A gaunt, 1 1/2-year-old mutt was among hundreds scavenging for food in Puerto Rico, an island notorious for its homeless dog epidemic. Puerto Rico is overrun with more than 250,000 stray dogs, and has only five shelters despite being the size of Connecticut.
Against all odds, a good Samaritan – a selfless, compassionate soul truly doing God’s work – scooped the emaciated mutt up, placed him in a car, and drove him to a makeshift shelter near San Juan Airport. The shelter was run by The Sato Project (“sato” is Spanish for “stray mutt”), a Brooklyn-based organization that transports strays from Puerto Rico, provides them with initial veterinary care, and places them in homes throughout the NYC and Boston areas.
At the airport shelter the volunteer staff, presumably taking a nod from an air traffic controller, nicknamed him Vector.
vec•tor [VEK-ter] verb. 1) To guide in flight by issuing appropriate headings. 2) to change direction of (the thrust of a jet or rocket engine) in order to steer the craft.
Vector should be dead, but instead he joined my family. Vector should be unable to sleep for fear of never waking up, but instead he is currently snoozing in his plush new doggie bed. And when he wakes up, Vector doesn’t have to sift through trash for rotting scraps, because he has a bowl with healthy food and, next to it, another with clean, fresh water.
As I write this, Vector has lived with me and my wife for five days. He is blossoming from a skittish, shaking, nervous wreck to a nub-wagging (he lost his tail, presumably on the beach), face-licking, meatloaf-begging companion. His progress the past few days has been scattered yet staggering, imperfect yet inspiring.
Vector is slowly coming to the realization that our home – a spacious, three-bedroom ranch house in suburban New Jersey with an ample front lawn and grass-covered backyard – will be his permanent home. This realization is tenuous; periods of sheer, puppy-love joy mix with a haunting anxiousness, as if Vector is expecting to suddenly find himself back on that God-forsaken beach where he struggled just to barely survive.
Vector hit the doggy lottery, but his survival instincts simply won’t allow him to believe that yet. He is still on guard, still suspicious, still waiting for the other paw to drop.
Not surprisingly, he is afraid to leave our house, for fear that he will never get to come back. So far, he is too nervous (even in the backyard) to so much as relieve himself outdoors, making pee pads a necessary short-term substitute for fire hydrants. For my wife and I, this is a small, temporary price to pay for the humbling, gratifying and joyous act of welcoming Vector into our home and, in doing so, saving his life.
After all, we’ve been through this before.
My first few months of sobriety were the most nerve-wracking of my life. Everything felt weird, especially anything that wasn’t an expected part of my strict schedule. Early sobriety consisted of a rigid regimen that can be summed up in six words: Work. AA meeting. Gym. Home. Repeat. And though executing my daily plans was arduous, deviating from them would have been a far more draining and more dangerous prospect.
A dog, of course, doesn’t know quite what to expect. So right now – in his own early stages of a life-saving recovery – Vector knows one thing and one thing alone: he is safe is this house. The thought of leaving it is understandably overwhelming, because outside means out of safety.
Admittedly amateurs, my wife and I are doing our best to gain Vector’s trust, both in us and in the safety of the area immediately surrounding our house. As we do so, we have the honor of witnessing the steady progress of a family member we are quickly coming to love; and as we do so, we recall the delicate first few months of my own fledgling recovery, and how this careful intensity bound us closer together as surely as addiction’s grasp had pulled us apart.
Vector is not only a reminder of my recovery, but also an extension of it. His safety – as well as everything else that is good and pure and true in my life – is part of a limitless ripple effect whose genesis is the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Vector lives because I was taught how to live, and he will recover because of my recovery. He is a 17-pound gift of this miraculous journey of progress, and I am grateful far beyond my ability to convey this with suitable eloquence.
We could rescue Vector only because, nearly two years ago, I was rescued by the Fellowship of AA.
Guest rescue story submitted by Christopher Dale. Christopher Dale is the founder of ImperfectMessenger.us, a site that discusses a variety of recovery-based issues.
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