My brother, Ryan, was absently looking out of the car window as his husband drove across a long, isolated stretch of Florida Highway. He was looking without really seeing, allowing the passing landscape to blur. He became very suddenly alert when, against monotonous miles of dried grasses, he saw mound of black fur several feet off the side of the road. He asked Kevin to stop the car. He got out and walked toward the furry mound. The dog lifted his head and looked toward Ryan. He wasn’t crying, but he was shaking and his mangled leg extended at an odd angle from his boney body. Ryan slowly walked closer expecting the dog to have a reaction, but he didn’t. The dog let my brother sit right next to him while Kevin got a blanket from the truck. They wrapped the dog, taking care not to put pressure on his fully exposed leg bone, hip bone and shredded skin.

The vet said the leg could be saved with surgery, but she wouldn’t do it if the dog didn’t have a home. Having three cats didn’t make Ryan’s house seem like a natural fit, but the alternative was unacceptable. He assured the vet he would take care of the dog.

Buster was discharged to Ryan and Kevin after his surgery to reattach all the tendons and ligaments in his leg. The leg would always be smaller than the others as the muscle from his hip to his ankle had been sheared off. It would be usable, if only just slightly. The strongest impression you had of Buster at that time was that his leg was not the only broken and scarred part of his being. His eyes were dead. He showed no aggression or fear. He didn’t care. He was walking dead. Vacant. It was impossible to know how long he had been outside, but it was clear his brush with a car or truck wasn’t the only incident that hurt him. Ryan spent full days with Buster nursing his leg, feeding him, rehydrating him, brushing him, carrying him outside and back in. One day Buster looked directly into Ryan’s eyes and held it. He began sticking his nose under Ryan’s hand until the round top of his head would fit snuggly under Ryan’s palm. Buster was beginning to seek contact. Ryan was bringing Buster’s Spirit back.

Buster now lives with Ryan, Kevin, a few cats and two other rescue dogs that have found their way in. He calmly holds any visitor’s gaze, looking you squarely in the eyes without breaking. No aggression. No fear. He tells you through his steady gaze that he sees you. And you feel it. When we visit, Buster protects my older dog from the rambunctious younger ones. He will place his body solidly between my older, small toy poodle and the other two dogs when the play gets a little rough. He makes no threats. No barking. No grandstanding. Just the most confident and full presence a Spirit could possess in physical form.

Through a pure love and caring Buster’s Spirit healed.

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