When I first started working at Bob’s House For Dogs almost 5 years ago as a part-timer (I don’t even know if I have a title. I’ve never asked since dogs don’t label.) One of the things founder Amy Quella told me was “I don’t ever want any of my people to dread coming here.” That stuck with me for a myriad reasons: not the least of which because it meant she genuinely cares about not only her foster dogs, but the people she brings on to take care of them. Another thing she told me, and she had to say it several times, is we’re not allowed to feel sorry for the dogs. As I let that sink in over time, I realized what she meant. It doesn’t mean we’re to lack compassion or not feel bad if they come in needing a little bit of extra TLC. Now I see it as a very liberating piece of advice. And it’s not advice to help us mere hoomans: it’s advice that solely benefits the dogs that come through our doors.
I consider myself so incredibly blessed to be a part of the Bob’s House family. It really is a family and it takes a village! The volunteers are tireless in the time they give. I see them come in with joy and without question and see the dogs go to them without question and with joy. They love all the dogs in the house as if they were their own and don’t even give it a second thought. The dogs love them back and always wag their tails hearing their voices. The full-time staff is untouchable in their talents, skills, knowledge and compassion. By now “Nikki-and-Heather” is hyphenated and synonymous with Bob’s House For Dogs. Having the privilege of being personal friends with both of them, my heart squeezes when I’m out and about with them and their positions at Bob’s House comes up in casual conversation with total strangers. Their faces light up and they are off and running with sharing how much they love it. The house is, as Amy told me when she hired me, a “lil slice of Heaven”. Over the years I’ve invited friends to come out during my shift. This is where the “don’t feel sorry for them” part comes in.
I’ve had friends say they can’t bring themselves to come because it would make them too sad. To that I have to say I understand and have stopped inviting out of respect for their comfort level. The fact is, if you think coming there will make you sad, you’re missing the point. Yes, sometimes the dogs come in with sad stories. And it is sad. To us. If you’ve ever been to Bob’s House or met its staff, volunteers, Canine Companion nursing home visitors, Hospice or Veterans’ Home visitors, board members, anyone who has ever adopted a Bob’s House foster, etc. you know the dogs want for nothing. Not to keep bringing up Amy but I once heard her say we would give up a kidney if we had to in order to take care of the dogs…. Ok, ok, to be fair, I’m probably paraphrasing there. But I can tell you, we do NOT have to feel sorry for the dogs. OF COURSE, compassion is there for some of the pups’ stories that just make you shake your head and wonder. But I like to flip the lense and look at it from the dogs’ angle.
When a newbie gets to Bob’s, it’s a whole new world for them. He or she is going to go through a little culture shock of course. The most beautiful trait of a dog is that they live in the moment. Whatever it is that’s in their rearview mirror, for the most part, is going to stay in their rearview mirror. I’ve seen miraculous transformations in dogs who came in not knowing a single soul, human or canine in the house. Can you imagine getting into someone’s car and landing at a new home?! Humans wouldn’t be able to handle it. But dogs? Dogs know how to roll (No pun intended. Ok, maybe a little.) Over the course of a few days or maybe a few weeks, I’ve seen the same dogs walk around with their heads held high and tails wagging. They’ll jump on a lap or find their special bed and make lemonade right quick. They know when they’re going to get fed. They know when they’re going to go outside. They know when they’re going for a ride or going to visit nursing homes. Some of them even know when that one person with whom they’ve really connected, is going to come walking through the blue gate. Once the initial chaos subsides a bit from their transition, they get back to that point where they’re full of joy and bliss, and cheer. Just like that, they’re living in the moment again: and there’s nowhere else they want to be. So if we come walking in with heaviness and sadness, they feel that. And the last thing those precious pups want is for us to be sad because of them.
That’s not to say some of us don’t look at some of the pooches that have come in with a particularly sad story and feel compelled to reach out a bit more to them. There are some to whom we give extra scritches and scratches because you just feel like they have some catching up to do in the affection department. But overall, Bob’s House For Dogs is the most spectacular, most miraculous and best jackpot spot for a dog to find him or herself. It took me a few years to realize this myself, I’ll be honest. So when friends tell me they feel bad for the dogs or show some sort of sorrow or sadness for the dogs at Bob’s, I try to nudge them to come visit me so they can see for themselves. If they decline, I graciously back down. But when someone does take me up on the offer, it is never a disappointment. The magic of Bob’s and the joy of the dogs dispel those feelings the instant you walk through the door. I know Disney is the happiest place on Earth. But Bob’s House For Dogs comes in as the happiest place in my heart.
Submitted by Guest Blogger, Sue Olson