Sometimes, you can’t help. You simply don’t have time, or you’re already carrying too many responsibilities. Sometimes, if you try to juggle just one more burden, all the others will come crashing down. Sometimes when you see a need, you have to say “no.”
Let’s jump back in time. Not too far—just a few years, back to when Gaile was doing a structural inspection on a house in south Seattle. It was a house on Morgan Street that we were selling. During that inspection, Gaile heard something in the back yard, and when she investigated, she found a puppy. And that puppy needed help.
He was a little thing—eight weeks old at most. He looked like a little panda bear, complete with that iconic shape, innocent face, and black-and-white coloring. A very little panda bear. The dog was the size of a basketball, but a half-deflated basketball that had been thrown around and left in the bushes for a few months. A few days had passed, at least, since his last meal, and the dog was obviously sick. Runny eyes, malnutrition. And someone had wrapped a cable tight around his neck, where it was cutting into his skin.
Gaile’s heart broke.
But she knew she couldn’t help him. She and Johnine already had two dogs, and they all lived crammed into a tiny 700-square-foot apartment. They had no room for a third animal, and no guarantee that their own dogs would accept this newcomer, this sick panda bear basketball.
But Gaile could at least find someone else to help him. She took the abandoned puppy to the Rainier animal clinic, where, upon a quick inspection, they discovered that this dog had more issues than malnutrition and homelessness. The dog had an unbelievable number of health problems. Bad hips led the list. He would make an unlikely candidate for adoption.
Gaile called Johnine.
“We can’t take him,” Johnine said. “We don’t have room. We already have two dogs, and the second one was already a rescue. Someone else needs to help this one.”
Gaile knew Johnine was right. It would be too challenging to adopt a third dog—maybe even irresponsible. But they would not abandon this puppy. Johnine drove to the clinic, thinking up a list of potential homes for him. As soon as she saw him, the pitiful panda dog, she called Gaile.
“We’re keeping him,” Johnine said, and Gaile agreed.
They named him Bear. The dog looked so much like a panda that the name came easily. From the minute Bear entered their tiny apartment, Bear never left Gaile and Johnine’s side. He stuck so close that they never needed a leash.
“He knew we saved his life,” Johnine said.
Bear turned out to require even more help than they had expected. Those early health problems blossomed into full-blown disasters: Bear needed an operation for hip dysplasia, and he later developed a disease called megasophalysis (paralysis of the esophagus). Gaile or Johnine had to hold Bear whenever he ate so that, in lieu of a functioning esophagus, gravity would drop his food into his stomach. But the gals made the sacrifices happily, because it meant a better life for Bear.
“We called him the old soul,” Johnine said.
Bear lived for only two years. But those two years were safe and happy, and he spent them in a home filled with love.
Sometimes, you can handle more than you think you can. Sometimes, even though an extra burden is heavy and cumbersome, the reward is worth it. An inconvenient sacrifice is more manageable when it means saving a dog’s life.
We won’t fault anyone for turning down a responsibility that would jeopardize their other commitments, and we don’t expect people to do more than they are capable of. But when it comes to us, we tend to pick up more than we think we can carry. Because sometimes if we don’t, no one else will carry a panda bear basketball. We apply the same philosophy to other animals, to our clients, to nonprofits like MEOW Cat Rescue and Mary’s Place. Because if it means a lost puppy gains a good home, or a family finds their dream house, or a homeless shelter gives a mother and child a safe place to sleep—well, let’s just say we’ll keep on carrying a lot of extra responsibilities.