The Ugly Dog
For my daughter’s 10th birthday, I gave her a fluffy stuffed dog with rainbow-colored fur, and this story to go along with it…
Once upon a time, there was a dog born with no fur.
That’s right. No fur. Just skin. And really wrinkly, spotted skin. He wasn’t a pretty dog.
Sounds pretty ugly.
He was an ugly dog. But! He was a really sweet, caring dog. So only ugly on the outside.
What was his name?
Well, he also had an ugly name. A really ugly name. And what was really sad for this dog…
Wait, what was the ugly name?
It was so ugly I don’t want to say it.
Oh come on.
Nope. Anyway, what was really sad for this dog is that all the other dogs, and the not-so-nice humans, would all make fun of this dog for being furless, for having ugly skin, and for having such an ugly name.
You’re really not going to tell his name?
No. Anyway, this dog felt so bad about the way he looked, and it was really sad. Especially because this dog was such a sweet dog.
Were his owners nice at least?
No! They weren’t! And one day the ugly dog’s owner made so much fun of his ugly skin, and made a mean rhyme about the dog’s name, and this ugly dog with an ugly name finally had had enough.
“Enough!” the dog barked (in dog language, of course). “I’m fed up. I’m done with this owner, and this place, and this whole life of being teased and tormented.”
Outside the house, another dog heard him – a very special dog. And the special dog barked out “Come outside, I can help.”
The ugly dog heard and ran through his doggie door outside, and there he saw a dog with the most magnificent bright blue fur he had ever seen. Immediately the ugly dog looked at his own wrinkled spotted skin and felt ashamed, but the blue dog quickly said: “Ah, I understand. And I know who can help.”
“Help what?” the ugly dog said. “And who are you, anyway? I’ve never seen you around here.”
“My name is Azul,” the blue dog said. “And I don’t live here, but happened to be walking by. Pretty amazing timing, actually. Do you know what synchronicity is?”
“No,” responded the ugly dog.
“Synchronicity,” Azul said, “is when important things happen at the same time, but for no obvious reason.”
“Like a coincidence?”
“Kind of,” Azul said. “But coincidences have no meaning, no underlying reason. Synchronicities are important and meaningful. Like me walking by while you needed help.”
“Ah,” the ugly dog said, though not really sure he understood.
“In fact,” said Azul, “I don’t believe in coincidences. I think that everything in this world happens for a reason…”
The ugly dog looked back at his ugly skin, thought of his ugly name, and rolled his eyes – thinking how cruel it would be if his ugliness wasn’t random, but actually for a reason.
“You said you could help,” the ugly talk said to Azul, back to feeling hopeless and fed up with his situation in life. “But I doubt it. You don’t understand. Look how beautiful your blue fur is!”
Azul smiled kindly. “It didn’t used to be.”
“Really. And that’s how I know you can be helped. I know a wizard who can solve your problem.”
“How did you get your magnificent fur? Was it the wizard? Tell me more!” The ugly dog started to get excited.
“Come,” Azul said. “Let’s walk.”
Azul led the way through a maze of streets, to a dead end road that ended at the edge of a forest. At first the ugly dog didn’t want to go further – he had barely left his block his whole life.
“The wizard lives in the woods,” Azul said. “Only a little further now.”
“Okay but tell me what’s gonna happen,” the ugly dog said. “Or at least how you got your fur.”
“The wizard’s magic connects people, and turns different types of love into beautiful fur – and he’s the reason I only believe in synchronicities now, in everything coincidental happening for a reason.”
At this point the ugly dog was really confused, but intrigued enough to follow Azul into the woods.
“What type of love is your blue fur?” the ugly dog eventually asked, trying to figure things out.
Azul smiled. “My blue fur is the love of compassion. You see, I had no one in the world who cared about me, no one to feed me or look out for me, and I found a person who was full of compassion, and who gave me as a gift to someone out of that compassionate love.”
“Yes, wow,” Azul said. “But it’s even better than that. Because it’s when that person, full of compassion, gave me a home, that my world became full of compassion, and my fur grew like this.”
