April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month. As a national first responder to animal cruelty situations for American Humane’s Rescue Team, this month is especially meaningful to me. I reflect on the cruelty and heartbreak my team has witnessed over the years, but I also reflect on the hope and the joy we have witnessed when looking into the eyes of abused animals experiencing love, comfort and shelter for the first time. April is also uniquely special to me because it marks another year with my “heart dog,” Reeba, a cruelty survivor herself.
We have all heard the term “heart dog.” A heart dog is your soulmate – your soul’s true counterpart and forever a part of your emotional existence. You evolve with each other and shape who you are and who you become. I have deeply loved each of the many dogs I have shared my life with. They have all left permanent marks on my soul and guided me along my path. But the connection with a heart dog is once in a lifetime, and is a deep, almost inexplicable soul connection.
My journey with my heart dog, Reeba, started in April 2014. I was volunteering at a “high kill” animal shelter in South Florida. While making my rounds walking shelter dogs, I saw a sight that took the breath out of me. Reeba was cowering in her kennel, trembling, emaciated and covered in cigarette burns and scars. The veterinarian said her multiple missing teeth were due to being so hungry that she began eating rocks, trying desperately to survive. She was heartworm positive, terrified and completely heartbroken. The day Reeba was slated for euthanasia due to her condition, I made the unexpected decision to adopt her, and that is where our story begins.
Despite the suffering Reeba had faced, she trusted me with her entire heart and soul. Over the past six years, she has helped raise countless foster kittens, has shown unrelenting patience for bothersome foster puppies, and has never, ever left my side through life’s ups and downs and darkest moments. Nothing will ever reach the deepest parts of my soul like her silent, gentle presence.
Reeba’s purity and unwavering love and devotion fuels me to give everything I have into rescuing animals, who, like Reeba, have often experienced unrelenting suffering, but still trust and love without hesitation.
Dogs are the best of who we can be. I invite you to reflect on your “heart dog” and just how blessed we are to have the incredible opportunity to share this inexplicable soul connection with another being. Although April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month, every day of the year is an important opportunity to be a voice for the voiceless and spread the message of compassion to animals across the world.