Approximately three years ago, my husband and I were walking our dog Ginger right outside our house when, out of nowhere, a man we had never seen before marched straight up to my husband with a smirk on his face and shouted, “Are you going to put your dog on a leash?” Given the way he invaded my husband’s space and pumped out his chest, I thought they knew each other.
My husband stuck out his chin and went along with the joke.
“No, I’m not,” he said, partially grinning.
When this man didn’t back off, and it became clear to me that they did not know each other, I reminded my husband that the remote to Ginger’s electronic collar was in his hand.
My husband promptly held the remote above his head and exclaimed, “She IS on a leash!”
The guy lunged closer, “That’s what everyone says. If you don’t put your dog on a leash, I’m coming after you!”
I looked over at Ginger, who was already staring up at me, and sadly realized that all this man could see was the brown Pitbull that she was on the outside…strong, compact, and built like a tank.
He could not see on the inside the “superhealer” who grounded our home and centered our family every hour of every day. He could not tell that our “superhealer’s” powerful heart and calm soul had touched countless others, both young and old, and turned dog haters into lovers. And he could not get beyond her stern outside to see the wise Yoda that she is on the inside, and appreciate that our “superhealer” hates violence, runs from conflict, and has never once shrunk from the challenge life handed her when she became part of a family who would lose a child.
We tried to explain that as a puppy, Ginger was abandoned, chained to a fence and left for a doggy daycare owner to save her. And we wanted to tell him that ever since she was rescued, leashes made her panic and impossible to walk, so the beep on the electric collar was the only way we had found to take her outside and keep her safe. But this man wasn’t interested in explanations.
Instead, he shouted, “Now I know where you live!” Then he faded into the distance.
My husband looked at me and suggested, “Maybe he got bit by a dog as a kid or something?”
The three of us walked back into the house without answers and shook it off. After all, we had much bigger problems.
But this man clearly didn’t.
A few weeks later, I received a call from our Council Member’s staff saying that a neighbor of ours was bombarding their office with complaints about the two of us and our dog.
When I got home that afternoon and told my husband about it, he flashed a stern written warning in my face from Los Angeles Animal Services, which had been delivered by US Mail.
And, as if this man hadn’t already used up enough city resources, a few days later, our Council Member’s office called again to let me know that this neighbor of ours was now calling and sending letters demanding that our Council Member vote against the athletic field for children that we had gifted to our local public park to honor our son and share his spirit of play with others.
This man, I realized, was far more of a Pitbull than my dog was.
The very next morning, I wrapped Ginger’s electronic collar around her neck and headed outside for our morning walk. When I noticed a police officer sitting on a motorcycle right outside our driveway, I figured the man with the floppy hair had actually gotten to him too! Tired of being harassed, I went back inside, grabbed Ginger’s traditional pink leash from the bottom of a cabinet, and attached it to the second collar that never leaves her neck and has her tags on it.
“The cop will see the pink leash,” I explained to Ginger, “but it will be the beep that keeps you by my side.”
As we headed down the block, the cop sped off in the opposite direction, and then, slowly but surely, my furry “superhealer” began to experience some healing herself.
The first time she started to panic and jumped up to bite her leash, the high-pitched beep that I set off immediately redirected her behavior and reminded her to keep moving forward. Step by step, block after block, the beeps became fewer and further between until eventually, a month later, we ditched her electronic collar altogether, and Ginger grew to love her leash so much that she now brings it to us in her mouth at walk time.
I still have no idea who that man was or where he lives, but what I have learned is that every situation and every single person has something to teach and potentially even heal.
By forcing us to find a way to walk Ginger on a traditional leash, this man helped our “superhealer” face and transcend her greatest fear. And the more she healed from her trauma, the more she helped us heal from ours. Day by day, our walks got longer. The time we spent outdoors in nature stretched further. And physically and emotionally we all grew stronger.
What I now understand is that “superhealers” come in all shapes, sizes and breeds and, if our hearts are open to it, we can receive healing from the most unlikely places…