A little story about dogs, and people, and love as a language.

{This post might bring up some deep emotions, read gently.}

Lately, I have been thinking about dogs quite a lot more than I usually do.

Let me start my story here, with my friend, Laura, who spends her time finding homes for dogs who are rescued in Romania. Most of them have only known the sharp edge of people. They are abused, and left fending for themselves on the streets. A kind group of people rescue them and try to save them from death by finding them new homes in the United Kingdom.

As you can imagine, it takes a special heart to take on the heartache and the misery of another creature’s life, especially when that life has been shaped by the unkindness of others.

I don’t think Laura knows how often I read her words—how I take them when offered, and then turning away I tuck them into that small space behind my eyes. Most writers will know what I am talking about and will know it by a different name, but it is that little holding-place where things go that draw our attention whilst we are busy living our ordinary lives, winking at us, ‘Take me home with you! I have things to tell you if you would only stop to listen.’

And so, I do just that, and hours, days, weeks, months later they will call my name one morning with the promise of more than the shape and form that they once were when I hid them.

And so, I have been thinking about dogs lately. Laura’s rescue dogs to be precise, and how she tells that some of these dogs need homes that are quiet, with someone who knows exactly what they are getting into.

Someone who knows gentleness as their first name, and patience as their second.

Before a dog is allowed to be adopted, they are fostered so that some of their old life can first be loved away by a person with a heart the size of a star. Eventually, when the dog is ready and new owners have stepped up to this new life, they are told everything they need to know about the dog, still, they also need to know that this is a journey where they need to be in for the long haul.

They need to know exactly what to expect so that they will know just how the dog needs to be loved and what it needs in order to feel completely secure.

And this is a place that everyone needs to find their way through together. No matter the preparation, there will be surprises. Some of them will be hard and some of them will want to make everyone give up.

Most don’t.

Because this is the soft heart of my story—trust does not grow out of chaos.
It can’t.
Trust cannot grow out of the same thing that destroyed it.

It is built up piece by tiny piece.

Piece, by tiny piece.
Moment, by small moment.

How a raised hand means different things to different dogs. How hungry some of them are, and I don’t mean physically. How scared some of them are, at everything. How life is filled with terrifying noise and clatter and threats. How things have to be interpreted for them and revealed for the harmless shape that it is, over and over, and over.

How a thing might be meant in a kind way, but once interpreted through the eyes of the dog’s past, it looks completely different.

How this might be tiring. How it might be difficult. How it might never, ever stop because some of these dogs have come from places we don’t really want to know more about.

But knowing the dog’s story is an open window to finding your way to its trust.

How learning how to love it in the only way that it will understand that it is truly being loved; that it is finally safe and secure, how this is a language. A language that says, ‘I have taken the time to know where you have come from and I will do my utmost to love you as you are, so that you will know that you can trust me.’

Love is a verb.

It requires hard, hard work, sometimes. They don’t tell you that in the movies, or in the magazines.

Sometimes, love is messy.
Still, it is worth it.

Knowing where someone has come from, what has left shadows on their skin, what they need in order to know that they are secure with the other, this takes work, it takes curiosity and a desire to see them for the layered being that they are.

Love is a verb that rolls up its sleeves.

Of course, my story is about dogs, but it is also about people.

We are all the same really, dogs and people, although some might disagree.

That’s ok.

What I am trying to say is that we all come from different places, with different backgrounds and we speak different languages when it comes to love.

And trust isn’t something that grows overnight, or even in a lifetime.

Know what you are getting into. Be curious about the one you give your heart to. Learn to read them.

Of course, this means we have to learn to be honest with others and honesty requires vulnerability and that requires trust, so I am not offering any answers, just telling you a story about dogs.


I do know this—that sometimes love isn’t always enough.

Sometimes we need to know that the person we are with understands our language, our needs, our chaos, so that things are not lost in translation all the time.

Some dogs, and some people, need a gentle hand for the rest of their lives.

It is what it is.

Sometimes we find ourselves drawn to a heart that knows the same darkness, because we feel seen and safe there.

Again, this isn’t always enough.

If we carry the same hurt and the same scars, and we draw away in the same way, then things might get really, really tough when things get really, really difficult.

And I don’t really know what else to say about this, other than love is not afraid of hard work.

Love chooses. Over and over, and over. But also, love is not staying just for the sake of being afraid of being lonely.

That is fear.
A completely different thing.

Sometimes we get it wrong. Sometimes we get it right.

If you are with someone, make sure you know their language, know what they need.

There are too many hungry people living within arms’ reach of each other.

But hear me on this, if you get it right and you are given access to the inside of someone’s life and their heart, and you know how to make a home for someone in your life, and you know how to be a home for someone in their life, then dear God, you will know it and the softness of that safe place will fold around you like the walls of a castle.

Again, my story is about dogs, but also about people, and how love is a big, fat, hardworking verb.

And the gossamer fragility of trust.

And how short life really is, and how some languages take a long, long time to learn.

And that there are people on this earth with hearts the size of stars, like my friend Laura.

Perrera Dogs UK are the wonderful people that rescue dogs in Romania and bring them over to the UK for a different life. A brave attempt to make beauty out of deep wrong. If you are able to help them in any way, they will be so appreciative.

Image by Ryan Walton on Unsplash.

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