I recently to fostered puppies, through my local humane society, while they became healthy enough for their forever home.
And I mean puppies. Scared puppies. Puppies with worms that made their stool soft. Puppies who did not want to take their medications. Puppies with pressing needs and sometimes conflicting emotions.
Care to Connect
I recall this journey started with some sense of self-service, or seva. Missing volunteering and the obvious opportunities to look beyond myself, puppies represented furry fun! Tending to their needs and schedule paid off the very first night.
Late night noise drew me to where an energetic pup wanted to play but was nervous to explore the new space, especially missing his partner in crime (a brother fast asleep alongside him). The right balance of autonomy and coaxing lead to our first playful interaction.
Play is Powerful
Braving a look around, the nocturnal pup found a playmate beyond a nearby hallway mirror. Exploration, pouncing, and admiration all unfolded.
Too often, play is seen by adults as a loss of productivity, often best for a hint of humor. Extensive seriousness negates the power of the imperfect action that is learning!
This thought was exemplified the following day, when the well-rested brother arose to explore the same mirror, in a similar manner, but with his knowing, nocturnal pup shaping the experience. The previous night’s wandering seemed to connect the original pioneer to a long-term better understanding of the closest mirrors.
Rejoice and Move on
With all the fun experiences, visitors joked that I would keep the puppies- I had been tricked into adopting and raising my furry, four-legged friends. This got me to thinking about how we give of ourselves. My thoughts explored whether it is human nature that, when we are open and caring of others, there is some implied return on investment.
I reflected on a recent relationship in which my fear of not being loved, affected my ability to rejoice in feeling that way, receive love from other places, and move on. The concern around the question, “Am I loved in return?” starved out joy of an emotion that I then became uncomfortable being in. Blocks than formed in my self-love and nurturing nature.
I did not question the motives of foster pups, the long-term implications of their feelings, and whether heart-crushing moments lay around the corner. They presented me with the opportunity to express the qualities of love- kindness, compassionate, joy, and equanimity (maitre, karuna, mudita, and upeksha). In this way, having an interest in the well-being of others allowed me to navigate a unconditional love.