By Danielle Sullivan
It was a typical Saturday morning in Brooklyn. I was showering when my kids began knocking on the bathroom door, explaining that a pet adoption van was parked outside our building and “could we just go look? Pleeeeze?”
It had been a tough year. My nine-year-old daughter, Kate, was diagnosed with a chronic disease. As a family, we were still adjusting to Kate’s condition, and she was feeling pretty terrible, not to mention depressed, from her ailments. Her eyes lit up when I said, yes, we could “just look.”
Among the various adorable dogs and puppies was one grungy, older Chihuahua mix who had instantly bonded with Kate. They were face-to-face the entire time, and my kids pleaded and begged collectively to bring her home. A half-hour later she was ours, and we named her Hayley.
We learned that Hayley had been abused. She literally screamed in horror anytime any one of us picked up our hand to wave or scratch our heads. She also had a deep scar on the top of her head and a few ticks. Her fur needed serious grooming, and she was not housebroken.
We gave her a bath and a good meal and then, immediately after, Kate took charge of Hayley’s issues. When she screeched, Kate comforted her. When she had an accident, Kate walked her to show her the proper potty place. When she just seemed nervous, Kate reassured her, “It’s OK, Hayley,” and followed up with multiple hugs and kisses.
While Hayley surely benefitted from Katelyn’s love, I learned firsthand that there is perhaps nothing better than taking care of a dog and giving and receiving the unconditional love only a pup can bring to sick child (or adult). There was no better remedy for Kate than to care for this abused little dog. Seven years later, they have helped each other very much to heal. Hayley no longer is afraid of us or anyone else. Kate just turned 16, and she and Hayley are closer than words could convey. It’s been said that we save dogs when we adopt them, but I think we often forget how many dogs actually save us.
Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for more than 10 years. Danielle also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Babble.com. Find her on her blog, Some Puppy To Love, Twitter or Facebook.