I remember the first time I held him in my arms. As his sweet face stared back at mine, I couldn’t let go – there was just something about this frail 6-pound bundle of love. A new family member wasn’t on the radar that December day which, by the way, happened to be my birthday celebration. Only a Christmas tree was on the shopping list. But now, two and one-half years later, I realize that this unexpected birthday gift was the best one I have ever received. Despite my being clueless at the time, God knew my life was about to change for good – with a ripple effect to my work, friendships, and especially my outlook on life. Here are just a few connections made possible through my beloved Toto:
A few months after Toto’s adoption, I started a weekly photo column in our local newspaper, Current, called “Toto Around Town” with pictures of Toto – you guessed it, all over town! We met wonderful people and discovered fun, new places along the way. Toto also perfected his modeling skills. At an event to benefit therapy dogs, we crossed paths with the award-winning, former local anchor Patty Spitler. She instantly fell in love with Toto and said, “We have to do a story,” as she turned to introduce us to her Executive Producer Jason Heath. Patty hosts and produces a nationally broadcast show called Pet Pals TV. A few months later Pet Pals aired an inspiring story on Toto, the “Miracle Mutt,” and we also appeared on Indy Style TV. Today, Toto and I blog for Pet Pals TV: Tales of Oz and Toto.
A year after adopting Toto, I submitted our story to Chicken Soup for the Soul. Out of the thousands of entries, it was selected and published in their Miracles & More book. To date, we have sold over 100 books and made many connections at book signings to promote community events. Last spring we held a book signing to raise money for IndyHumane’s Mutt Strut, and our total earnings (over $5000) propelled us to win the “Top Dog” award as the highest fundraisers. Today our work continues with this year’s Mutt Strut as we support 16-year old high school student Sophia Pruitt and her years of work as a volunteer at IndyHumane. Since age 7, Sophia has fostered over 60 homeless animals and has already raised over $25,000 to support its mission. If you would like to support our efforts this year to, hopefully, “pass the bone” as Top Dog to Sophia and Chief, please make a donation here: Brebeuf's Chief.
And by the way, because Toto won Top Dog I found myself in the official 500 Hulman Suite for IndyHumane’s celebration party. There I met two incredible ladies – Elliott and Elaine. Elliott happens to be Sophia’s Mom, and that’s why I’m connected with this inspiring young lady. Elaine has become one of my best friends, and our relationship continues to deepen each day through our common bond of Christian faith. In the past year, we have taken three trips together, and Elaine just bought a house on the next block so we are now neighbors.
Speaking of neighbors. Because of Toto, I also met another wonderful woman who happens to live in my neighborhood – four houses away! Although we have been neighbors for over five years, we only met in the last two. Julie (yes, that’s also her name) recognized Toto out with me one night, and we began talking – and have not stopped since. In fact, we walk Toto and her adorable pug Maya every day and have dinner together at least twice a week. One day while walking Maya and Toto, we spotted a man taking photos of a house on the next block. When I began chatting with the photographer, we learned that this property would soon be going on the market. You can probably guess what happened next. Yes, this is Elaine’s new home which she was able to snatch up before it was listed – all because we were walking our beloved dogs.
Looking back, it’s truly incredible how my tiny Toto has connected me not only with these incredible women who are now among my best friends but how he has also opened doors on the career front.
And so during this Easter week, I can’t help but be thankful to the resurrected One who made it all possible – perfect timing while dog walking, random strangers who became best friends (and neighbors), and divine encounters while attending events around town. And through it all God not only resurrected an abused homeless mutt but, in the process, He resurrected me.
To God be the glory! Happy Easter!
*Photo Credit for featured photo of Julie and Toto: Stacy Able Photography