Simple graces that reside within us all, and can make a difference to everyone we come in contact with.
No matter how many legs they stand upon.
For most, and for some unfortunate reason, these graces pass us by without notice. In those cases, we are so much less for not having been touched by their incomparable promise and power.
But if we pay attention, if we listen to the voices deep within our soul, we can be lucky enough to capture the essence of these graces, and maybe, just maybe, change a single life.
Luckier are we if our words and deeds have the power to change the lives of more than one life.
Human, or otherwise.
Allow me to share with you a story about a few of these graces and that power.
This is a story that captivated me, refused to allow me to just pass it by, and had me coming back for more. One that beckoned to me, to ensure was told in order to be repeated many times over. A tale that will leave it’s mark now, and for future generations that repeat it.
One that will always speak perfectly to those graces of which I speak.
The integrity of a person facing a choice they never expected to make. The responsibility this person showed when urged to make what for some was an obvious choice. The simple level of leadership exhibited to a child and those around her.
And more than a little love.
To be fair, at the core of this story is indeed a “little” love. Little in size, but not in emotional power and courage we could all use a dose of.
I am a visitor to a Facebook page called “Beagles Rule!” As you might expect, it’s all about those baying, barking balls of bouncy canine bemusement. I wandered into the page one evening as the Daddy of a wonderful little redheaded beagle girl named Bailey, for no other reason than to share a few pictures of our amazing little lady with the rest of the world.
In the midst of so much turmoil, chaos and discourse around us all at the moment, “Beagles Rule!” became my safe and quiet place. A social media sanctuary.
Peals of laughter with videos of beagles doing things only beagles can do. Smiles at the wonderful pictures of people and their furry kids. Sadness when reading from those poring their hearts into textual messages of loss when their companions were taken from them by time and circumstances beyond any mortal control.
And then popped up the story of one little beagle. One woman determined to make that fuzzy denizen part of her family. And the potential for incredible sadness that could have ruled the day, leaving us to question yet again why the Universe leaves behind moments of such despair.
Instead, it grew into a lifetime potential, proving what it means to be truly human when touched by those simple graces.
Our focus begins with, of course, a beagle. Born March 2 2012 to a man who raised hunting dogs in a little town called Goulds, not far from St. Johns in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. It’s just about as far east as you can get on the North American continent, with a population of about 12,000. Often a cold and unforgiving place where life and realities can be harder than most of us could possibly imagine.
Around the same time, Newfoundland native Angela Squires made the decision that she wanted to add a beagle puppy to her family. And she was very specific that it had to be a female beagle.
At 32 years of age, Angela had a 15 year old daughter. This canine companion would make it a trio of ladies in their home, and for those who know beagles, add a new and unique dimension to that residence.
Oh my friend, if you are only lucky enough to know of what I speak. There is nothing quite like the big-eyed, tail wagging love of a female beagle, and nothing to compare with what they add to a family while nestling permanently in your heart.
When told there was a female in the litter, Angela made the call. That little puppy was hers. Sight unseen. Something of a daring move, fraught with what might make some people be less certain of making a commitment. After all, no one knew the condition of the pup because the litter owner said he wasn’t going to get involved in their growing stages, and wouldn’t know much about their condition until they were ready to join the world on their own.
In most cases such as these, there is nothing to fear or be overtly concerned about. Millions of puppies, just like people, come into the world every day with no worries or issues.
We never expect what Mother Nature might have in store to test us in ways we never imagined.
On April 28, Angela’s mother got the call to pick up the newest member of the family.
But something wasn’t right.
The man offered her one of the male puppies. You see, there was a possible issue with that one female puppy.
The man warned Mom and Angela many times since first contact that, in his opinion, the female puppy could be blind. On that day, he confirmed those fears, and told Mom that her daughter would be better off with a male puppy who could see. After all, the man obviously figured, who would want a blind puppy?
Angela Squires. That’s who.
When Mom arrived with the new pup, it didn’t take long for Angela to discover the truth. The puppy wasn’t only blind. She came into this world with no eyes.
Only sockets. “No globes”, as the vet would later tell her.
One can only imagine how for a moment, Angela’s heart sank, forced to face what for many would be a difficult and emotional choice.
Looking into the eyes of a dog is a miraculous thing. When you connect with them, you find yourself looking into such an innocent soul, and in turn, they use those ears, that tail, and those eyes to reach deep for their own connection. Perhaps, the poets might have us believe, looking into and placing a well-meaning paw on our own soul.
