Twelve years ago my husband brought home (surprise) a shelter puppy with very big paws. Just the way that puppy ran told me he was from difficult beginnings. My previously perfect and pristine home became mud-tracked, hair-blanketed, and basically gritty everywhere, including the bed. Fall, Winter and Spring became my nightmare seasons. Well, I will always have Summer (not really.)
This dog is untrainable, sort of. He is willful, fearful, smart, and kind of dull all at the same time. However dull his abilities for following commands, Frank (his name is Frank) brought a liveliness to our house, the likes of which had previously been unknown.
This is just how lively: There is the bolting for the front door whenever anyone goes in or out. There are the constant appointments with trainers and vets of every ilk. There are anti-anxiety meds and natural, homemade, nutrient rich diets, sure to regulate him. None of that works of course. He once nearly ate our babysitter and has nipped more people than I care to count. We have been urged by many to let him go (that really ticks me off because he is my baby.) Frank scares me to death when people come over (growling, snarling, barking, jumping and acting like a SWAT K-9) and, finally, very few people ever come over to visit now because of his shenanigans.
Frank leads (not follows) me all around the house–both insecure and head-strong. Did I mention he weighs 100lbs? Without warning, he often stops mid-gait and I full on fall over him to the floor. Sometimes I think I catch him smiling, as I hit the ground. If I use a meanly spiked, pincher collar on him, all the passersby admire how well-behaved, charming and handsome he is. If I put him on one of those retractable leashes with a little wiggle room, he will run a mile and drag me (literally) along behind. Other dog owners do not think he is so cute then.
When Frank wants something, he comes climbing up into my lap, like a tiny Chihuahua. And when I want something, he is completely deaf, refusing my call. Frank never resists stealing bones from the other dogs–oh yeah, we have adopted a couple more since Frank–even when he has two of his own already. He is scared of his own footsteps on hardwood, barking fiercely and equally at leaves and squirrels and the local RT bus that stops at intervals outside our dining room window. Frank is grossly, hopelessly hypervigilant. He never misses tantruming madly at the faint shuffle of passersby, though thunder and lightning send him shivering straight into the shower.
Frankly, by all accounts, Frank is a naughty dog. Occasionally, I can be heard whispering, I can’t wait until he is out of the house (by this I mean, you know, in heaven, because all dogs go there after our house.) Those thoughts make me feel like a horrible dog mother and, generally, an all around despicable human steward.
Once in a while I am known to yearn for a full-breed of any kind that has had an easy beginning with a good-enough doggie mother that I can bring inside from our own little litter in the backyard. That’s never going to happen because our family is dedicated to saving the lives of dogs others were too careless to plan for. We are called to this life–reluctant, broken-winged.
Sometimes I wish I had hung up on that damned call, but I didn’t and I wouldn’t. The caller knew I had plenty of piss and vinegar, love, and acceptance to give. There are times when I am challenged to bring it. But mostly I can rise to the occasion.
Truth be told: I love Frank with all my heart and he loves me the best way he knows how–it’s an imprint. I’m going to love him forever and never give up on him, just like he was born in the backyard. It is his birthright to be loved this way; and I am just the dog lover to do it.
Let sleeping dogs sit up. Happy Chanukah to Frank and YOU.
Ce Eshelman, LMFT
A life worth living is the only life worth living.
NOTE: If you are planning to sign up, please go ahead and do it because I think the space will end up being limited this time around. The next REVISED Trust-based Parent Training Course in Sacramento, CA is scheduled for January 24th and January 31st. Register here. If you have been through this course in the past, you will be getting significantly more hands on experience than ever before.
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