Not all of you know Billy Elliott, the dog (so named because he loves to dance!), so let me share with you a snapshot of his life over the past year or so.
Rescued by Best Friends from the poisonous wreckage of New Orleans, he was christened Mr Scruffy, and it was in that guise he boarded the emergency jet which brought him, and nearly 130 other animals, to Dakini Valley. He did not stay here long, though, in the seething barking rows of emergency shelters we had constructed. He caught the eye of Sonja, one of the Tara's Babies team who had been on-site in NO, and she noticed he had badly infected paws. She, and her partner Christine, brought the very subdued young boy inside, and bathed and bandaged his paws. He couldn't go back to to the outside run and we, still overwhelmed by the influx of many dogs in need, had nowhere to care for him, so they took him back home to Sedona.
A corner of their living room was partitioned off as a play centre, and to separate him from their 2 fluffballs, Mim and Hari. Slowly he improved, and his inner energy re-ignited. But they were adamant they did not want a third dog. Partly because they were still grieving for another NO rescue who had won their (and Hari's) hearts, the diminuative Peanut, who had gone straight to their home after the long drive back across country. She had contracted Parvo from her innoculation - perhaps too young and weak after the trauma she had experienced? - and died a horrible death, in Sonja's arms. The family (Hari especially) was distraught.
However, I did want a third dog, for my playful Nyima, so it was agreed that when he got well, Billy would come to live with us.
Not unexpectedly, in caring for Billy, the attachment grew, yet they insisted they did not want to keep him. So Billy was delivered to us at Dakini Valley where, with much joy, he joined the pack. Nyima and he loved each other, playing from early morning. Even Gypsy joined in, and the 2 girls would get Billy on his back on the couch , with play growls and wagging, cavorting and chewing. We all delighted in their antics, everyone was happy.
Except Sonja and Christine. The separation opened some wounds, and they were very distressed. It was as if Billy represented the horror and suffering they had witnessed first hand - the indescribable destruction, death, animals injured and coated with stinking, poisonous sludge. Billy somehow seemed to be a method, an antidote, a way to pour love and caring back into a shattered world.
It was a very difficult and confused time for us all, and the foundation of our friendship shifted for a while, as they called to ask for him back, and then, out of love for me, would say I could keep him. The others at Dakini Valley supported me through the tears and shifting sands, but eventually it was inevitable; I sent Billy back. I remember standing outside the ranchhouse, sobbing into Alyce-Louise's arms, Billy, confused, pawing desperately at the window as he was driven away. Nyima was bereft, I had never seen her so depressed. I vowed then to find her another friend, which is how the rascally Liddaboy joined us some months later.
It tooks some adjusting for Mim and Hari, Billy is non-stop effervescent, and bigger than both of them. But eventually Hari learned to play with Billy, and Billy learned to respect the miniature Mim as the alpha queen (despite appearances, our Mim is a force to be reckoned with). Billy blossomed (and, I might add, enlarged significantly at the waistline!), although beset with continous health problems. Nothing too serious, but probably all still the results of his post-Katrina experience, in the fetid environment. Sonja and Christine tended him lovingly all the way through.
I did not visit their home for some months, it seemed too hard. But when I stayed there recently, just before they left, it was lovely to see Billy jumping and running and bouncing from room to room.
Two weeks before their departure, tickets already booked, Billy's blood test failed the rigorous Australian laws. Sonja and Christine were devastated; I offered to look after him, he would always find love with us. But of course, separation was unthinkable. Many prayers and circumambulations of the Stupa later, it was found that although the levels were high, on that particular test, he could still travel. The family drove to LA, the doglets were crated for the long flight across the ocean, and sent on their way. Sonja and Christine took a later flight.
Australia is rabies-free, so one-month quarantine is compulsory, with twice weekly visiting rights for owners. Hari and Mim, housed together, are doing fine. But Billy, I have just heard, is not coping. He is very stressed, which is affecting him mentally and causing bowel problems. No doubt the long journey, and separation from his 'new' family, re-kindled the horrors of last year. So much for a small young dog, who only wants love, to have endured.
I am sure Sonja and Christine are devastated, and feeling helpless that they cannot be with him, and perhaps guilty to have put him in this situation. I imagine the quarantine staff are doing all they can, but the environment can be nothing like the nurturing comforts of home. They have let Jetsunma know, and are asking everyone to offer prayers.
So I ask that of you, too - to pray for Billy's swift recovery, and for Sonja and Christine. And to pray for all beings who are ill, alone, fearful, lost, who have suffered beyond that which seems possible. Because Billy is only one, who has touched our hearts, but there are countless more. May our lives make a difference for them all.