Showing the Way

Fun fact: Dogs’ hair may turn white as they age, especially around the eyes and muzzle.

Heidi came into our lives as an abused, frightened Miniature Dachshund who had been born, raised, and used as a “breeder” in a puppy mill. Five years and ten litters later, she and thirty-five other puppy-mill dogs were rescued by the Tri-County Humane Society in Boca Raton, Florida.

From the moment I saw her huddled in the back corner of her cage, I knew I would take her home and give her a new life. But it would be our dog Sheba who showed Heidi how to live.

Heidi had never been potty-trained, and the shelter warned it might never happen. Her life had been spent in a wire cage inside a warehouse. She had never done all the things that puppies and dogs do. While Sheba never had a litter, she seemed to instinctively understand that she needed to train Heidi as if she were a new puppy.

Whether she was walking on a leash, doing her “business,” riding in the car, or playing outside, she would always turn around to Heidi as if to say, “This is how I do it—you can do it, too!” Heidi watched and emulated everything Sheba did, and slowly she began to live a normal life—including using the outdoors for elimination. She learned to walk on a leash and even off-leash. She began to play, run after lizards, chase squirrels and even play with toys. There was less timidity and more energy; there was less fear and a lot of love expressed by a sweet, sweet dog. Heidi and Sheba became inseparable. Today, where Sheba goes, Heidi follows as her sidekick.

Seven years have passed since Heidi came into our home. Both dogs are showing signs of age; Sheba, being two years older, has more discernible issues. She is partially deaf, and her vision is going. It is now Heidi that is helping Sheba. While Sheba does not hear us enter a room or come home after being away, Heidi does. She will get up and go over to Sheba and wake her up, as if to say, “Hey, they’re home. Let’s go say, ‘Hello.’”  When Sheba’s vision prevents her from seeing, Heidi shows her the way.

While people say they are just dogs, I say that Sheba and Heidi have shown us great intelligence, patience and love. As is part of the cycle of life, children often become parents to their parents. This is true for Sheba and Heidi. As my husband and I are sporting a few signs of aging ourselves, seeing Sheba and Heidi care for each other reminds us of what love is all about.

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