Grabbing kibble out of the back of his van, Mark cautiously approached the frightened and shaking pup. After 20 minutes of coaxing, the little one finally relented and carefully moved toward the chow that had been positioned in the middle of the sidewalk. Mark sat patiently on the edge of the walkway. Slowly, the little black pup edged its way to the food and devoured it quickly. Enough time for Mark to get a looped leash around him and scoop up the precious baby.
Calling me from his car, he reported that he had just found a stray and was on his way to the animal shelter to see if he had been reported lost. “He’s a beautiful puppy; looks purebred black Lab.”
Arriving home, he filled me in. The pup hadn’t been reported lost, and the shelter would hold him for 7 days before putting him up for adoption. Mark smiled at me when he admitted, “I paid for right of first refusal to red tag him if no one claims him.” We are both suckers for Labrador Retrievers, and we couldn’t let anything happen to this one. In Mark’s words, “He’s special.”
Seven days passed, and Mark noted three families waiting to adopt the little black lab he had rescued as he entered the shelter. He confidently walked to the desk, pulled out the receipt for the pup, and listened to the groans of others who had seen the puppy on the Web site and wanted him. After paying the fees and collecting the pup, he took him directly to the vet for an exam and to make an appointment for neutering as required. It was during the exam that the vet discovered that the pup had a very audible heart murmur and immediately diagnosed Aortic Valve Stenosis; his heart’s aortic value was narrow, preventing it from opening fully and obstructing blood flow from the heart and the rest of his body. At that time, there was no cure available for dogs. The cardiologist’s diagnosis: “He won’t live to be four years old.”
Others might have taken him straight back to the pound. No way as far as we were concerned. We promptly named him Jar Jar Binks (Binks for short, and yes we are definitely Star Wars fans) and determined we’d give him a great life with whatever time we could have with him.
Binks grew into a beautiful 80-lb. black lab. He couldn’t run and play and just be a dog. He could only get excited for short bursts and had to rest often. We soon discovered that when he would get too excited he would collapse, so we stocked up on oxygen bottles and taught him to not be afraid to stick his nose into the cup so we could revive him.
A number of years passed, and I began to take him to the barn with me when I would go ride my horse. At first I thought it would be too much for him, but he reveled in it. The barn is his happy place, and he loves going there more than life itself. He’s actually my third barn dog. The first was my beloved Luke (my inspiration for Luke’s Tale.) Then, Simon, a yellow Lab rescue, went with me until we lost him to cancer. So, Binks took up the calling.
I can’t tell you enough what a joy it is to have a friend like Binks. His passion is my passion. He expresses his joy for what I do with my horse in every fiber of his being. He is my Velcro dog, always sticking by my side. He is lying next to me as I write this now. He is such a friend … always silent but so present-in-the moment with me. Isn’t that what friendship is all about?
When I think about how fate brought him to us, I want to run out in the street and thank God and the universe for this gift. They said he wouldn’t live to be four. He’s seven and a half now. Is his condition worse? Yes, he’s slowed down quite a bit. We have him on a number of meds to keep him happy and comfortable. But my point is this … people and animals come into our lives for a reason. They may not be perfect; may have a drawback that may give us pause, but they have lessons to teach us. For me, all of my dogs have taught me the lessons of unconditional love, particularly Luke and Binks.
Whenever I get impatient with the people in my life, I remember those lessons. I try to just be silent but so present-in-the-moment with them. After all, sometimes we just need to know that we are here for each other. Isn’t that what life is really about?
Til Next Time,