I finally got done with the exams for my International certification. The examination lasted four long days. But one aspect of it all stood out for me – the practical exam. It was for us to demonstrate that we were able to approach nervous, unknown dogs without stressing them out. We did this exercise in a shelter, taking the opportunity to give them Christmas gifts. It was the most gratifying way to complete an examination.
All kinds of things made for gifts. We got old clothes, tore them into strips and braided them, turning them into toys. The tube inside toilet paper rolls were made into toys by stuffing them with treats and crimping the edges. I took the top off small green coconuts and stuffed treats in them. There were several new and old dog toys too. We even had tree twigs.
The shelter gave us an idea of the number of dogs in there. We packed more boxes than the dogs so that every dog in the shelter got a gift. The boxes were packed to the brim with gifts, including a blanket, and we sprinkled treats to make it more interesting. And, of course, all the boxes were wrapped in gift paper.
At the shelter we first toured the facility and met all the dogs. While they all looked well-cared-for, like most shelter dogs, they did not look very happy. They looked detected and sad. It broke our hearts to see them like that, but things were about to change in a jiffy.
We approached the kennel carefully, making sure never to walk directly towards the kennel. We spoke gently to the dogs, never making eye contact and moving as slowly as we could. If any dog showed the slightest sign of nervousness, we just froze, progressing only after the dog relaxed. Finally we gave a box to each dog, taking care not to bend over the dog at any point.
I had a very lovely experience with a pit bull mix – Telly. She gently pulled out one gift after the other. She took each gift to her bed and examined it closely. She gave it due attention, then came back to the box to look for the next gift to pick up. Every once in a while she came up to lick me in the face and then went back to her gifts. After spending as much time as I was allowed to spend with her, I left her behind with her gifts. I came back a few minutes later to say one last goodbye and there she was holding a stuffed porcupine in her mouth and wagging her tail hard.
All of us, irrespective of how rich or poor we are, love to get gifts – a source of joy. Dogs deserve it too. They do know how to appreciate it. If you find that hard to believe, try gifting your dog a box and see his joy. Once you are done with that, gift another box to a street dog. All dogs deserve joy and this is the season for just that.