The Hard Work of Being a Good Human, or Opening Your Heart and Home to Love

The other morning, I succumbed to peer pressure. I had just finished my early morning spin class at Soul Cycle when I ran into my friend Jack. Jack and I are clockwork, riding next to one another on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, so seeing him on Saturday morning threw me off a bit. “C’mon, do the double with me–it’ll be fun!” By doing a double, Jack meant doing two classes in a row. It’s a bit exhausting, but not completely out of the realm of possible. I sighed, gave him stink eye, and agreed.

As I clipped into my bike, the person next to me gave a light shove. I looked up, and there was my old friend Brunie. I’ve known Brunie for a long time. She is an aesthetician by trade, but back when I was deep in the throes of chemo and then trying to grow my hair back, I didn’t have much need for her services. I’m fine now, resplendent hair and all, but our varying schedules and far-flung lives have resulted in us not seeing one another for a few years.

But Brunie’s day job is just that–her day job. And while she is incredibly good at it, her real purpose and superpower is doing something incredibly difficult: she offers long-term hospice care for senior shelter dogs with terminal medical conditions. This means that she welcomes in those homeless, abandoned dogs that others have given up on, those with cancer, blindness or hearing loss, incontinence, the full gauntlet of end-of-life indignities. Brunie offers love and snuggles right up until the very end, and she does so with a willing and generous heart. She sees past the tumors and broken skin, she sees beauty and love in grayed muzzles and mournful eyes. Brunie sees with her heart, not her eyes, loving those that the rest of us try to not see.

I’ve seen Brunie pop up from time to time on KXAN, Austin’s Fox affiliate, during their weekend pet segments, on Facebook and Instagram as she shows life with the hospice dogs she brings into her life and home. She works with Dogs Out Loud and the Austin Animal Center, two Austin-based organizations, trying to help older dogs find families. A couple of years ago, Brunie became a tiny bit famous when she took in Blackie, an elderly, blind dog that had been surrendered to an Austin-area shelter. He spent Christmas and New Year’s Eve with her, and when Blackie let her know that it was time to let him go, she held him in her arms so that he knew he was so very loved.

We caught up for a few moments after class, talking about the vet clinic, cancer diagnoses and survival, and the like. I knew that she had recently let go of Chuck, the big-hearted, big-nosed clown pictured with this post, and we both teared up a bit, thinking of old, beloved dogs that no longer occupied our sofas. Time heals most things, and it is always good to see old friends.

I admire Brunie for many reasons, but I love her for her work. It was good to see you, Brunie, and I hope I run into you again without having to conquer two spin classes to get there. May your love never run out, may your heart always be full, and may all old dogs find homes like the one you give.

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