It was a typical Saturday morning in Brooklyn. I was showering when my kids began knocking on the bathroom door, explaining that a pet adoption van was parked outside our building and, “Could we just go look? Pleeeeze?”
It had been a tough year. My then-9-year-old daughter Kate was diagnosed with a chronic disease. As a family, we were still adjusting to Kate’s condition and she was feeling pretty terrible, not to mention depressed, from her ailments. Her eyes lit up when I said yes, we could “just look.”
Among the various adorable dogs and puppies was one grungy, older chihuahua mix who had instantly bonded with Kate.
They were face-to-face the entire time, and my kids pleaded and begged collectively to bring her home. A half hour later, she was ours and we named her Hayley.
We had learned that Hayley had been abused, so much so, in fact, that she literally screamed in horror anytime any one of us picked up our hand to wave or scratch our heads. She also had a deep scar on the top of her head and what looked like healed-over cuts and scratches. Her fur needed serious grooming, and she was not housebroken.
We gave her a bath and a good meal and then immediately after, Kate took charge of Hayley’s issues. When she screeched, Kate comforted her. When she had an accident, Kate walked her to show her the proper potty place. When she just seemed nervous, Kate reassured her, “It’s OK, Hayley,” and followed up with multiple hugs and kisses.
While Hayley surely benefitted from Katelyn’s love, I learned first-hand that there is perhaps nothing better than taking care of a dog, and giving and receiving the unconditional love that only a pup can bring to a sick child (or adult). There was no better remedy for Kate than to care for this abused little dog.
Eight years later, they have helped each other very much to heal. Hayley no longer is afraid of us or anyone else.
In fact, she is the toughest dog I know, having been diagnosed with diabetes and Cushing’s disease over the past year and somehow remaining unabashedly happy. Kate and Hayley are closer than words could convey. It’s been said that we save dogs when we adopt them, but I think we often forget to consider how many dogs actually save us.
Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for more than 10 years. Sullivan also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Babbl