Bob Dylan tells us: There is nothing so stable as change. And while we all know that, until something happens to rock your world, it’s easy to get frustrated or impatient with reality as we know it. We are creatures of routine: eat, work, sleep, repeat.
But when tragedy strikes and we or someone we love faces a health issue, a lost job, an accident, or some other type of life changing event, we immediately wish we could rewind the tape and go back to the “same old, same old.” It’s only then we appreciate that the sturdy pattern of life we sometimes resent is actually a grounding, comforting constant.
When the unexpected does happen, as it did for so many innocent families more than four years ago in Newton, Connecticut, it can be hard to trust that we will ever figure out a new way to be in the world. But humans are hardwired for love, belonging, and connection. So when something so big happens that there are no words to explain it, the unspoken love that an animal offers cannot be matched.
In uncomfortable, scary, or sad situations, many of us don’t know what to say. We may awkwardly share an experience from our own lives, or struggle for the right words—when what’s actually needed most is listening and just being there. And that’s what the therapy dogs provided for the students, teachers, and families of Sandy Hook Elementary who had to slowly learn how to keep moving forward after such a devastating loss occurred in their community. You can read more about one special girl and her brother’s tribute to her on page 12. His relationship with the therapy dogs who visited Newton after the shooting carried him through many dark days.
Every animal is special in some way, and can make a difference somehow. Take Giggy, our cover dog. He lives with alopecia, a skin disease that causes hair loss and affects humans both physically and emotionally. Lisa Vanderpump saw Giggy’s condition as an opportunity to share compassion and empathy with people dealing with the same disease. Instead of suffering, Giggy enjoys wearing clothes, is not ashamed of his bald spots, and proudly sits for photos.
Watching the ways animals impact people in pain has helped me to rethink how I show up for people dealing with something difficult. Instead of nervously rattling off stories to cheer them up or fumbling for the perfect thing to say, I have become a better listener. Taking a cue from my animal counterparts, I have found that being with someone—really, truly being with someone—is really the best medicine there is.
Wishing you lots of time to be with the ones you love this spring—
Tagged Janice Brown