evening) has had a rough go at life so far. As I got to know him, he had a lot of the same personality traits that Irving does. A bit timid at first, but super smart and wonderfully loyal once you have his trust. Also, he loves activity. It's safe to say that we became fast friends.
Bear with me in the length of this, but Rudy taught me 2 major things tonight that I think are worth saying.
#1. Make yourself available. - When I said "I'll take Rudolph for a walk", I was told, "he doesn't always like to walk much. If he doesn't want to go, you can bring him back and walk a different one." It took some coaxing, but once he realized that I was there to help him and wasn't going to let anything bad happen to him, he was the best walking and running dog you've seen. We walked a little over two miles together. Sniffing things along the way. Happy as a clam. You see, sometimes people or animals need help, but either don't know how to ask or aren't sure who they can trust. Make it known that you are available to help. Make it known that there is good out there. Then prove it.
#2. Patience. Rudy and I didn't make it 20' from the door before he needed to stop for a #2 bathroom break. No big deal...everybody poops, right? 30' later...we have to stop and do the same thing again. 50' after that...the intestines were already empty, but we've all been there with that "there is nothing there, but the works is trying to shove stuff out anyways", right? 50' again.....75'.....30'......100'...... each time, I could see that Rudy wanted to walk......but couldn't for sometimes 2-3 minutes. He'd look up at me in between "pushes" with a look of "I'm sorry man. If you want to go back, that's fine I guess". Each time, I waited. All he needed was "it's ok. I'm doing this for you, not me. Take your time and do what you need to do". Between that and some petting, he started to relax. The stomach seemed to settle down. My patience paid off. Happy dog. Happy walker. Helping isn't always about what's convenient for you. In this case, Rudy just needed me to be patient with him and help him as he needed.....not as I had initially thought he needed.
By the end of the hour long walk, whenever we stopped walking for a moment to chat or for a crosswalk, Rudy would stop right by my side and lean on my leg a little. He was smiling at the end of the walk and when the walk was over, he was ok with going back to his temporary home.
I really, really hope that Rudy can find a permanent, loving home. He's a wonderful dog. I checked with Irving and he is willing to share me for a few hours a week with his shelter brothers and sisters. So when I go back, if Rudy is still there, I know who I'm going walking with. I wonder what other new tricks he could teach this old dog....
So at the suggestion of a few close friends, it’s time for me to start a blog. I have always had the “gift of gab” and I have been told that I’m a wonderful storyteller. After all, I’ve got some great stories! Unfortunately, most of them were just entertaining stories with no real substance to them. Recently, I’ve been doing some things that have made for some good stories with the added substance of having some great life lessons in them. These are worth writing about.
There is a universal subject out there that everyone understands. Gratitude. We’ve all experienced it. Someone has helped us with something in life that has meant a lot to us. Ironically, it’s usually the smallest gestures that we are the most grateful for. Isn’t it funny how that works?
So what does gratitude have to do with the title of this blog, “Learning by Helping”? It may be different than you think. Simply stated, I’ve found that what looks on the surface to be me helping someone, typically turns out to be me learning something incredible. I have to look for it sometimes, but it’s there. We all have different skills and tools. We all have different experiences. I’m glad I’m able to put myself out there to learn so much from others.
This blog will be about my adventures in unintentionally learning wonderful lessons about life why intentionally trying to help someone else. I hope that in passing these stories and lessons on will help to serve justice for the wonderful souls that showed me them.
Get involved. Get active. Make a difference. Never let “I want to help them all” prevent you from being all of the help to one.