Several months ago, I thought about my public speaker friend by the name of Dr. Charles Jarvis from San Marcos, Texas. It has been some time since I have had any contact with him, so I am not sure if he is still living. One of his stories that I truly love is about this old boy who took his dog to the dog show. After he was assigned a number and got settled in, he went up to the chief judge and said, "This dog that I have brought to the show today is just a mutt, and a mongrel, and an ugly one at that. I know that he is not going to win anything, but I just wanted him to meet some better dogs."
Over the years I have had a number of dogs, and one that was in my life was "Toby," a little white Maltese that Janis had when we married several years ago. To be sure, Toby and I bonded, and we loved each other. I am an early riser, and when I would go downstairs to my reading chair each morning, Toby would go, too, and stick with me almost like glue.
The thing I love about dogs is that they give you unconditional love. If you are a married man and have any doubts that what I am saying is true, just lock your dog and your wife in the trunk of your car, come back in an hour and see which one is glad to see you.
Now, in a little more serious vein, if I may. Some time back I saw a report about a prison system that had found a unique way to provide hope, stability and the promise of a better day for many of their inmates. This involved the quality of unconditional love given by some very special dogs. Now, when I say special, I don't mean in the sense they won a blue ribbon in a dog show, but rather because they had a very positive impact on people's lives.
Someone got the bright idea of going around the city where the prison was located and picking up every stray dog they could find. They found an ample number of strays in abandoned houses, in the woods, and in the highways and byways of this city. Most of these dogs were not only neglected, but also severely malnourished to the point you could count every rib in their body. After rounding up the dogs, they put one per cell with a good number of inmates, thinking this experiment would have very little chance of succeeding. However, over the coming weeks an amazing thing happened, as the power of unconditional love began to take over. The inmates began bonding with the dogs and began to give love in return.
With regular feeding, exercise and love, a real quality of life returned for the dogs as they lavished even more love on the inmates. When I saw a video of this it almost brought tears to my eyes as I realized what was happening. The inmates related to the plight of these dogs, because many had suffered the same kind of neglect and abuse, and they had lashed out against a cruel world and committed crimes that landed them in prison.
This question came to my mind: what would each inmate have become if they had received unconditional love, especially in their formative years, from the people in their lives who mattered most?
We should understand that unconditional love does not mean giving a person everything they want (which is really a substitute for real love), but to have their best interests at heart and do those things that would help them become responsible and productive citizens. Each one of us can make a difference in someone's life. I am glad that Toby loved me. Sadly, he passed away, but he made a difference in mine.