November 17

How to have a good day

Last week I had just finished my last teaching gig of the year and was sitting at the breakfast table wiped out. Bill was in Tennessee finishing his last teaching engagement and I had piles of laundry, stacks of contracts and dozens of emails that needed responses. The travel and deadlines had caught up with me and although I had planned to go to my favorite spin class, I feared I was just too tired to go. I suddenly got an email from PAWS Chicago that in 45 minutes two vans of 20 puppies each would be arriving at their medical center. They needed additional volunteers to help unload the puppies and get them fed, walked and settled. I emailed back that I’d be there and threw on some clothes, without even bothering to shower.

That’s the thing about puppies. They don’t care how much you weigh or whether or not you’re overdue for a haircut or even if you were too hurried to shower. They are just happy you showed up.

The puppies were a variety of breeds and sizes ranging from very young Jack Russell puppies to almost a year old German Shepherd puppies. None were clean. It reminded me of how lucky I was to have a lovely warm shower waiting for me anytime I wanted it.

Inside the shelter, there were beautifully organized, clean kennels with raised beds and soft blankets waiting for each of them. I thought about the refugees from Syria and how I wished I could find clean, dry and safe shelter for them.

As I helped distribute buckets of water to the dogs, I saw how thirsty they all were. I prepared the long line of food bowls and could see the excitement in their eyes as they smelled the food being prepared. They gobbled it down in less than a minute. It reminded me of how I never lack for food or drink.

The other volunteers and I took turns walking each dog to eliminate and work off some of their puppy energy. I could see how happy the puppies were for the fresh air and sunshine. Some were jumping up and down and others were wagging their tails. It reminded me that the simple act of going for a walk, in any weather, is one of life’s most basic gifts.

Before leaving I inquired about our foster dog who was being treated at the medical center for pneumonia. They said she was still on oxygen and being fed with a syringe. I thought about how grateful I was to be well at the moment and to be breathing easily.

I texted Bill the picture above and asked if we could have a puppy intake date some morning and he agreed. So next week before Thanksgiving, we’ll take a couple of hours off from work to remind ourselves of the abundance in our lives and our hope for both humans and animals that they will enjoy the same. The least understood part of service is the shift in the way we perceive our own needs. I returned home feeling invigorated and ready to be productive and grateful for all that I have.