It was a recent unusually warm winter day, and I looked outside my back window. To my absolute delight, I saw my youngest two playing in the sandbox with the neighbor's grandson. That's not all. Our 3-month-old puppy, a border collie-mini Aussie, was also playing in the sandbox with two other neighbor dogs that had made it to our yard.
For the next several minutes, I watched as the kids threw sand in the air while the dogs ran around digging, also throwing sand in the air. While I was completely aware of the mess that I would soon need to clean up, what I was witnessing was heaven on earth.
I ran to get my camera to take a picture to share with family and friends so I could forever immortalized this moment. When I returned to the window, the kids had moved to the neighbor's trampoline, and the dogs were chasing each other below as the kids jumped.
I smiled in delight as I watched children and animals play together joyfully. And then I snapped my picture.
This moment that I captured with my less-than-stellar camera phone represented what we as a family have wanted for so many years.
Just like many parents have experienced, our children have begged us for years to get a dog. And we have wanted to allow that for them because we knew what a dog would bring to our family. It would teach us responsibility. It would give us protection. And more importantly, it would teach us love and compassion for animals.
A couple of years ago, we tried to have a dog, and even rescued one from a shelter. It was hard, and not because of the dog, but because we weren't ready. She had some behavioral issues she had learned that we didn't have the time, know-how or money to be able to correct. We also didn't have the home or yard space to give her the life we wanted for her.
When we searched for a new home, it was imperative to find a place that would not only be livable for a dog, but a place that would allow him to thrive. It needed to have space for him to play for hours, and a safe haven for him to return to when he was in need of rest.
And as I look outside my window, watching children and dogs playing joyfully together, it is more than I could have ever wished for. It has given me a glimpse of what happiness really is, and has taught me that animals and people are not all that different.
Just give us space to move around to work and play; give us friends and family, food and water. Give us a comfortable and safe place to call home where we can rest from our worries, and if it comes down to it, a place to take a bath to scrub the buckets of sand out of our hair … or beautiful black and white fur.