It was the little boy at the top of the stairs who caught my attention and stole my heart. I'm not sure if it was his dark curls, or his big brown eyes, or his train pajamas, or the way he huddled on the very top step, or maybe all of the above. I was told this little one was very afraid of dogs, and from the look in his eyes and the way he clung to that top step, it appeared that wasn't all he was afraid of.
Chester, Keith (my husband), and I were visiting the DVS, Domestic Violence Shelter, to love-on, and play with the children on this stormy evening. While the children played, their very courageous moms, who are finding their way out of, and breaking the cycle of domestic violence, meet in a home next door, for counsel, encouragement, and hope for a better tomorrow. The children are cared for by loving volunteers, who cook them dinner, and give lots of TLC, in a very tight-security environment. There were 3 KPETS teams joining the children this particular night, and there was A LOT of activity to say the least! Plan A, was to be outside in the high-fenced yard, however it was raining cats and dogs, so we were doing Plan B, inside.
While the other pups entertained children in the livingroom with tricks and snuggle time, Chester and I walked the hallway trail, from the base of the stairs to diningroom to kitchen and back again. The boys lined up to hold Chester's leash and walk the loop, giving him gentle commands like sit, stay, wait, come, down, and then, heal. Chester got a kazillion treats, and the boys liked being in charge :-). Those big brown eyes at the top of the stairs watched as we made countless laps. Keith sat towards the bottom step, engaging this sweet boy in kindergarten conversation, hoping fear would lessen and trust would grow. With each lap, I noticed the train PJ's were inching their way down the stairs, until at last the boy was sitting one step above Keith.
At this point I paused, peeking through the railings I asked, "Would you like to give Chester a treat?" The curls shook, "No." Chester and I walked another lap with another boy, and then I asked again. This time I got a "Yes", and little fingers reached through the rails, quickly taking the treat and tossing it far away. Chester eagerly retrieved. Now, on each lap, Chester stopped, sat in front of his little buddy and waited for a treat. Chester was not giving up.
It was almost time for us to leave, and I just thought ....I'd at least ask.... "Would you like to come with me, and walk Chester?" And then it happened, this precious little boy in mismatched train pajamas and scruffy tennis shoes, came down the last few steps and stood next to me. I smiled, and put one leash in his brown, chubby, little hand, while I held Chester's main leash. I whispered, "Say, Chester, heal." He whispered, "Chester, heal." Chester slowly eased forward, keeping step. As the 3 of us walked, smushed side by side, in the narrow hallway, I noticed the faintest glimmer of a smile, and found his other little hand in mine. It was one of those moments I wanted to freeze-frame and never forget. My eyes started to leak. We walked back and forth and back and forth and back and forth, and stayed a little longer.
This boy, so afraid when we first stepped through the doorway, had opened his heart a wee lil' bit to let love in . God used a lovable, persistent, treat-lovin' golden retriever to help crack open the door of this little one's heart. Before we were escorted out the front door of this safe house, we waited in the hallway. I was still gently holding this sweet boy's hand in mine, noticing, as his other hand came to easily rest on Chester's back. I continued to take in the moment, so thankful for shelters such as these, providing love, hope, and fresh beginnings for moms and their children ~~ and an especially brave little guy in choo-choo jammies who once sat perched at the top of the stairs.