Open the door! I thought as I stood there with a heavy bag on my shoulder, and a pup tugging at his leash to further explore. I was at one of our residential sites, and I had a class to get to. There was a staff person trying to get through the door and she had just gotten a new set of keys. She was trying every single one and I politely said, “Having a little trouble?” Then, a counselor with his own set of keys came over to save the day.
“Here, I’ll get it for you,” he said.
“Well, I still need to know which key is the right one for this door,” the staff lady mumbled.
Inside I groaned. I’m going to be late! I complained silently.
Right next to me was one of my male students. From the first day he had touched my heart. I had come in as usual, accompanied by an over sweet and loving dog, who had been rescued from a life of neglect. He certainly was not neglected anymore! The young man had nearly jumped in excitement.
“A dog! Oh, I miss my dog at home so much! Can I pet him?” he asked.
“Sure can,” I replied, and smiled as he got on the floor to give the dog a hug.
All during the lesson he watched me teach with glazed eyes, as if in a dream, as he petted Beau methodically. When it was time to leave, he got right back down on the floor and told him, “Bye, Beau. I’ll see you soon. Thanks for coming to our class.”
This is the magic of the dog in Healing Species, I thought.
It had been a few weeks since that day but each week that I came, this young man had been tough on the outside, to the group of his all-girl peers, but when he saw whichever dog came with me that day, he melted into a sweet child again.
Today at the table we did a lesson. We made up a personal motto for ourselves, something to repeat to keep us on track, and we wrote them on cardstock as reminders. He was proud to show me his. “No matter what, anyone can change.”
“Wow, that is a great motto!” I told him.
“Thanks. You know my birthday is coming up next month!” he said excitedly.
“Oh yeah? How old will you be?” I asked.
My heart jumped. So young, I thought. You are too young to be here! What was going on at home to land this baby in a residential program so young?
What I said was, “Oh, wow! You look older! At least 15.” And he smiled like I knew he would, appreciative that I thought he was older.
So I was standing there waiting to get out the door and I look over and it’s him standing there waiting too. Just us, and the counselor and the staff lady struggling with the keys. I saw my opportunity.
“I’m really impressed by you. There’s something about you. You have a deep soul, and a sincere heart. You know, you are really going to go places in life.”
Genuine shock was on his face, in his eyes. He said nothing. It was like the compliment hadn’t landed on him yet.
Then it did.
“Thanks,” he said, and he gave me a quick half hug before he quickly shuffled away. He was smiling.
On the way to the next class I weighed it all out. If that staff lady hadn’t been there or if the girls had been around, I would not have had that chance, that moment with him to encourage him. My moment of frustration had turned out to be the best, most significant moment of my day.
This young man deserves a chance. And all of heaven and earth is working together to help him believe in himself again. Healing Species is more than rescuing dogs and having them come with us into schools.
It’s about bringing in a living, breathing example of how love transforms.
Rescued dogs are rescuing children. I am proud to be a part of this team.
We would love to have you as a part of our team, too. Any donation is so sincerely appreciated. The gifts of others is what has made this dream possible. No matter what the size, we thank you.