Puppy Raising and Compassion

by Anne Garretson

“Will it be hard to give Miller back?” 

I get asked this question on a pretty regular basis.  I consider answering in a spiritual way, but I know I would see some people nod without understanding, and I’d see some eyes simply glaze over.  I was raised in a faith I only minimally adhere to, but the foundation remains my outlook on the world. I could take part in many religious rituals and not feel the same wholeness that comes from raising my BluePath pup.

My daily dose of religion comes from god spelled backwards. It’s this puppy who’s fun to watch as he plays and explores, who wants to be with me, at this point, more than any other person; who serves my need to be needed. It’s the immense love in the BluePath family; proudly spreading the word about the work we do, showing off this phenomenal puppy and always keeping the end goal in mind.

Imagine how much distrust, divisiveness and jealously we’d eliminate in the world if everyone traveled the kind of path to fulfillment a puppy raiser is traveling. If I had perfect clarity of mind every time I’m asked a giving-up-the-puppy question, I would be able to share how much puppy raising helps me look at people differently and with more compassion.

Recently I was at a highway truck stop where I kept my eye on a scruffy-looking man leaning on his beater-car; he sent up all my warning-danger flags. I hung out at my car and let Miller stretch his legs. He let his dog out for a stretch, too. Get ready, I thought… he’s about to use his unruly dog as an opening to try to invade my personal safety zone. I prepared for his dog to start barking or lunging at Miller, but no. His dog sat perfectly by his side and watched us. The man went back to making phone calls and I could overhear his conversations.

He was out of gas, had forgotten his wallet at home and was stuck there in the middle of nowhere. Everyone he knew was at least two hours away. Each conversation ended with, “That’s ok, I’ll figure something out. I love you too.” Meanwhile the dog had leaned up against the man’s legs and the comfort that motion gave the man was palpable. It triggered visions of Miller and his future partner- and it elicited a desire to offer him some help. 

He was shocked when I reached out to him, and then profoundly thankful.  It felt good to pay for his tank of gas, and even better to let go of my initial judgments of him.  I’m grateful that Miller helped me get to that place.  We develop meaningful bonds with these dogs, but equally as important are the connections they help us make with the world around us.

Will it be hard to say goodbye? Absolutely. But knowing that a child’s life will be so deeply enhanced by Miller’s presence makes it worth it… tenfold.  In the meantime, I’m enjoying every bit of this journey.