Learning to be Selfless: Charlie

For the past two months I have been living with a new man in my house.

We have definitely struggled to understand boundaries and proper roommate behaviors, but we are building trust and going through a lot of deep sh#t with each other.

His name is Charlie. He is my current foster dog. He is one of over 100 dogs that were kept in a small house with no outdoor access. From all we know (and his behaviors back it up) he spent his whole life in that horrific hoarding situation. These dogs were rescued in June, and due to some unexplainable political battles, they were transferred from the original home to a variety of shelters, crammed in crates and not treated with the kindness and patience that they needed and deserved. Now, all of the rescue teams, volunteers, and shelters were completely blindsided by this situation, and had no idea there were over 20 dogs, let alone over 100. I cannot understand the amount of stress that those volunteers and true animal lovers had to endure, or the pure exhaustion of coordinating that many dogs, homes, and rescue groups.

Warning: Heavy content to follow.

By July, I was driving all day to pick up and carefully bring this pitiful creature to our home. Although you hear about these kinds of situations all of the time, and we see photos of horrendous social injustices, videos of bombings, snapchats of sexual assault, etc., and, in a way, we are all growing accustomed to it (some much faster than others). I don't know why this particular situation stuck with me, but it did. I first heard about it when they thought it was only 50 dogs. This isn't the first hoarding situation or animal abuse account that I have heard of or been vaguely involved with, but from the very first post on Facebook, my heart just broke. 

I didn't care what I needed to do, but I had to do something other than just share the story through social media. I wanted to drop everything, hop in the car and drive the 7 hours to help. I offered my services, any services, repeatedly, but was assured that there was nothing I could do until all of the dogs were removed from the house and evaluated. 

I waited, very impatiently, for weeks - actual weeks - as those local volunteers sorted through political battles, logistical nightmares, and over 100 terrified dogs.

I couldn't explain it, and my co-workers all thought I was crazy. But I couldn't help it. My heart was moved in such a palpable way that I couldn't just ignore it or shrug it off. 

It took Charlie a full month to even let us pet him. (And that is a FULL month of hand-feeding him cheese, cooked chicken, and freeze-dried whitefish.) It took him a full two months to enjoy the petting. As a dog with practically no previous human interactions, he didn't want us to look at him, talk to him, play with him, or acknowledge him in any way. It has been a battle to earn his trust, and yet, he's super comfortable with new people. Well, only a fraction less comfortable than he is with us already. 

The whole reason why I am posting about Charlie isn't because I think everyone should foster a dog, or that everyone needs to donate to their local animal rescues. (I mean, if you want to, GO FOR IT! But that isn't the point of all of this.) 

I cried most of the 5 hour drive after picking Charlie up that first night. Yes, it was sad. Yes, I felt awful that he was so scared. Yes, it was emotional. But, it was more than that.

I realized as I drove this completely helpless, broken being to a new life, that it was the first unselfish thing I had done in as long as I can remember.

Now, that probably makes me sound like a horrible person. (And you are welcome to think that!) But no matter what "good deed" I do in this life, I always expect some kind of reciprocation. Whether it is something simple as doing my husband's laundry, or grabbing that extra cup of coffee for a coworker on my way into the office, I always expect something. Even if it is just to get on their good side or to earn brownie points. Usually, I expect respect, or future acts of kindness towards me! I think it is because of that whole "Do unto others as you wish to be treated." I want people to bring me coffee unexpectedly, so I bring people coffee. I want my husband to cook me dinner or tell me I look nice, so I cook him dinner and tell him he looks nice. I say "thank you" to strangers, because I want strangers to say "thank you" to me!

I may just be a vindictive person, but I realized as I drove in silence that night that everything I do is selfish. Except Charlie. I knew that Charlie couldn't give anything back to me. And he isn't even mine! In a few more days or weeks he will be out of my life and I won't ever see him again.

Sure, my experience with him is rewarding, but that wasn't the point or the reason why I was so compelled to foster him. People think I am crazy. My husband gets frustrated. It has in no way been easy. But it is the first thing that I have done in a REALLY long time that is purely unselfish.

I ask you to really think about your intentions behind your "good deeds." Why do you smile as you walk by someone on the street? 

Have you done something in your lifetime that felt truly unselfish, something that was done with the purest intentions?

I'm sure people will disagree with me, and will probably argue that my own logic makes me helping Charlie in some way self-serving, because it is emotionally and spiritually rewarding. And that is totally true. I guess, my counter to that would be that regardless of how other people see it, this was the first act that moved every internal and external part of me in a way that felt totally new and totally pure. And if nothing else, that's a start.