Monday, November 29, 2010

The Magical Healing Power of Pets (and Certain People)

Our daughters with Casey and our cat, Sammy 
For any of us who's ever felt our heart break with loss, there's nothing like the quiet support and acceptance of a good dog. I have put my arms around the stalwart neck of my Casey and placed my head atop hers, absorbing her strength, feeling her patience, relishing her lack of judgment. I sobbed like a baby when the one I was losing - was her. It hurts now to even write about it. What is it about pets that we connect to in times we need comfort and understanding? What do they teach us about ourselves?

Somehow when I think of healing, and acceptance, and working to "feed the good wolf" (see post "It's the One you Feed"), I think about my friend, Molly Smith. I first met her almost 22 years ago, just days after she was born. She would have fit neatly inside my two hands then - if I had been allowed to lift her out of her Plexiglas bassinet.

Molly was born too soon. It was weeks before her Mom and Dad could hold her, months before she could come home. The diagnosis of cerebral palsy came a year or so later. But it wasn't long after that that Molly began her career as a teacher - not of school, but of life. As one of her Mom's best friends, I have been privileged to have Molly in my life.

Molly greets each day and each person with a relentless optimism, and the certainty that though things can be challenging, very little of value is impossible. She excelled at her neighborhood high school (where she placed # 1 in her computer class, thank you very much); has skied down mountainsides and navigated boyfriend problems; hires and manages the young aides who assist her, attends a local college (never misses a class), and coordinates a busy social life via her omnipresent cell phone. (Good luck finding her home two nights in a week.) Ask her anytime "How ya doing, Molly?" and she will reply "I'm fabulous, thanks!" When the superintendent of her school system retired after more than 40 years as a teacher and administrator, he gave a farewell speech before a packed auditorium, in which he called Molly "the most inspiring person I've ever met". Molly's parents were in tears. Molly was mortified. (hey - what teenager wants the attention?)

Molly, with brother Brenden and Dad,
on the day Floyd joined the family.
Molly went through most of elementary school with her constant companion, "Floyd", a gorgeous black lab and retired show dog, who'd been donated to an agency that trains service dogs. Molly spoke eloquently before her state legislators to effect a change in the law, allowing Floyd to accompany her to school each day. Molly's Dad loved his daily walk time with Floyd, and her Mom would cook up ground sirloin and rice for him any time his digestion was a tad off. Floyd wiggled his way into the heart of the family and grew roots, in the way dogs do.

Floyd may have tended more toward the "companionship" than the "service" in his later years (don't we all), but he truly seemed to "get" know, the way some dogs just look you right in the eye and understand? His heart was gentle, kind and accepting. He and Molly were two "old souls" from the time they were born. Two old souls lucky enough to find each other.

When Floyd died, several years ago now, there was a hole in the family, and no desire to fill it. How could there be another Floyd? But gradually, as time passed, the tug of a good pet's companionship seemed tempting again. Molly's neighbor raised Labradoodles; might Molly want a puppy?

Well, at this writing, Molly's puppy is due to join the family right after Christmas. The only quandary: what to name him. Mary, the breeder, calls him Henry, and frankly can't imagine calling him anything else. Molly's heart is set on "Enzo", the hero of Garth Stein's book The Art of Racing in the Rain (Yes, you should read it). So...would it be Henry, or Enzo?

Molly's Mom, who's studying Italian,  burst through the front door after class one night last week, and raced over to Molly. "Guess what?" she says, barely able to contain her excitement. "Enzo is Italian for...Henry!" Big smiles all around. Sometimes, things just turn out the way they were supposed to.

Molly with her new Puppy, Enzo

And Molly has found another old soul to teach.


  1. Yes, the Smith family is indeed very excited for Enzo's arrival. Much time has past since Floyd's death, and although seeing his picture and reading this lovely blog fills my eyes with tears,I realize how overdo we are for that special, unconditional love that only a dog can offer.

    When I realized and shared with my friend, Mary(the breeder),that Enzo did mean Henry in Italian, she smiled and said,"That's what we do here - destiny".

    I'm happy that our family is meeting this part of our detiny (comfort and happiness)and wish all of you the same. Things in life that every one deserves and should claim, always!

  2. As they say, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. It's no wonder Molly is so special.

  3. This is Mary, I like to consider myself "a lover of the breed" rather than a breeder, all symantics...I too met Molly Smith almost 22years ago, the day she was born, I was her mom's Labor and Delivery nurse, my father-in-law her pediatrician. Kate(we had never met) was the first to know I was pregnant with one of Molly's future best friends,Abby...only in Rhode Island! I had not seen them again until the girls were in the same preschool, the rest is history.
    Floyd quickly became a pal to everyone, many a day was spent travelling around RI, soccer games,apple picking, Floyd always along, we all packed into my station wagon.
    Our hearts were broken when Molly lost her beloved Floyd.
    I know all too well that sense of loss...time heals and to honor Floyd, Enzo has entered her life.
    I have been honored to witness Molly grow into the remarkable young woman she is. She faces each day as if it is a blessing, a lesson we all should learn.I am also honored she has chosen one of our cherished puppies to love and welcome into her home.
    Bill and Kate stopped by "with a fresh pot of soup and a Chai" during Iris' labor, how could I deny them?(NOBODY GETS IN DURING LABOR!!) Iris obliged them and delivered a pup, a new experience and a thrill for both!
    We began weekly visits, imperative to assist Molly in determining the "best match" for the Smith family.
    We knew from day one that "Henry" was to be Molly's boy.
    One just knows these things, a mother's intuition. Henry had cuddled his fluffy little body and soul into their hearts the first time they held him. We just needed to wait until personalities emerged to confirm what everyone knew...
    Molly was to become Enzo's new Mama and he,in the words of Anne of Green Gables,is now her kindred spirit and bosom buddy.

  4. It sounds as if it is truly Fate at work. Thank you for sharing such a touching and beautifully written perspective on our Molly.

  5. AWESOME. When this blog fills over time with inspiration upon inspiration - like this story holds, they should all be bound in a book and published. 'Hope' like this should be on every coffee table, in every waiting room, by every bedside, and under every beach chair.
    PS I love love love the name.