Thursday, August 06, 2009

Harley. The Dog with a Purpose

Most of you may remember that fateful day last summer, almost exactly a year ago, when I announced to all of blogdom that we acquired a Harley.

Little did you all know that it was a 100 pound, brown, slobbery beast of a Chocolate Lab!

For the last year Harley has been the source of many emotions in our family. Many of them un-Christian like on my behalf. He chewed my new-to-me love seat, broke our back window, pulled out trash, slept on furniture, contributed about a 1000 pounds of dog poop to our back yard, shed about 2000 pounds of hair through my house, got me in trouble with neighbors for his barking, took food from the table and most recently managed to pull down the sheers on my windows in my family room. To say the dog caused me great deals of stress is a severe understatement.

On the other hand, he has the most amazing, pitiful brown eyes I have ever seen on a dog, he turned into a wonderful playmate for the girls (aside from knocking Hope and Charlotte over on a regular basis), he was voted top of his class in his obedience training and turned out to be a decent guard dog.

But he was just too much.

Our 1950 square foot house just wasn't big enough for 2 adults, 5 kids, 2 dogs and 2 cats. Especially when one of the dog weighed more than 3 of my children put together!

Needless to say, I have been on a quest for some time to find Harley a more suitable home. Some people told me to take him to the shelter ~ that somebody would surely take him. Even though I didn't feel right about it, I let Monk take him to the shelter one time and they told him they didn't have room and they would take Harley straight to the back and euthanize him!!! Monk brought him back home.

I finally decided to put Harley on Craig's List. Surely somebody would want this dog. I put my first ad out a few weeks ago and I received 3 emails, ALL of which were families desperate to have him as their pet! The first family sounded WONDERFUL! They had 4 children, all 5 and older, 10 acres of land for him to run on, a pond for him to swim in... and then they fell through. The second and third people fell through as well.

So this past week I put him back on Craig's List. Two days of nothin'. At one point I questioned as to whether God was testing me in my patience through Harley. I figured that somehow this dog was going to be used to begin a good work in me. Or kill me. Then it came.

The email.

Not just any email though. It was someone interested in Harley, but not just as a pet. This person had a 12 year old son who had gone through a kidney transplant at 4 years old and had Asperger's Syndrome. They were looking for a dog that could be trained to be a service dog for him. The mother had been told that Labs were highly trainable and very good service dogs and then proceeded to ask me what Harley's rehoming fee was. They were trying to save money to be able to afford the training once they had found a dog.

I was floored. I read the email to Monk and after a very brief discussion we decided that there was no way we could sell Harley to these people. We were going to give him to them. I contacted the mom via email and prayed she hadn't already found another dog. The next morning (this past Saturday) she called me.

She was overwhelmed that we would give Harley to them and said she had been praying for a dog for her son Tyler for 2 months. She had planned on spending that Saturday going to shelters trying to find a dog that would work for them. But on Friday evening she happened to get on Craig's List. Coincidence? I think not. She told me that before they could consider him they needed to let the trainer work with him to see if he was a good fit. I agreed to meet them at a local park so their trainer could look Harley over, work with him and see if he could indeed be trained.

So, I loaded Harley into Phil the Suburban and off we went. We had a short meet and greet before I handed Harley over and assumed my position in the truck (I couldn't let him see me otherwise I would be a distraction). I watched the trainer tug at his hears, his tail, generally mess with him to see if he was aggressive. He wasn't, of course.

He's a lover not a fighter, you know.

Anyway, they needed some treats for him to see if they could get him to obey some simple commands so I volunteered to run and grab some. When I returned, the trainer's husband had been playing fetch with Harley while he was on a 25 foot leash. Harley was LOVING it! I handed over the treats and reassumed my position in Phil (the air conditioning was much better than the sweltering heat). I watched as Harley did all sorts of stuff for treats. That dog will do anything for food. He and Monk are a lot alike in that regard.

Then I watched as he laid down in the shade; happy, exhausted and full of liver treats. The next thing that happened took me totally by surprise though. I watched this little 12 year old boy lay down on the cement next to my dog. I watched him lay there and pet Harley and talk to him and then I watched him lay his head on Harley. And Harley let him.

And then I did what I'm doing now. I cried.

After a few more minutes they motioned for me to get out of the truck to come and talk to them. When I walked over, the exact words that were used were, "you have an amazing dog". All the stupid things Harley had done over the past year just melted away and all of a sudden I was proud of that great, big, slobbery beast. Then that sweet little boy came over to me, hugged me tight around my waist and said,

"Thank you for giving me your dog."

(If you didn't cry before I do believe you are crying right about now, right?)

I wanted to bust into the Ugly Cry right then and there, y'all. That little boy needed our dog. Our Harley was really smart and he held a greater purpose to his life other than sneaking pizza crusts off of our table and sleeping on the furniture at night. We tolerated his shenanigans for a whole year so he could move onto greater things. A service dog.