Yes, there are those who say dog have no souls. But those who love them can attest to the bond that begins at what can only emanate from the soul.
Those eyes taking in a new world with every day, looking back at us for affirmation and a smile. Those wonderful expressions they make with the furrowing of a brow and the raised ears, again seeking to elicit an emotional attachment they witness and react to.
For this pup, there would be no smiles to be seen. No visual cues to make that tail wag with delight. No deep sighted connection with any human or any animal.
All she had ever known, and would know, would be complete darkness. No light, not even a sliver for her senses to latch on to. Some would call it cruel, and perhaps a reason for her not to exist in a world that depends so much on sight for life and connection. And there were those who hinted to Angela that perhaps it would be more humane to release this puppy from what they could only imagine would be a horrible and difficult life.
Thoughts that never once crossed Angela’s mind.
This was the little girl she wanted in her family. This was the new creation she promised to others, and to herself, that she would make a part of her life.
On that day, Squints the beagle was home.
Angela had to obviously make accommodations in raising Squints. Staying close to hear her when nature called. Keep all those nasty cords and such out of her way to avoid injuries. And Squints wasn’t able to play with other dogs because she simply couldn’t see them. To her it was something big and scary surrounding her, a dark and invisible monster for which she had no reference.
As any parent would with any child, Angela resolved to ensure the monsters would never touch nor hurt her little girl.
Even when Angela moved into a different home, her beagle bundle quickly adapted. Thanks to that wonderful beagle nose and keen hearing, there were a few bumps here and there, but nothing “Squints” couldn’t handle.
When the family moved in a new home, Squints took less than a day to settle in. There were people on the floor above, and when she detected noises, she “stared” at the ceiling to ascertain what was there. When a baby in a nearby apartment cried, Squints would let out a soft whine in empathy. And when the beagle who lived upstairs, indeed another beagle, barked, Squints would bark right back.
Those senses are truly an amazing thing about beagles. Especially their heightened sense of smell.
That darned nose of theirs gets them into more trouble than you might imagine. Our Bailey can sniff out animals and things she wants to get involved in yards away, sometimes well down and across the street. She puts her nose to the ground, her tail up, and off she goes. For Squints, it’s much the same. The inquisitive nature of a beagle can not and will never be contained. It’s what makes them so lovable.
It can also be dangerous, and potentially heartbreaking.
Angela allowed Squints to stay outside on a tethered line, like many owners do. The dog has those wonderful senses and can revel in the warmth of the sun, feel the cold air on her fur and sniff the air for critters and such. It’s her short and likely welcome moments of freedom, just being another dog.
But one day recently, Angela went outside to fetch Squints, and was confronted with her darkest fear.
The line had broken. Squints was gone.
It is, at that moment for those of us who love our animals as kids, where all the senses kick in. Where emotions take over, and have the capacity to make us irrational in our thinking. It is a moment of fear that no parent ever wants to face.
In that split second, we are faced with the shock that we may never see our kids again. 2-legged or 4-legged, the emotion and the alarms bells that go off are exactly the same.
Her eyes clouded with tears, Angela ran into the house and told her daughter and boyfriend what happened. Of course there were calls to “stay calm”, but we all know the reality of such admonitions. It’s a call at least difficult and at most, nearly impossible to heed. In what has been a ritual for every pet owner this has ever happened to, you bolt for the street, the fields, the forest, and frantically go in search of your missing “kid”.
It happened to me once with Magnus, the younger Norwegian Elkhound brother to our little beagle belle “Bailey”. Until I found him chasing ducks a few hundred yards away in a canal, I was the textbook definition of panic and concern. A grown man had been reduced to emotional ashes asking every neighbor for help, not knowing which way to turn or what to do next. One of the first things that struck me is what I will wager throbs in the mind of every animal Mom and Dad when this moment occurs.
I will never forgive myself if he’s gone. I will never forgive myself for not doing a better job in caring for my boy.
I failed to be responsible for the life I chose to protect.
I’ll wager Angela felt the same thing.
However, as with the human kids we love, we sometimes are forced to consider that watching over us and our puppies is a guiding light. Call it God, Mother Nature, simple unheard of luck, makes no difference what you attribute it to. It becomes the logical reason for the manner with which certain things happen the way they do.
It turns out Squints, not knowing she was loose but merely following her wonderful nose and the sounds around her, heard kids playing in the yard next door and found her way to them. The kids held tight to her leash, perhaps not aware Squints had found warmth, a happy soul, and a human touch to keep her company in the darkness.