“And they gave me my name! And now I have all the care I’ll ever need with this family.”
“And all the fur…”
“We’re here,” Azul said.
The ugly dog looked ahead and saw an old grey man in tattered clothes bent low in front of a steaming cauldron.
Without looking over, the old man said, “Welcome back, Azul. I see you’re doing well, full of the love you were seeking.”
Azul barked happily, while the ugly dog was amazed that the old man could speak dog language. He realized this man must be a wizard.
“And I see you brought a friend,” the wizard said.
“I did,” Azul said. “A friend looking for love.”
“And maybe some cool blue fur,” the ugly dog said.
“And maybe a new name?” the wizard asked.
“How did you know?!” the ugly dog yelped.
“Come,” said the wizard.
The ugly dog ran up to the wizard, who reached into his cauldron. When the wizard pulled out his hand, it was wet and shimmering.
“Now this won’t hurt a bit,” the wizard said, and he rubbed his wet hand all over the ugly dog’s body.
As the dog was basking in the feel of the cauldron’s liquid – so warm and soothing – the wizard scratched something with a pen on the dog’s rear end.
A minute later the ugly dog felt dry, but looking down at his legs, saw that nothing had changed.
“I thought I’d get fur?” the ugly dog said, disappointed, even a little annoyed.
The wizard laughed. “It doesn’t work that way,” he said. “It starts with love, and the love becomes the fur.”
“I have love!” the ugly dog said.
“Not your love,” the wizard said.
“Wha?” the ugly dog said. “But, Azul, and… who? Whose?”
“Time to go,” Azul said, nudging the ugly dog with his nose.
“But, but,” the ugly dog stammered. “But what about my name?”
“Same thing,” the wizard said, smiling. “Not up to me. Not up to you.”
“And it won’t be a coincidence,” Azul said, as they walked out of the forest, the ugly dog with his tail between his legs.
When they got back to the streets, the ugly dog was so sad that he just looked straight down as he walked. He also had no idea what to do next – he didn’t want to go back home! There was no love there!
Eventually the ugly dog looked around to see where he was, and realized he was all alone. Azul was gone! “Azul!” he cried. “Azuuul!!!” There was no answer. This day was just getting worse and worse.
The ugly dog felt like he had to find Azul, felt he was lost without him. So he started running back in the direction he came from, crying out for Azul, not paying any attention to the road – or the cars on the road.
ERRRRR!!! Suddenly a car slammed on its brakes, and stopped an inch from the ugly dog’s head. The ugly dog froze, realizing that he had been running around so frantically, and not paying attention, that he had almost gotten run over!
“How much worse could the day get,” he thought to himself.
The car door opened and a man got out of the car. “What are you doing you crazy dog?” the man said.
“I’m looking for Azul!” the ugly dog replied – but of course the man didn’t understand a word.
The man picked up the ugly dog and was about to put him by the side of the road, when he saw something written on the dog’s butt.
“Lost dog, looking for a home…” the man muttered, reading. “Give the dog as a gift, and explain the love for the recipient.”
“Hm?” the ugly dog said, remembering the wizard writing something on his butt, but not thinking twice about it at the time. “Explain the love?”
“You are one ugly dog,” the man said, looking the ugly dog over. “But, I do need a gift for my daughter.”
The ugly dog remembered: “Not your love”, and “no coincidences.” And then yelped, “Yes! Yes! That’s me, yes!” He even tried to say “synchronicity,” but forgot the word. “Sink… sink on this city? Sing oh so pretty? Gr.”
“But a dog is a lot to take care of,” the man said. The ugly dog cringed. “How about this, dog. Can you be as still and as easy as a stuffed animal? Can you make sure not to need a bunch of real food and make real poop?”
“Okay,” the man said, understanding the ugly dog’s meaning if not his words. “You don’t have any tags, and you sure are a sorry sight, but I guess I’ll listen to the note!” The man opened the back door of his car, a pretty matte grey car, and threw the dog next to a purple booster seat.
