We are about one hour west of El Paso. It’s mid-day on New Year’s Eve. The van is filled with 16 Mexican rescue dogs, myself, my husband Moncho, and an all too familiar odor of….well, let’s just say the odor of rescue itself.
We roll up to an immigration check point on highway 10 West.
We stop. The formally dressed US border patrol officer asks us to roll down the window. He takes a slow, apprehensive survey of our van, ourselves, and the dogs then asks “Are you all US Citizens?”
As the window lowers, a generous gust of ‘Eau de Rescate’ silently assaults the officer as I find myself replying “Yes, yes, all of us”.
He pauses. Takes a big breath in. Makes eye contact with me for a moment with a quizzical look that borderlines on a smile, then waves us on.
There have been many, many checkpoints and obstacles to overcome before this moment in time for these dogs, who are being rescued from Juarez, Mexico to northern California on New Year’s Eve.
The odds have not been in their favor. These dogs were born homeless in Juarez. They have endured starvation, disease, in many cases abuse, and in every instance they have gone face to face with a virtually dismal future that held almost no chance of happiness. And, yet, here they were – now US Citizens, in a van, headed toward the good life.
There have been numerous research studies on all different sorts of people, in a variety of circumstances, tragedy vs stroke of luck, extreme loss versus incredible good fortune, that have all found that, by and large, happiness is dictated only 10% by what happens to us in life and that 90% of our overall happiness depends on us, how we react to it.
I have thought about that a lot. Both as it relates to my own happiness and life, and how I can see it playing out for those around me. It seems what the research has proven is very clear if you look around you. Happiness is not so much dictated by what we have, what we are faced with, but, rather, by us ourselves. You have an internal regulation that will eventually balance back out no matter what happens. There are ways to reset that overall level of happiness, but they are not external, they depend entirely on you.
I cannot say, however, that same credo holds true when you pass into the animal realm. Dogs, it seems, have the inverse ratio. For them. happiness does depend almost entirely on the circumstances life throws them. What that means is when those circumstances change dogs have the unique ability to completely transform.
Take Don Pepe. This sweet boy was absolutely terrified when first rescued, matted and starving on the street. He was miserable. But now, just a few months later, he is a different dog. Joyful, outgoing, playful and pretty much carefree. His situation changed and so has he.
Not to mention Santino. This ruggedly handsome, gentle boy was found after being severely beaten on the streets of Meico. But, you’d never know it today. True, he has some residual physical scars, however, emotionally, he is intact and fully healed. He is truly one of the most magnetic, loving animals you’ll ever meet; melting right into you as he approaches, tucking his head into your chest. Absolute love.
This resilience, this ability to overcome such tragic circumstances and still go on to love so freely, enjoy life so deeply, completely transform once given the chance – this is what makes rescue work so rewarding.
Or sweet Concho. Many of you have followed his story and understand how rough he had it living on the streets of Juarez. This dog was absolutely shut down, emotionally and physically when first rescued. He was barely alive.
Again, his rescue has not only saved his life, it saved his spirit. He is a new dog. Like a fresh brand new soul. He is goofy and happy. Inquisitive and sweet.
This, in fact, is the very reason why when I follow my heart, I end up spending New Years eve in a van with a dozen and a half Mexican street dogs, my husband and vast expanses of open highway miles that cross national borders and multiple statelines.
Unlike us, these dogs don’t need to look within to find their happiness, they just need a shot at a life worth living.
Now? Let’s go save a whole lot more.