We turned Harley over to this lovely family later that evening. Grace and Liv seemed at peace with all of it and even went with us to drop Harley off. Maddie, on the other hand, wouldn't speak to me.

Tyler was SO excited! Harley galloped all over their yard, was terrorized by their other dog ~ a little "snack-size" dog as we like to call them ~ and then he christened their yard with his first of many poops. Good times, y'all. We left knowing that somehow, our dog was going to help this little boy's life. That was a good feeling.

Later that night, after everyone had gone to bed, I sat on our love seat and cried. Not just cried ~ I sobbed great big heaving sobs. Over a dog that had tormented me for almost a year. I questioned as to whether we had done the right thing, had I given away my children's pet for my own selfish reasons, was Harley truly going to be happy as a service dog ~ oh y'all... I was a Perfect. Mess.

Through the wisdom and encouragement of some very sweet friends, I realized that yes, we had done the right thing. Dogs like Harley needed a purpose. They are working dogs. Natural protectors. Harley, who has ALWAYS needed a lot of attention, will eventually be going to school with Tyler, into restaurants with him (now THAT I have to see!), to the mall with him ~ he will, in fact, be the center of attention. Saturday I learned that Harley was not just smart, but really smart. And with the proper training, which Monk and I could never provide, he's going to be an amazing dog some day.

But essentially, it goes beyond that. It goes back to that little boy. That little boy Tyler, will have a companion in Harley. Something a lot of children with Asperger's don't often have. He will have a friend 24/7 that will look out for him and never treat him poorly. He will have someone to sleep with him and to play with him and to always keep him company. Amazing.

Who knew.

Harley. The Dog with a Purpose.

We're gonna miss you, buddy. But we know you're moving on to do greater things.






Sgt and Mrs Hub said...

What an amazing answer to prayer...for you, the other mother, and the little boy.

God created Harley for this special purpose!


Elisabeth Carol said...

Awwww. As much as I never liked harley and almost killed him, this post sorta makes me want to hug him right now. :( lol

tad said...

The Lord (sniff, sniff) works in amazing ways!! What an awesome new beginning for Harley and the little boy!! Great Pics.

Love Sis T.

Andrea said...

I read your blog all the time, don't know you, but you have the ability to make me laugh out loud! Anybody who can do that is at the top of my list. Thanks to much for sharing this story; you're right, he just looks "slobbery". I am a huge dog lover, and have a few dog stories of my own that are on the point of miraculous.
Yes, I was crying at all the places you said I would.
Oh, LOVE you photography! If I lived closer, was young enough to be producing babies, I'd call you in a heartbeat.

Anonymous said...

Oohh. God's amazingly engineered appointments (some folk call them coincidences) never cease to amaze me! Mel

Crystal said...


I found this story on my twitter feed. Glad I did. You did an amazing thing, a VERY memorable & honorable act of kindness. The Lord DOES work in mysterious ways. I feel blessed & happy to have found this touching story to read so early in the morn, a good way to start my day & count my blessings, THANK YOU! I have 3 girls, too. My oldest is 9 & has had 3 open heart operations before she was 3.5 yrs old. My 5 yr old is healthy & my 17 mos. old daughter is on dialysis nightly at home. She is awaiting an appt. right now to begin the testing process to be able to get a kidney mother-in-law is donating her kidney. I have no experience w/Asperger's, but have heard & read about it on several occasions. Most dogs only get one family to love them....Harley has 2. A blessing to both!

SAHMommy to Madison (9, HLHS), Natalie (5, healthy), Neveah (1, renal dysplasia/multicystic kidneys) & 1 angel (m/c on 11/15/08)

Sarah R said...

Dang it, you're making me cry. Good thing I work from home and no one can see me hocking back snot bubbles. As the mom of an autistic child, you done good, my friend. You done good.

Jill said...

As the mom of another autistic child (and your old roomie), I KNEW you would know you did the right thing. Harley will bring much joy to his new family, and you will be blessed for your sacrifice. Thanks for doing this selfless thing.(pass that on especially to your girls)

Angela said...

Bless the beasts and the children.

Hilary said...

That's so cool!! Thankyou for the cry!! Good luck out there Harley God Bless you and Tyler :)

Meghan said...

OH my GOODNESS!! My little....i mean...HUGEEEE harley, has a purpose! Harley, we have been through thick and thin boy! Michelle, this just makes me happy! And HOLY CRAP, he has gotten huge since he occupied my room over a year ago! This just made me a sappy little marshmallow for him! Who knew I would one day say I missed him! Lol Oh and that picture of hope and harley...adoooooooorable!

Mr. and Mrs. PACman said...

What a beautiful story! Should have come with a disclaimer, though...I can't quit crying!!!