As the man drove off with the ugly furless (and now motionless) dog in the back seat, he thought about the note, and thought about his love for the recipient: his daughter.
Smiling, and looking at the dog in the rear view mirror, the man said “Let me tell you a little bit about your new owner.”
“She’s so incredibly sweet, and compassionate,” the man said. “She cares so much for everyone important in her life, especially her parents, and her little sister.”
The man began paying attention to the road again as he drove, and thinking about his daughter’s birthday party, so he didn’t notice when suddenly the dog sprouted bright blue fur in the back seat.
The ugly dog realized it, though. “The love of compassion,” he realized, “and I get blue fur just like Azul! Hooray!” The dog couldn’t be happier – or so he thought!
“She also is so considerate, and thoughtful,” the man continued. “She loves to help, and put other people’s needs first.”
Suddenly pink fur started sprouting all over the ugly dog!
“Selfless love,” the dog thought to himself.
“I also love how playful she is!” the man said joyfully. “She’s going to play with you so much, just like she loves to play with all her animals, and with us! We play a lot of cards. And I’m sure you’ll make a good guard dog on her top bunk.”
Suddenly yellow fur began to grow on the ugly dog!
“She’s also so affectionate,” the man said. “Even if sometimes she says she doesn’t like my kisses, she does love to cuddle, and loves hugs, and has always loved to be carried… and I think she actually likes my kisses.” The man smiled wide. “And last night, we were talking about her birthday today, and she even gave me some kisses!”
Suddenly peach colored fur began to sprout all over the dog!
“I also love how silly she is! She loves to be goofy, just like me and her sister, and we have so much fun together!”
Suddenly purple fur began sprouting on the dog!
The man laughed thinking of his silly daughter. “I’ll show you some pictures of her being goofy when we stop,” the man said to the dog, glancing at him through his rear view mirror.
Seeing the dog, now covered in colorful fur, the man pulled the car over. He picked up the dog and remarked, “Incredible! Now I understand the note! She’s really gonna love you.”
The man checked the time and said, “Shoot, gotta keep going, Sasha is going to be waiting.” So he kept driving, and as he did he said, “But what should we call you?”
He thought of how the dog had changed, and had become a reflection of all the many ways the man loved his daughter – and he wanted to express it to her on this, her 10th birthday.
Thinking about the ten years with her, he then began thinking of how he had changed in those years. He was so much happier than he was before she was born, and knew that she (like his other daughter) had contributed so much to who he was. He thought of how she loved to learn from him, to hear all of his teaching and life lessons – and at the same time, how he loved to learn from her.
“I love how wise she is,” he said, both to the dog, and to himself. “I love how she loves to learn, and how her brain works, and how she makes me a better person. I love how I feel like I’m on a team with her, with both my daughters, with each of us always striving to become better people, for ourselves and for each other.”
Suddenly white fur sprouted on the dog’s face and the bottom of his paws.
“On my paws,” the dog thought, “Because it’s that mutual love in growth, and partnership, and becoming better people, that keep us connected to the ground with every step – that makes every step easier, and more meaningful.”
The man smiled, and wiped a tear from the corner of his eye.
“So what should I call you,” the man said, “to help her always remember all of my love whenever she holds you?”
“Hmmm… Daddy, Loves, Maia, Always. Yeah, I kind of like that. DLMA. So she can always look at you and feel my love, even at the times when it’s not as obvious.”
“Dlma?” the dog thought, wondering how to pronounce it, and what kind of name it was.
“Yeah,” the man continued. “I want it to feel obvious with you, even when it might not be obvious between us. So she knows it’s there, even when we struggle, or disappoint each other, since that happens too. So let’s add ‘obvious’ to the name… So, Daddy Obviously Loves Maia Always. DOLMA! Perfect!”
“Dolma?” the dog said, confused.
“Like the Greek food,” the man said. I’ll show you a picture when we stop and get her sister. It’s a cute name, I promise. You’ll get used to it. He smiled wide.
“If you say so,” Dolma said back.