Every being is a gift. But not all gifts are created equal.
There are some who walk this earth - on two legs and on four - that touch us more than others. They leave an imprint that the tides of time just can’t wash away.
If it sounds like I play favorites, you’re right.
Meeting Joy three years ago was a game changer for me. You see, Joy helped me excise one of those little prejudices that once lived behind my eyes. One that I had outwardly transcended but inwardly harbored.
Joy did not dazzle me with logic, statistics or other flawless forensics. It was the way she leaned into the hug of a gentle toddler and flopped playfully on her back when her sister, Roxy, waddled by. Mostly, it was that silly grin - minus 1/2 of her lower left canine tooth - that won me over.
Joy was a blue-grey hug-a-bear of a pit bull.
Yup, Joy was one of those dogs that I’d publicly “accepted” but would shudder to live next door to. Except, this pit was persuasive without words - a lumbering giant with the softest strides that left the deepest footprints.
Amazing considering her past.
Just over three years ago, Joy was rescued from the dog-fighting trade. If having been used as bait was not bad enough, she carried a basketball-sized tumor on her right flank. The operation to remove the tumor nearly killed her and left her with marked paresis (weakness) in her hind limbs.
Enter my dear friend, Jana, who stepped up and took in a girl many would consider broken and unadoptable. With love, time, physical therapy and Roxy’s pesky prodding, Joy spun around on her butt, stood, staggered and dragged her weaker foot behind her until she showed her adoptive mama and all their friends that she was a tour de force.
Since then, other tumors erupted and subsided. She lost a divot of ear to a lesion. Through it all, Joy’s joy remained unflappable. A year and a half ago, Joy and Roxie and Jana shunned the big city for the wide open spaces where everyone flourished . . . until news broke a couple of months ago that Joy’s latest bout with cancer would be her last. Not the last that anyone wanted.
Friends were urged to come by soon for final cuddles. I had arranged with Jana to drop by, but an unforeseen tragedy preempted this plan. On the first day of spring Joy passed peacefully at home, enveloped in her mama’s arms.
Joy may have left this world, but she was not a “loser” to disease. Rather, she was a winner who converted scores of skeptics to the camp that believes that no dog breed is inherently vicious. That distinction belongs to us humans who are well-versed in cruelty.
“Joy was not the poster child for Pits,” Jana said, “but for her to have kept her sweet, loving disposition after coming out of the fighting ring - we humans could borrow from that example.”
I love you, Joy, for showing me how tender strength can be.
And for cutting a cancer out of my heart without leaving a scar.