Dear Christina and Jessica:
In February 2015, you took in a large, young, injured, stray, sad, black Labrador retriever mix. This dog had everything going against him: his coat color, his size, his injuries, his unknown origin.
This dog had been hit by a car in Yakima and no one ever claimed him. He was “unwanted.” His injuries were catastrophic. As a stray, black, unneutered dog, he easily could have been euthanized; black dogs are typically the first to make that long, one-way walk in overcrowded shelters. But Seattle Humane heroically intervened, taking him from Central Washington over to their no-kill facility. The organization that you worked for stepped up to pay for his extensive, expensive surgeries. This dog who I would later name Jack had to have an eye and a leg removed, but even though he had lost so much, when he met you, he gained something that he desperately needed: love.
Shortly after his surgery, as he was learning to adjust to the world with three legs and one eye, you took him into your home and loved him as your own. I have no doubt that you saw in him what I see every day – a remarkable dog; a dog whose joy manifests in his hippity hop gait; a perfectly imperfect friend.
Jack’s journey with you was much like the journey of one of my favorite characters in childhood literature: The Velveteen Rabbit. Author Margery Williams wrote:
“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Christina and Jessica, you took a sad, stray, broken black dog and you made him REAL. He may not have ever had a family before, but you taught him what it meant to have one. He may have never lived with cats before, but you showed him to respect them. (My cats and I are very grateful for that, too!)
That fateful morning, when I came into the shelter only a few minutes after Jack had left your loving foster home and been put into a kennel for adoption, I can only imagine how you felt. Would anyone else love him like you did? Would they see that he was “real?”
I remember how the staff were surprised that I chose this dog, and asked me to double check and look at all the other dogs to see if I was certain. I remember how we took him out of his kennel to meet me in person, but all he wanted to do was see and play with you. And I remember how you cried and hugged me when I told you that he was “the one” and that I wanted to take him home that day.
Because you knew him so well – and made him real – I knew that he’d be the perfect dog for me. Quiet, snuggly, happy, good with cats, and oh so very real.
I can only imagine how you felt as Jack left the shelter that day. In the two years since his adoption, he has enriched my life immeasurably. He’s the star of an upcoming movie, the inspiration behind the creation of a new nonprofit, my comfort, my companion, my random giggle-in-the-middle-of-a-stressful-day. He makes me real, too.
So thank you. This all started with both of you. You took him in, you loved him, and you made him real – probably for the first time in his life.
You were his hero. And what makes it all the more heroic is that you were able to allow him to leave your home and come to mine – and then you started this all over again with another animal who desperately needed you.
Sincerely and really yours,
Tracy and Jack
PS- Jack would love to see you again.