Actress Ashley Judd used to take her dog Shug with her absolutely everywhere. The support dog accompanied her to every movie set she played on during her lifetime; and though the canine passed away at age 17, the unconditional love she showed lives on.
“Dogs practice presence,” Judd shared in an interview with The Christian Post. “They love us exactly as we are. Sometimes, that’s all we need; just sitting with someone and letting our empathy flow is the greatest helpfulness.”
Judd went on to reveal that Shug was not only a compassionate companion for her, but also for others — like a total stranger in an airport who the pup stopped from committing suicide.
On a trip from Czech Republic to New York, the actress and her dog landed in the LaGuardia airport. Judd took off the cocker spaniel-poodle’s vest, and Shug quickly darted through the terminal to plant herself by a man writing in a notebook.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what is going on? My dog never behaves this way,” the 50-year-old starlet recalled. “So I went over to retrieve my dog, and he asked what her name was, and he said, ‘Oh, she’s cute,’ etc, etc, and we briefly chatted before I walked away.”
A little while later, Judd felt the presence of a shadow above her. When she looked up, she noticed it was the same man standing there.
“May I show you what I was writing?” he asked.
“I was writing my suicide note,” he continued. “When your dog came up and just there with me, just being present and reminding me of my value.”
Though they parted separate ways at the time, Judd ended up being on the same flight as the man, and they chatted for hours.
Upon landing, he submitted himself into treatment for his suicidal thoughts.
“Today, he’s in recovery and still sends me texts, updating me on his health,” said Judd. “Shug was a remarkable dog. It’s amazing how God works through dogs.”
“We have our given family — I like to say God has a sense of humor — but we also have the opportunity to create a chosen family who we love and adore and who create that necessary sense of safety and belonging,” she continued. “Animals have a powerful role in our lives and we need to treat them with the dignity and respect that they treat us with.”
While animals are one source of comfort and a way that Judd feels God’s presence on earth, she also has a daily meditation practice that includes two devotionals and the prayer of St. Francis in order to steady the chaos.
“One of my favorite prayers is, ‘God, please direct my thoughts and actions and speech,’” shared the actress. “Please give me intuitive thought, a nudge so I know how to handle any situation with grace and kindness.’”