If you’ve read The Broken Road, then you probably know how I feel about dogs. Kri’s beloved Shi Tzu, Cade, stood between Kri and her abuser for nine long years. He weighed in at only nine pounds, and yet he didn’t hesitate to protect her against a man who could have easily killed them both. Kri was battered, and Cade was battered right alongside her. They slept together on the bathroom floor more nights than Kri could count, because the bathroom was the only room in the house with a door that locked. When Kri ran away from her abuser, she took only one thing with her. Her beloved Cade.
I had a dog like that once. A dog that stood between me and an abuser. That dog, Toby, taught me everything I know about love. He licked me on the nose, just seconds before he died. One final act of love. He was trying to comfort me, even though he was in excruciating pain. Toby took a piece of my heart with him when he died at the ripe old age of sixteen. I couldn’t bear the thought of living without him, so I had him cremated and placed in a simple maple urn. He currently rests in my office, next to a picture of the two of us. I still miss him, terribly. In all honesty, I’ve left my husband strict instructions to bury Toby with me when I die. Here’s a few reasons why…
1. Toby taught me to forgive those who hurt me, every time he forgave me for screwing up.
2. He taught me to greet those I love at the door; to show my loved ones how happy I am to see them every single day.
3. He comforted me when I was sick; resting his head on my stomach, foot, or leg until I felt better.
4. He literally licked my wounds.
5. Toby cuddled with me, a lot.
6. When I was excited, Toby wagged his tail. He was excited for me.
7. When I cried, Toby cried with me, either whimpering or howling with all his might.
8. He protected me, fiercely.
9. He warned me when he thought I was in danger and then moved closer to stand by my side.
10. Toby never abandoned me.
11. He made sure I was never alone.
12. Toby overlooked my shortcomings.
13. He didn’t expect perfection; he simply celebrated the fact that I existed.
14. He believed in me.
15. He trusted me to care for him; and last but certainly not least…
16. Toby taught me to love with my whole heart.
You can learn a lot from a dog. Ask Luis Carlos Montalvan, a wounded warrior with a service dog named Tuesday. Or better yet, read his book Until Tuesday. His story is even more compelling than mine. Or ask the next person you see with a service dog: How did this dog change your life? Stories abound about heroic dogs. Here are just a few: Hero Dog of the Year Finalists from 2014. Dogs show their love and devotion in remarkable ways. Countless dogs refuse to leave their master’s graves, even years after their masters have passed away. There simply is no greater love than the love of a dog.