What My Rescue Dogs Taught Me About Vulnerability, Trust, and Courage
Updated: Nov 6, 2021
I am the proud owner of two very special rescue dogs, Nala and Wilson. Sadly, our little Nala passed on a few years back but I do believe she’s hovering around us all the time. Our rescue dog, Wilson, came into our lives a year ago. Both of these dogs have taught me so much but especially vulnerability, trust, and courage.
My dogs have always given me strength, one way or another, and each one has taught me lessons I’ll never forget. And, whenever I hit a blip on my journey called Life, I think of them and remember how they tackled their own bumps through life.
By being more observant of our dogs, we can learn so much from them. What’s more, they teach us to simply BE and not make such a big fuss out of everything. Rescue dogs are extremely special creatures and they carry their own burdens, traumas, and helplessness with such aplomb.
I, like every other human being, often battle to accept vulnerability as a strength rather than a weakness. I also struggle to trust and of course, finding the courage to be both vulnerable and trusting can be a challenge on its own!
What You Need to Know About Vulnerability, Trust, and Courage
If you’re anything like me, whenever you hear the words vulnerability, trust, and courage you doubt you’re able to have any of them in yourself. So many of us are quick to knock down a person who shows their vulnerability – isn’t that a weakness?
How about trust? How many times have you said yourself, “I don’t trust easily” or “People can’t be trusted”? Trust is another word we like to tip-toe around.
Courage is a biggie and I know each and every one of us is extremely courageous. But, we’re always denying ourselves this one trait that would get us stepping out of our comfort zone and stepping into our TRUE selves.
Think of all the times you feel vulnerable. The day you have to give a presentation to a live audience or starting a conversation with a bunch of people you’ve never met before. How about the time you wanted to go to your 20-year high school gathering but felt too vulnerable to meet up with old school mates you haven't seen in ages?
Well, think of a rescue dog who’s been placed in an animal shelter. His surroundings are completely foreign to what he’s used to and his owners are no longer there for him to protect him against all the big dogs. He’s all on his own and has to learn to defend for himself very quickly.
I remember seeing Wilson for the first time at the animal shelter. He had just been in a fight with a bull terrier and was feeling vulnerable. In fact, as we approached him he crept off behind the bushes. All I could see was a little vulnerable soul trying to cope with circumstances that were frightening and unfamiliar.
My response to such a show of vulnerability was to love him, hold him, and keep him safe. I also had huge admiration for his determination to survive whatever life was throwing at him. I never saw weakness – instead, I saw incredible courage and strength.
When you let the world see your vulnerability, you’re revealing your true self. Brene Brown says it so well when she quoted, “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”
That is what I saw the first day I met Wilson and I always remind myself that if he had the courage to be vulnerable, then I can also be vulnerable.
When you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you’re allowing yourself to trust the process. And, when you can trust yourself and the process, you can learn to trust others. Trust is about having faith in someone or something that is reliable and true. When you start believing in your own reliability and truth, you’re learning to trust in your SELF.
Both Nala and Wilson, through their vulnerability, portrayed tremendous trust in our ability to look after them and to love them. Dogs don’t complicate matters like their two-legged companions and they simply trust in themselves. By showing their true selves to us, they were trusting us. And, this is a wonderful gift. To know that someone trusts you wholly and completely.
Trust comes from having confidence that someone has honesty and integrity. And, again, when you recognize this in yourself, you’re able to trust others displaying similar attributes. Four elements make up trust and these are:
Taking care of both our rescue dogs meant incorporating these four elements so that they may trust us to be their rightful owners. It was our responsibility to be compassionate, competent, consistent, and communicative so that our rescue dogs could settle in and be happy in their new homes with us.
In return, both Nala and Wilson always showed us compassion, consistency (their love for us was always consistent), competence, and communication (I show you my back and you give it a good rub!).
It takes a lot of courage to be both vulnerable and trusting. It’s acknowledging that no matter how difficult a situation is, we have a choice – to either resent what is happening or face it head-on.
Accepting our vulnerability requires facing our TRUTH head-on and that is a very courageous act. Trusting ourselves, the process, and showing the four elements of trust takes immense courage. But, it’s possible.
Osho Zen talks about a small wildflower who is faced with the challenge of pushing through the rocks and stones so that it may emerge into the sunlight. From seed to flower, this tiny plant had the courage to push on through despite the hardships along the way.
And, “The same is the path for man. It is arduous. Much courage will be needed” - (Osho Zen Tarot: The Transcendental Game of Zen)
The first time I met Nala she had just left her heartbroken owner. Only months before, her other owner had died from cancer. Now, she was coming into a new home having never met either of us before. Through her vulnerability, she chose to trust the process. She chose to accept her new home and this took great courage.
The same applies to Wilson. It must have taken him huge courage to spend six weeks in an animal shelter and then to accept us as his new owners. This little rescue dog came into our home not knowing what the outcome would be but he took courage in his own vulnerability and trust.
So, whenever I’m faced with a new challenge, I remind myself of these two beautiful rescue dogs and how they had the courage to take on every challenge presented to them. If they can do it, then so can I (and you).
I know size has nothing to do with vulnerability, trust, and courage. But, I still find it admirable that both Nala, who was a Jack Russel (yes, I know, they think they’re as big as the Rottweiler next door!) and Wilson, a petit Fox terrier, are courageous enough to be seen for who they really are.
Rescue dogs have to shoulder a lot more burdens than most other dogs. They’ve either been abused, deserted, or placed in a shelter because their beloved owner has died. And, yet this doesn’t stop them from being vulnerable, trusting, and courageous.
These are the lessons my beautiful rescue dogs have taught me and for that, I am extremely grateful.