By Tracy Ahrens
so the little girl explained. She had asked her mother what love was and her mom had told her, “Love depends on the sighs of your heart. The more you love, the bigger the sighs! Every time you hold me I sigh,” the girl said. “When you and Daddy come home from work and hug each other you both sigh….When I first met Trucker he was 5 years old, had been abandoned at least four times, scolded over showing separation anxiety brought on by that abandonment and strongly sedated in order to not hurt himself by chewing out of chain-link cages while residing at a shelter.
From a distance I saw him in a bustling pet store during a Valentine’s Day adoption event. His vivid black and white markings drew many people to him, including me.
I sat down beside him and listened to a shelter volunteer tell his story. Other prospective adopters kept walking when they heard about his behavioral issues.
His eyelids drooping, sleepy from taking a daily sedative and Prozac, Trucker looked like he wanted to lie down, to be “home” for once, to be loved by one last person or family for the rest of his life.
Within minutes he sat on my lap while I sat cross-legged on the floor. His 55-pound body dropped like a fawn into a fern bed, sprawling across my legs. He rested his head over my left arm and spoke to me with a memorable deep sigh.
That sigh released fear, anxiety and most importantly, it told me, “I’m finally home.” He fell asleep there and I sat holding him for what seemed like eternity.
When I met Trucker, it had been two years since my previous dog passed away. I fostered two dogs during that time but was hesitant to bring one into my life permanently. My first dog had become an angel. Call it divine intervention, but Trucker was obviously surrounded by a fleet of angels. He had survived being tossed out of a semi cab as a puppy, was rescued, sold at a garage sale, disposed of during a divorce situation, reclaimed by one of the divorcees and returned again to a shelter because of his anxiety.
His sigh – that one deep sigh – is summed up in a tale titled “Sighs of the heart” (author unknown) that someone later shared with me by email.
In the story a woman has taken her young daughter to five different animal shelters over several weeks and the girl could not find the right dog to adopt. The child, her mom said, kept asking for a dog that was “Puppy size.”
Eventually the girl’s parents felt that she was being too particular in finding a dog. On the last day that her parents took her to a shelter to find a dog, the little girl held each small dog and kept saying, “Sorry you’re not the one.”
Then it happened. The little girl held a puppy close to her chest and shouted to her mom, “That’s it! I found the right puppy! He’s the one! I know it!”
Surprised, her mom asked, “How do you know?”
The little girl responded, “It’s the puppy sighs!”
Her mother pointed out that this little dog was the same size as many she had held before.
The little girl corrected her saying, “No, not size – sighs. When I held him in my arms he sighed.”
Her mom was confused, so the little girl explained. She had asked her mother what love was and her mom had told her, “Love depends on the sighs of your heart. The more you love, the bigger the sighs! Every time you hold me I sigh,” the girl said. “When you and Daddy come home from work and hug each other you both sigh. I knew I would find the right puppy if it sighed when I held it in my arms.”
Holding the puppy close to her face she said, “Mom, he loves me. I heard the sighs of his heart.”
Today when Trucker nests in a blanket beside me on my bed, he pacifies himself by licking his toes a bit, soaks up an ear massage until his head drops and – he sighs.
Every time, I smile. Every time, I tell him, “I love you, too.”
Once Trucker learned that I was returning home if I left for a while, that he wasn’t in trouble if he acted out with anxiety that he couldn’t control, and that I’d never abandon him, I was able to wean him off of the daily sedative and Prozac.
With the aid of an occasional sedative (during thunderstorms) and consistent behavioral training, Trucker has learned to find peace in my patience and devotion.
I’ve studied more deeply the poignant sighs from Trucker and my three cats.
A cat nestled in preparation for sleep, purrs and gurgles itself into a finale of a deep, toe-flexing sigh. Like a light switch flipped, the sigh unveils sleep.
For humans, deep breathing and stretching brings stress release. Dogs and cats find that same peace and relaxation with a sigh.
It’s an honor that Trucker chose to give me the sighs of his heart. And I pray that all of us take the time to see, feel and hear the heavenly sighs of pets around us.
Tracy Ahrens is a veteran journalist, author, artist and mom to three rescued cats and one dog. See her web site at www.tracyahrens.weebly.com and add her book, “Raising My Furry Children” to your collection, www.raisingmyfurrychildren.weebly.com