The first time I saw Red

This is the first in a series of guest posts from one of our member Patriots, Bobby, a disabled veteran in Florida who brought a big, goofy dog named Red into her life.

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The first time I saw Red I was still very upset about Pooh. Remember I said I had cried at the shelter. Red was in his pen and I was petting him through the wire. He kept licking my hand and I felt no fear.

Red is a big boy, and to some I would  think a little intimidating.

redThe next time I went back to the shelter, while I was petting Red they came to take him for his photo. For some reason Red was terrified. He laid on the floor, tail under his belly and his nose under his paws. He was frozen in fear when the guy tried to take him up front.

While Red was laying there trembling, I asked the man to let me see if I could get Red back to his pen. I sat on the floor next to Red, rubbing his back and talking to him very softly. After a while I was able to lead Red back to his pen. I stayed with him a while and he calmed down.

Anyway, the next time I went back I was looking at two dogs, Red and a black and white setter. My friend Kathy and I took the setter out for a walk first. The walk went okay, but on the way back in, the dog tried to bite and growl at the other dogs. Now it was out with Red. He walked well, came when called and on the way back in, snoofed at the other dogs, but with no hostility.

Decision made. On the next trip Red came home with me.

Since then it’s been just like raising a child. Red pulled down two window blinds trying to look outside when I went outside. He wants to get into everything. If I reach into a drawer, there is a rubber nose next to my hand, snoofing. Then when he does something bad and gets caught, that smile makes it all go away.

Has everything been great since Red came home with me? No. But each day it gets better and better.

At first when I went to the shelter, it was about me. The pain of losing Pooh was very real and almost too much. It was when Red was lying on the floor, trembling, that it was no longer about me – it was about Red. He needed me as much as I needed him.

Red doesn’t give up on me when I have a bad day. Red and I are developing a very close relationship.

Sleep is a hard one for me. The nightmares come pretty often. I wake up in a cold sweat time and again. Along with the nightmares comes a real feeling of emptiness. Having Red laying next to my bed where I can reach out and know he is there means everything; I know I am not alone.

During this past week it’s been cold. I always make sure Red’s blanket is pulled over him so he doesn’t get cold.

The concept to train Red as an assistance dog I believe came when I realized it wasn’t all about me. So many animals with no hope. So many veterans with their lives all but destroyed. No, this is not about me; it’s about hope and compassion for others.

My life now is a work in progress; Red has made it worth living. I miss Mr. Pooh and I think about him every day. He was a great friend, one that I will always hold in the highest in my heart. There is a growth process here. It’s about me learning to forgive Red when he makes mistakes and Red forgiving me when I make mistakes.

Is there hope? I have to believe there is. I ask you to please come to know the wonderful benefits of honorably adopting a pet. So many shelters are full of pets that no one cares about. They are like the veterans who returned from Vietnam; they fought so hard to survive, yet few people cared.

Each night I pray for our heroes, our veterans. I also pray for the service members on active duty and their families. And most importantly, I pray for the pets who quietly stand and watch for a caring friend, yet to be found.

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