As unusual as this may sound, when I think of resiliency and overcoming adversity, my thoughts turn to a dog. The dog’s name is Curley. Curley was a pit bull and Curley was my pet and a faithful companion for about seven years.
I found Curley at a no-kill animal shelter in Delaware. I was struck when the volunteers at the shelter told me Curley’s story. Curley was owned by a group of drug dealers in Wilmington, Delaware who also were into dogfighting. Since Curley was a female, these thugs did not use Curley to fight. Instead, they had two other uses for Curley. First, they used her as a bait dog. They would tie Curley down, and cut her face to make her bleed. Then they would have their male pit bulls attack her mercilessly. They also used Curley for breeding in the most harmful way, like a puppy mill mass-producing pit bulls to be trained as fighting dogs. These dog fighters would force Curley to give birth to litter after litter with no regard for her well-being.
Curley had a miserable life, and this went on for five years. Over this period of sustained suffering, Curley developed what could be described as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a significant issue with a number of military personnel who experienced difficult deployments. Law enforcement officers and other first responders also are subject to PTSD.
A Good Samaritan
Finally, one day a good Samaritan noticed how Curley was being treated and offered the drug dealers a hefty amount of money to pay for Curley’s release. It was an offer they could not refuse. Once freed, the good Samaritan turned over Curley to the no-kill shelter where I found her, and she had been living at the shelter for about a year when I came along.
Curley was a broken dog. She had many psychological problems and behavioral issues. She could not be around another dog. If face-to-face with another dog, Curley would immediately go into attack mode. Curley had a great deal of anxiety. The veterinarian had her on a daily dose of Prozac. Amazingly, even with these issues, Curley was the most loving dog to people. I found this hard to believe based on the way she had been treated by people – those drug dealers.
Curley was indeed a special needs dog. We had to ensure she received her daily Prozac the veterinarian prescribed. She could never be near other dogs. She had to be treated with constant love and attention. However, the loyalty and love that Curley gave back to the relationship were well worth the extra care she required.
During this period, I served full time with the Pennsylvania National Guard. The Army National Guard placed a great deal of emphasis on resiliency training and suicide awareness training. I would often attend resiliency training as a guest speaker, and I would bring Curley along. I would address the Soldiers attending the training and tell Curley’s story of abuse and finally her rise out of that traumatic experience. Sometimes as I told Curley’s story and explain how she had been abused by people it was hard to define as human beings, I would find myself getting choked up. I also noticed that many of the Soldiers who attended the training would also get emotional as they heard Curley’s story and see firsthand, the scars that were laced across her face and back.
Forgiveness and Resilience
The point of the story was to focus on the resiliency Curley displayed. She was able to endure the pain and eventually she landed in a loving home. Now, recovering from past trauma, she was a loving dog. I believe this indicated her ability to forgive the past transgressions of her previous owners.
I tell this story to provide inspiration to anyone who is suffering. It is important to have faith that the suffering will subside. It is also important to forgive to move forward and grow. I am not suggesting it is easy to endure pain and suffering or to forgive those who have done us harm, but they are necessary elements of overcoming adversity. Forgiveness is particularly essential, and it is important to realize that forgiveness is not necessarily for the perpetrator, but it is for the one who has been harmed so that person will be able to heal.
Be aware that people suffering from PTSD need love and understanding.
If you are a person suffering from PTSD, depression, or anxiety reach out to friends and professionals. There are many people out there who are willing to listen and help.
Have faith that things will improve, even when experiencing dire times. This is called optimism.
A key to recovering from adverse situations is forgiving those who have harmed us. Bitterness saps energy and forgiveness allows the healing process to begin.