I recently visited some dogs at a local shelter. (The cats were off limits, rabbits were quarantined) When I arrived and walked through the dog area, I was met with a few sleeping dogs, one in the back room too shy to come out, one who opened his eyes but didn’t move from his sprawled out napping position to eyeball me, yawn and go back to sleep, and three puppies who just about did back flips in a barking frenzy of "me me pick me!"
I stopped in front of a cage that appeared empty, but had a note describing "Roxie" on the glass. I couldn’t see into the back area which is where this dog must have been. The note stuck to the glass said this was “Roxie, 2 years old, house trained, lived mostly outside, affectionate and very strong, needs someone who can handle her.” The words “adoption pending” were scrawled on the glass in thick marker below her details.
- Oh! You’re going home! I said out loud.
At that, Roxie appeared from the back area. She walked slowly toward me. She had wide set golden eyes that looked right into my eyes for a moment. Then she sat next to the bars and leaned against them. I sat down on the concrete floor to get closer to her, petting her through the narrow gaps between bars. She leaned in more.
As I scratched her head and shoulder I repeated my thoughts to her. “You’re going home soon.” I was happy to know this and shared my feelings with her. As I pet her, I noticed toys scattered around the floor of her cage. A raggedy partly chewed green frog stuffy, a blue and white rope ball, a frayed plush teddy bear missing an eye and part of an arm.
- You’ve got some fun toys, I said silently, thinking that was nice.
- I want people. I don’t care about the toys, she responded instantly.
My heart softened.
- Yes, you deserve people. People are coming to get you. It says on the glass here that you’re being adopted. You have a home. It’ll happen soon. You’re going home!
I rubbed her neck and repeated – “You’re going home.”
There was a calm resignation about her. As if she didn’t fully believe she was getting a home.
- Sometimes we have a journey before we arrive at our home. You’re on your journey. It’ll work out for you. Takes patience though doesn’t it.
The resigned calm again. It felt like when you are at the hospital and you know you have a 12 hour wait ahead of you and there’s nothing you can do about it. You sit or walk around with no purpose, not able to get entirely comfortable. You wait.
This is what Roxie was doing. Waiting. Hoping for a home. On hold.
We all crave the feeling of being home. It means different things to each of us but mostly it's about love, security, and belonging. It's also about being where we can be fully ourselves and where we are seen. (That may or may not be the physical place we have grown up in or called home so far.)
I met an older man this week on a downtown street in Victoria. He was sitting outside a bookstore on a busy street with a well travelled backpack and another small bag next to him. I put some money in his cap and said hello. In chatting with him I recognized a french accent and asked him where he was from. We exchanged birthplaces, Newfoundland for him, Quebec for me. He grinned when I switched to French and we proceeded to have a conversation in what was clearly his mother tongue. He was bright, kind, gentle, and like Roxie, had no home at that time.
He told me about about being robbed a few days before, turned away from the hospital when he felt sick and then chased out of a park. What was this man's journey about? I wondered. Where will his next home be and when?
I ran into him in a different part of town the very next day. I was buying myself a sandwich so I asked him if he'd like one too. We started chatting in French again. He's 64 years old, his name is Michel (and he hates it when people start singing the song to him!) We laughed together and shook hands. His pale blue eyes were gentle and kind. He said he wanted to cut his hair and shave the white scraggily beard he grew in the winter to keep warm.
I was struck by what a different picture it would be to see a clean-shaven Michel in fresh clothes. He would look like a kind grandfather type, not someone you would kick out of the park. How different would Roxie look in a backyard playing with her people, excited and happy?
What would the note on the glass door say about Michel? When does he get "home pending" added to his door?
I’m regularly reminded by the beautiful animals I meet that we are not so different at all. Humans and animals crave the same things. The dogs in the shelter want to be seen, to be loved, to have a family of some form, and a home. They also all want someone to give love to and to share life with. Michel wants the same, and don't we all?
-Photo of red house, credit to Luke Stackpoole, Unsplash