Today was a special day for me and for my dog Ahnung. It was in the fall of 2008 when we had our first experience volunteering at The Lab working one on one with a very special young man. It was that experience that opened my heart up to the healing that can take place simply by the presence of Ahnung. It was our weekly meetings with this young man, playing word games and just hanging out that taught me that simply being there and creating a loving, accepting space was the best medicine possible. I don't know who went through more transformation, growth or healing in those weeks -- ahnung, me, the young man? Maybe all of us?
Well, it's been almost a year since we've seen this young man. It's because of him that Ahnung and I are doing the work we are doing with animal therapy and volunteering at The Lab. Today was a special day because we had the chance to see him again for a small group. Today I saw connection at a deep level. For some reason, today felt different for me, and I think for Ahnung as well. I remember the trust dance that Ahnung and "R" went through when they first met. Ahnung had just been rescued … the memories of neglect and hardship probably still so fresh for her. Both wanted to open up; both wanted to trust. But the dance took weeks as they each took their time to find a way to connect with each other. My role back then was simple – to provide a safe space, for both Ahnung and “R.”
Today, the trust was almost instantaneous. They connected. They bonded. They spoke with their eyes. Magic.
Today, I had a chance to say "thank you" to this young man. Today, I received the biggest thank you in return as I watched him look with pride at the photos taped on the walls of him with Ahnung in 2008 and witnessed connection at the deepest level. He asked if he could have a copy of those photos. I promised him I would bring one next week. Meanwhile, I asked if he wanted a photo of Ahnung -- I had 3 he could pick from. He picked one and as I turned away, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him pull ahnung's photo up to his chest and pause momentarily before he placed Ahnung's photo in his pocket.
Trust. We spent time today talking about trust. Truth is ... there's not much to say when you feel it in your gut and you witness it in the actions of a young man and his trusted companion. Ahnung is an ojibway word that means star. There's a reason she left the reservation in the fall of 2008. Her purpose is to heal wounded spirits. Her purpose is to light up the night skies - to help us find our way. She's touched and healed so many since then. I know for a fact that she continues to heal my spirit ... and in the process builds bridges for me to connect with youth who, like me, have had wounded spirits.
Miigwech Ahnung. Miigwech "R". Thank you.