New puppies and other traumas

I love animals, especially dogs. I’m not sure why; we did not have pets when I was a child. There were enough human mouths to feed without adding anymore. Not all my sisters are like this. Only one is a genuine dog-lovin’ freak. (It’s just true, Jill.)

Quite a few dogs have come through my life. Almost all my dogs have been rescues, usually older dogs. I have had one puppy out of  all the menagerie of animals I have raised or trained. So it was quite a surprise when a puppy came into our lives suddenly.

We were not expecting a puppy. It was a snap decision by one member of the household, and the rest of us reacted in various ways to the little black and white bundle of joy. Stony silence, lukewarm acknowledgement and some screaming. I was the lukewarm one, since I’m the one who is home all day, and the one with the dog-training experience. That told me who would be making sure pupster got out when he needed, and that he learned to chew the dog toys and not the workboots, table legs and antique spinning wheel. But I really like dogs, and ended up in that ambivalent response. Nice dog – but do I need this?

Some went from “oh, oh, oh, what a sweet puppy” to “how dare you do this without asking everyone first?” Because we do live in intentional community, something as demanding as a new dog really needs group consent. We did not have that for about five hours. The seniors went into a huddle, and things were said, arguments boiled, tears were shed, and we reached a conclusion. The puppy could stay.

It was a huge learning process, and I’m glad it was over a puppy and not a baby. Puppies are infinitely easier. And the SPCA won’t send the police if you keep a puppy in a crate for a couple of hours while you go to church. The police will come if you try that with a baby.

I think we all learned something about the stresses of our particular interactions. What I learned about myself is that I am demanding respect for what I am, even when that has nothing to do with the issue at hand. I am asserting authority when I don’t hold that authority for that occasion. I look back to yesterday, and sort of laugh at myself, because pomposity is always funny. Something had to be the snowball hitting my tall black opera hat. The others learned other things, and it’s not my place to say what, but even though we were completely disrupted for half the day, we soon settled down and came to a reasonable accommodation.

I think one thing we really learned is that we can get upset, raise our voices, argue and cry and it won’t tear us up. We are, in just a short period of time, finding out that we are stronger than our conflicts. How could that happen but by the grace of God, who gives us true peace?


2 thoughts on “New puppies and other traumas

  1. Hi there, it’s Rachel from CR and ST! I am enjoying reading what you have written here, I wanted to leave a comment since we recently went through a dog experience. Here in TX there are so many stray animals wandering around. This problem is compounded by the ugly fact that many military families just let their dogs and cats “go” rather than trying to find homes for them when they move. We had to deal with several abandoned cats in California after neighbors moved and the cats began living under our house. Well, in October we were playing outside with our children and noticed a dog laying in the shade of some bushes in our front yard (it was a very hot day). We brought him a dish of water and he waited until we walked away to come drink. As soon as we tried to get near him he would put his tail between his legs and run just out of reach. He was a sweet, gentle dog with a shabby old collar and a thick, dirty coat. After a few days of this he began letting us get close enough to pat his head and let him sniff our hands. Only the children and I could do this, whenever my husband tried the dog would cower and run away (he was probably abused by a man). Well, to make a long story short we finally got him to come through the gate into our backyard where we fed him and gave him a bath ( I had to cut the collar off him, it was so tight and dirty). I took him to the vet for shots and to see what kind of health he was in. We were thinking of keeping him, everyday he trusted us more and more and was quickly becoming a “pet”. Unfortunately he had very advanced heartworm (requiring expensive medical treatment) and we aren’t the type who would spend hundreds of dollars on an animal when people need to be fed! We made the decision to wait until he had finished the $10 bag of dogfood we did purchase and then have him put to sleep. We felt it was the right thing to do and he enjoyed a wonderful month of food, shelter and attention from our chilren. Two weeks ago I took him to the vet and stayed right with him while he died, stroking his coat and talking gently to him. It wasn’t the first time I’d done this, we’ve had several dogs over the years who we’ve euthenized when their suffering became too great. The act of taking in an unwanted dog and caring for it, knowing full well how it was going to end was a great lesson in doing the right thing even when it is so hard. Choosing the difficult way in this little situation strengthened our resolve to be the kind of folks who try to put others first (in a healthy way, of course). This ended up not really being all about the dog in the end, but about how we respond to a need when we see it. Our children really began to understand this and we have been able to go through the emotional process together and grow stronger as a family. I think it’s neat that your household is willing to work through the process of what this dog is bringing up. I hope you are all blessed by the simple companionship that a devoted creature can bring while growing stronger and deeper in the life you live together!
    p.s. I apologize for leaving such a long-winded comment! Sometimes the writer in me just says “one more thought…. one more thought….” 🙂

  2. How we treat animals is a test of how closely we listen to God. As William Blake wrote, “A horse beaten on the road cries to Heaven for human blood.” God cares for us without a moment of doubt, selfishness or neglect.

    It’s been a ministry for us to care for animals; our family here used to be foster parents for an animal adoption agency. Sometimes its been a joy to have an animal come into our lives, and they’ve been companions for years, but sometimes I’ve had to do what you did recently, and care for the animal lovingly while knowing that it is a matter of days before I will make that trip to the vet.

    Thanks for your heartfelt words, and God bless you and your family.

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