Possibly the most important lesson to be learnt from dogs.
As is the way, a number of separate happenings seemed to be ‘singing from the same song sheet’ in bringing about today’s post.
Earlier yesterday morning Jean and I had a meeting with the executive director of an important charity that is helping the many homeless and disadvantaged young persons in this part of Oregon. For example, Jean and I were told that there were 300-500 homeless teenagers in Josephine County alone (Josephine County is where our home is.)
One of the ideas that was floated in the conversation was how kids are so loving to animals and whether our dogs and horses might help.
Then later, when back home, I recalled that over two years ago I published a post called Sticks and stones.
It wasn’t a long post and is republished now.
Sticks and stones
I make no apologies for today’s post being more emotional and sentimental. The phrase ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me‘ is well known throughout the English-speaking world and surprisingly goes back some way. A quick web search found that in the The Christian Recorder of March 1862, there was this comment:
Remember the old adage, ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me’. True courage consists in doing what is right, despite the jeers and sneers of our companions.
So if in 1862 the saying was referred to as an ‘old adage’ then it clearly pre-dated 1862 by some degree. A few days ago, Dusty M., here in Payson, AZ, sent me a short YouTube video called The Power of Words. I’m as vulnerable as the next guy to needing being reminded about what’s important in this funny old world.
Then I started mulling over the tendency for all of us to be sucked into a well of doom and gloom. Take my posts on Learning from Dogs over the last couple of days, as an example. There is no question that the world in which we all live is going through some extremely challenging times but anger and negativity is not going to be the answer. As that old reference spelt out so clearly, “True courage consists in doing what is right, despite the jeers and sneers of our companions.” So first watch the video,
then let me close by reminding us all that courage is yet something else we can learn from dogs.
In 1925, a ravaging case of diphtheria broke out in the isolated Alaskan village of Nome. No plane or ship could get the serum there, so the decision was made for multiple sled dog teams to relay the medicine across the treacherous frozen land. The dog that often gets credit for eventually saving the town is Balto, but he just happened to run the last, 55-mile leg in the race. The sled dog who did the lion’s share of the work was Togo. His journey, fraught with white-out storms, was the longest by 200 miles and included a traverse across perilous Norton Sound — where he saved his team and driver in a courageous swim through ice floes.
More about Togo another day.
One of the comments left to that post back in November, 2012 was from Virginia Hamilton. Her website, Canine Commandos, is about just that: dogs helping youngsters. This is what Virginia wrote:
Our sermon today was about sticks and stones which is perfect timing because my sixth graders are throwing words at each other and it is hurting. So I looked up the phrase and found you. We were shown the video in a faculty meeting and since you tie into dogs I was hoping to find “the answer.” When you look at the website you’ll see out community project where I have twenty schools training in three shelters. One would think that because these kids are so loving to the animals that they could pass that kindness to each other. Any words of wisdom? Also check this out. Thank you, Virginia.
Now I would be the first to admit that there’s a difference between a homeless young person and a gifted young person. Yet the difference may not be so great. In this one sense: that caring for an animal changes lives and what young people, from all backgrounds and circumstances, need to learn is the power of unconditional love.
Not just caring for dogs, horses and cats, by the way.