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Sad Husky Looking Out the Window
Sun, March 1, 2015
Second Chances: How Loving an Abused Animal Opened My Eyes & Healed My Heart
I live in a tiny neighborhood at the top of a very long hill. I'm far from the throngs of Hong Kong and ensconced in the wonders of nature. It's truly an honor to be a citizen of such an urban environment and to live where I can hear crickets sing, watch hawks soar past the balcony, and rain sweep over the bay.
 
Obviously, I live on the outskirts of Hong Kong. Instead of being among the cosmopolite, I've chosen to live among an extended family of villagers, kind-hearted souls whose grandmother rules the roost and does her flock's laundry each morning. It is a beautiful, clean, and quiet setting.
 
When I moved in I was delighted to notice a lovely husky, well-tended, on a chain under a tree at one end of the property. I love dogs and it was great to know our neighbors did too.
 
Or so I thought. It became obvious pretty quickly that though she was well cared for as far as being fed and her area cleaned twice daily no one spent any more time with her than that. Her caregiver ignored her and no one took her for walks. Ever.
 
When I gently inquired it turned out that a cousin had installed her there when he moved into an apartment that didn't allow dogs, with promises to retrieve her soon. That was three years ago.
 
This husky has been on a chain for three years. She's been there day in and day out. No walks. Wow.
I was shocked. 
 
It was heartbreaking to know that no one cared enough for her to fill her basic need for exercise, and the idea of being confined to a two meter chain, day in and day out was unthinkable. I felt terrible. This was a tragedy that I couldn't bear. Every time I looked over at her from my balcony I felt so sad I wanted to cry. I couldn't live next to this kind of cruelty and not do something about it.
 
What was I going to do?
 
I asked if I could take her for walks. Grandmother said, thank you, but no. She didn't want to be liable if anything happened to me or the dog or anyone else. Her reasoning made sense and I knew better than to argue with grandma, so I gave up trying to rescue her that way.
 
I decided that the least I could do was to send her loving looks instead of showering her with sadness from my balcony. I decided that at least I could send her love, even if from afar.
 
And that's when things started to change.
That's when I got a chance to see this situation from a different place.
 
As I started to look at her with love and without my filter of tragedy, I began to be able to see her again. I started to be able to see how she felt instead of projecting onto her how I felt. I began to notice that she wasn't sad at all. In fact, she was quite happy! How could that be, I wondered? I began to watch her carefully, my heart open.
 
As the days passed, I noticed that she took pleasure in many things. She wagged and shook with joy every morning and evening as her food was delivered, and took delight in the woman who gave it to her even though the woman ignored her. She didn't mind. She was still happy to see her. She was content regardless. Amazing.
 
She enjoyed the scents that wafted up the valley and she would often walk over to the edge and sit and sniff the wind and watch whomever was walking up the hill. And wonder of wonders, she even took herself for walks. What I had thought were the neurotic movements of a trapped animal trying to get off her chain were actually the happy wanderings of an animal content to walk as much as her chain allowed. Almost daily she calmly walked the full perimeter that her chain allowed, stopping now and then to sniff things and check out the latest leaf that had blown over or an insect that had landed on the flowers next to her. She varied her walks, going in one direction one day and another way the next.
 
Mostly, she just seemed content for no reason at all. How interesting. I wondered if I would be able to keep my head up and be interested in the world if I were captive. Her interest, her contentment seemed to be a part of her regardless of her captivity.
 
And all of this would be pure conjecture and me just trading my sad blue glasses for rose colored ones except that I finally got up the nerve to go over and make friends with her. I've spent a lot of time with dogs, so I knew to proceed with caution in case she had lost her socialization or was aggressive (defensive) when approached by a stranger. I wanted to make friends, so I was very careful not to scare her. Also, she's a big dog. With big teeth.
 
It took me almost a month of slowly gaining her trust before I got close enough for her to carefully sniff my hand. Only, once I finally got there she wasn't careful at all. I needn't have worried. Turns out she's super friendly and loves to say hello. From that moment on, whenever I approach she wags and prances and plays and almost knocks me over with kisses and love. She's only complained twice when I walked away from her, and both times I knew that I was leaving in the middle of playing and that we weren't done yet. She was right.
 
I've spent a lot of time with her over the two years that we've lived here and I can honestly say there's so much love and happiness in that dog, it's astounding. She's extraordinary. She's one of the happiest dogs I've ever had the pleasure to meet. Probably one of the happiest beings I've ever had the pleasure to meet.
 
She gave me a second chance. A chance to open my eyes and see what is really happening inside her. A chance to see what freedom really looks like. Through her I've begun to understand how Nelson Mandela handled all those years in prison, emerging strong and free and whole, and why Moojii said once that a man free in his heart can be in prison and yet be the only free person around.
 
She shows me that freedom comes from within as I greet her from my balcony every morning. And yet everyday I meet humans walking around in prisons of their own making. The contrast is amazing. She's free because she chooses freedom. Many of us are in prisons of unhappiness and discontent because we choose them. This dog understands that. I can see that she does. I hope that all of us can understand that as well.
 
(And bless the aunt who has recently taken her on two walks!! I'm trying not to hold my breath, or bring my needs into it, but I am really happy at this turn of events! May we all be free inside and out!)
 
 

Elena Maria Foucher blogs her experiments in joyful living for the Joy Lab at ElenaMariaFoucher.com. She  teaches meditation and stress management in Hong Kong and has created simple, quick meditations that you can do while brushing your teeth available at ToothbrushMeditations.com.

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