When I picked her up from the shelter, she was being called Lois. But on the car ride back to my house, she and I decided that her “new life” name should be Mia. It was May 13th – five weeks and four days ago today.
At first, Mia was as frail and fragile and vulnerable as a baby deer, all ribs and sticks for legs and skin stretched thin across nothing but tired brittle bones, still weighing only about half what she should be (although much improved from when she’d first arrived into the county’s compassionate care).
She was about six or seven years old, they thought, but her teeth were too worn from suspected chewing on the bars of a cage to be sure. And she’d had lots of babies. And she had heart worms. And she had been on her own for far too long. And still, she had as much hope left within her as any animal I have ever known. Hope that was patient and sweet and gentle, hope that was dressed in kind brown eyes and warm soft ears.
With all her fine markings, her distinctive colors, her “long voice” as Thomas Wolfe would have called it, Mia’s breeding seems closely aligned with the American English Hound. But Mia’s immediate need was for the simple nurturing of a home environment. She was so tired. She needed soft beds and cozy rugs and lots of time to sleep, time to gain strength in body and spirit. And so she came to live with me – a place to feel safe; a place with a brother dog and a sister cat; a place with plentiful food and in between snacks, with gentle hugs and slow walks, with authentic love, and with friendship that was willing to wait until she was ready.
Mia quickly found – and claimed for herself – all the many pet beds scattered throughout the house. And Quincy the gentleman resident dog was gracious with sharing. Mia quickly also found Tuppence the cat, and was unsure of their relationship, so Tuppence wisely stayed in Mia-free zones of the house or waited outside in tree branches until the roles were made clear.
Together with a wonderful trainer, we found that Mia is terribly smart and willing to please and tried so very hard to learn how to walk on a leash the way I wanted her to, and control her excitement at mealtimes and around small animals the way I wanted her to. But her strength and personal sense of self was growing much more quickly and fully than anyone had anticipated. Until, one day, it seemed as if I was asking Mia to be and do and become what she was not. To deny herself to herself and to her potential. Mia did everything I asked of her. And I suspected it was now my turn to do what she was unable to ask for in return. As someone once wisely said: “without a proper outlet for this breed’s houndy virtues, you’re simply wasting a good dog.”
It was just at that moment of awareness when some friends stepped forward and invited Mia to come live with them: with acres to run and play chase, with woods filled with squirrels and deer, with three other dogs to jostle along, and a few cats to befuddle and befriend, with all the freedom of just being herself.
I suspect I am meant to let her go. Because, in the end, I simply want her to live her best life. I suspect that is what we should all be doing at all times – for all living things, including each other. I suspect we should be there to help when we can, to stand watch over each other for respite and strength. But then perhaps we are meant to just step out of the way … and let others be their best selves. And to never, ever, waste a good life.