“Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them… And filling an emptiness we didn’t even know we had.” 

Committing to bring an older orphan into your home for 1 month can be a scary thing… for many reasons.  How will they act? How will we communicate?  How are they going to treat our family?  How will they connect with us?  How can we make them feel comfortable and safe?  It can be overwhelming and nearly impossible to really plan. 

It had been 24 hours since Sasha’s plan landed in the US and we were finally getting home.  His plane had arrived in Chicago on a Tuesday night and we had planned to make the 5 hour drive the whole way home, but the snow had gotten really bad and we had to stop and spend the night in the hotel.  The next morning Sasha got up very early, he was still stuck in old time zone ways, and we continued the drive back home.  He was good but very quiet.  We talked on and off in Russian, but I think he was still trying to make sense of everything… and I don’t blame him!

Once we got home, he really started to settle in.  He got to meet the rest of the family, move into his own room, and adjust to the time change.  But I think the thing that helped him most of all was our family dog, Pepper.  On that very first day at home, I heard him say his first English phrase “Come here Pepper” and my face and heart smiled.

Sasha took to Pepper so quickly.  He love to play with him… and try to trick him sometimes too.  He loved to give him treats, take him for walks, and just love on him.  He told me about the dogs at his orphanage, which he seemed to love as well.  But I know with him, and many other children like him, dogs are more than a fun pet.

Animals are not as socially complex as humans, tending instead to live in the moment.  Dogs, in particular, are forgiving and loving creatures that do not play the same mind games and dance the same confusing social dance as humans are so want to do. 

~ Dr. Gregory Keck, Parenting Adopted Adolescents

Sasha is a thoughtful, kind, empathetic kid… but he didn’t entirely come to us that way.  He came to us guarded, unsure of what to expect, naturally trying to protect himself.  He probably had just as many questions as we did.  How will these people treat me?  What will they do if I make a mistake?  How will they react if I make a poor choice on purpose?   How much do they really care about me?  What if they don’t like me?  What if they don’t love me?  Imagine the pressure…

But Sasha did not have to worry about any of that with our dog.  He knew he would be loved no matter what by Pepper.  Our playful and highly tolerant dog was always there to give Sasha attention, physical touch, and companionship.  I truly believe the bond that Sasha made with Pepper in those first moments at home helped to put Sasha at ease in our family.  The love he felt from Pepper and the love he showed back to Pepper opened the door for Sasha to share in our family’s love. 

Sasha was not a huge fan of taking pictures while we hosted him.  But towards the end of his time with us for hosting, he wanted to be sure to get photos of the special things from our home to take back with him.  Who was first? Pepper.  He wanted the picture to be perfect and he was no longer camera shy when he requested several shots with the dog until he he was happy with just the right one.

Trying & trying until it was just right!

Since we hosted Sasha and he returned back to his home country, we would often call him on the phone.  Nearly every time we talked with him on the phone, he asked how each member of the family was by name, including Pepper. 

Pepper turned 16 this year.  Over the past year or so, his brother and sister (from the same litter) passed away, so we knew his time was coming soon.  This summer, I told Sasha that Pepper was getting old and probably would die soon.  Sasha was so sad to hear this and insisted it couldn’t happen. 

Just this past week, Pepper had to be put down.  We have not gotten to tell Sasha yet.  In Pepper’s 16.5 years with our family, some of the best times were when Sasha was with us.  That little dog made all the difference in our hosting experience with Sasha and, I believe, in his life as well. 

Thank you little Pepper for leading the way and showing an orphan unconditional love in the purest form.  Thank you God for using a little animal to change in the life of a hurt boy and our family!

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Colossians 1:15-17 (NIV)

 

A little clip of S & Pepper on our first full day at home and 1 week later on Christmas
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