As with the emotion of the moment when a dog goes missing, there is nothing to compare with the relief and the love that floods the mind and soul when reunited. I’ll tell you that in the case of Magnus, it brought me to tears of joy.
I’ll wager the same thing happened to Angela.
Since then and all days, Angela admits that every moment with Squints has been a learning curve with no real guidelines. There are moments where this little beagle is just like any other happy dog. Playing with toys, getting into fights with siblings, in this case the cat and having to remove pieces of cat’s claw from Squints fur every now and then, keeping her occupied and exercised.
Or just snuggling on the couch, as that beagle ball of fur curls up and becomes one with cushions and human.
Just like any other beagle. Just as we would treat our human kids that are challenged by things out of their control. We adjust. We make the time to do more than other parents or guardians would do. We understand the life we are in charge of, and what it means to care for them.
We love. Unconditionally. Without question. And it comes back to us in ways we never expect.
As I put this piece to bed, I check on the Facebook page where Angela posted a picture of Squints and where I first became aware of their story. Almost 300 encouraging and friendly comments, and more than thirteen hundred “Likes” from around the world. A wonderful and compassionate outpouring of love and affection for a now 5 year old Beagle who doesn’t know anything about being “special”.
She’s merely loved by a Mom, and a family. Just like any other kid, furry or otherwise.
Angela Squires is indeed special. She is the epitome of what I travel the country and talk to groups of all sizes about.
Responsibility. Integrity. Leadership.
She didn’t have to accept that blind puppy as her own, no matter the promise. She could have just as easily turned it away and went elsewhere for a dog with no issues. She could have listened to the callous words of others who said “why not just drown her at birth”, because that would be in their minds the “right thing to do”.
She made a promise and had the integrity to stand by it. She knew the risks and the issues at hand, yet opened her arms and her heart to a fuzzy little girl who had never seen a smile and never will.
At least, not a smile as we know it. For there is no doubt Squints knows the sound of a smile as it crosses someone’s lips. She feels the warmth of love and compassion from those around her. And in her mind, everything is exactly as it should be.
Which is why there is no need to feel sorry for Squints. Darkness is all she has ever known. She has no reference point for anything visual. And as some would lead us to believe that all intelligent creatures dream, we can only hope that somewhere in the recesses of her mind, there are shapes, colors, and perhaps even glimpses of…something…that pop up when the wafting aroma of dinner comes around, a loving hand comes close to stroke her back, and the sounds of those kids drifts into her ears.
She is as content as any living creature would be in their environment. To make up for what we understand as loss, she has a loving family. Led by a Mom who could never give up on her because, simply, that’s the kind of person she is.
Someone to be admired for just doing the right thing.
The “human” thing.
We all make so many promises to ourselves and others every day. Most of us believe in our commitment to carry out those promises, but we sadly and more often than we care to admit, fall far short in our vow.
We are, after all, only human.
But when faced with those small moments, the ones that can change a life forever, the ones that make us much more than just another person floating about our very, very short time allowed, we have the opportunity to show those values are more than just syllables strung together.
We have the integrity of our words. The responsibility in sticking to those words. The leadership that shines through adversity without a single verbal utterance, often by deed alone.
When we add that small dash of love and compassion to the mix, we see ourselves become something much more. We see ourselves turning darkness into light for those we touch. We see ourselves grow to become a better person, without what seems to be any effort at all.
And we allow those around us to see the promise of life, and the understanding that comes with it.
Thank you for living up to your convictions and your responsibility, making a difference in my life and that of many others.
Thank you for showing your human daughter Chanté that a promise is just that, a rock solid affirmation of something we will do for all the right reasons. And providing her someone that she will always look up to.
Thank you especially for giving us the chance to meet Squints.
In one of our communications, Angela told me “I would be lost without (Squints) and her without me”.
Those of us who now know your story can never truly be lost, Angela. We have been touched by your integrity, your responsibility, and your leadership in making a promise, then standing by it, no matter the obstacles.
So howl away, you magnificent little beagle girl. Keep that nose down and that tail up. Spend the rest of your life seeking fun, nestled in the arms of your family, facing the wonder of discovering each new day. ??Thanks to that one person who kept a vow made before you were born. A vow to you, to herself, and to those around her.
Recognizing, and accepting, those simple graces that do indeed reside within us all.
And do indeed change lives.