About a year ago, there was a sick little Dachshund somewhere on the streets of San Francisco. He was homeless, he was starving, he had patchy fur, he would eat anything and everything. He was picked up by the SPCA and taken to the Potrero Hill shelter. And it was there that Danny met Beth.
They found love in a hopeless place.
Since going home with Beth, Danny has completely transformed. All living things need love so that they can grow up strong, and he has found more love than he could’ve ever imagined. He is well-fed, he is strong, he is so happy, he is a confident and healthy guy with the best collection of scarves of any dog you’ll ever meet in your life. In fact, with a bit of love, Danny went from being unwanted to being the most popular dog in town. Danny has found his place in a home, and his place within society helping people with social differences and disabilities. His owner, Beth, works with us at Kahlon Family Services and Danny is one of four dogs in our team. (We’ll have to blog about Henry, Jake & Floyd another day. They’re all such gorgeous characters from similarly humble SPCA beginnings.)
Danny has a way of knowing exactly what a person needs, and then being that for them. Many of our clients have significant struggles with forming and maintaining friendships – Danny has been a very concrete form of unconditional love and consistency for these kids. For every day one week, Danny visited one of our young guys with social difficulties. This kid has real problems with being flexible and going with the flow makes him painfully anxious. For every day that week, we walked Danny and decided to follow the dog’s lead. At first Danny didn’t know where he was going in an unfamiliar neighborhood, so the boy helped him out. As we went on, a beautiful compromise started to appear; the boy listened to Danny’s ideas and Danny listened to the boy’s. Nobody was the boss and nobody was being taken advantage of. That day, the boy understood reciprocity.
Another day, Danny was visiting with a different little guy on the spectrum. This child has a lot of difficulty with eye contact, expressing his feelings appropriately and knowing where his body is in space. This boy likes to be close to people, but sometimes he gets too close for the other person’s comfort. (Well, it just so happens that Danny loves to cuddle.) Danny curled up on his lap, the boy wrapped his arms around him and for 3 beautiful seconds they made eye contact. Mutual needs were met.
While Danny is a changed dog now that he has a loving owner and home, we’d be lying if we said he wasn’t prone to slipping back into his old ways. Sometimes Danny acts in confusing or silly ways – he is not a trained service dog, but a real life, everyday pet. Danny also works with kids who struggle with their behavior; one in particular who had been expelled from more than one school. Danny came in and loved this boy, who exhibited multiple “unlovable” behaviors. The same child who would hurt and repel other people was consistently gentle and loving towards this dog. The child was taught how to hold the leash and give firm boundaries to Danny, speaking to him in a way that was direct and respectful. This kid learned that when people give you direction, they do it for a reason. He learned that keeping Danny happy and safe was partly his responsibility, and he loved Danny too much to let him make unproductive choices.
Danny continues to work with these kids. On his days off he enjoys long walks by the bay, chewing on dog-bones under tables at coffee shops, running free in Dolores Park, barking at skateboards, wearing scarves, posing for Instagram pictures, taking naps, inspiring people towards achieving their dreams, eating kibble, chasing shadows and cuddling Beth.