Tuesday, August 12, 2008


"Muzzle" was the most awful word and image to me . . . until the trainer used the word "re-home."

Her actual sentence was something like, "You may need to consider rehoming one of them."

I said, "Consider what?"

That word re-home is dogworld jargon.I hadn't heard it or used it before. As soon as its meaning clicked I felt Lost. Like I'd already lost the battle to re-make our life.

The thought I didn't have at that moment but recognize now is how much my shattered-feeling is related to the divorce-and-rebuilding narrative of the past 3 or so years. Ending my marriage was a good decision. Then my forced-remodeling and home-ownership scenario: more upheaval, stressful as hell, but a necessary part of moving on. And throughout all this the dogs were my real life. They were my source of all rightness.

At the heart of everything was my belief that my purpose in life was to live as well as I could right now, to stay sane and strong, and to take good care of these dogs. I was starting over from scratch with everything but the dogs. The dogs were my family, my nucleus. I consoled myself night after night--beyond lawyers and disturbing handymen and mounting debt, and termites, and nightmarish phone calls from my ex--no matter how I'd handled or mishandled everything else that day I consoled myself that I was OK because I'd taken good care of these dear dogs.

I had already "re-homed" us all: spent the last year making it possible for us to live in a beautiful place with birds and a garden and everything we needed to be safe and peaceful together.

I don't have children. I have two dogs that were abandoned by other people and came into my world and made me feel whole.

But it seems probable that my way of caring for them was wrong for them, or at least not right enough to prevent the trouble they're having right now. Despite all my best intentions, despite all the books I read and classes we took--puppy school, basic obedience, agility, freestyle dance ( ! ), flyball--despite the dog park and the vanilla infused cowcheeks and the singing and the love--I blew it.

To make this less of a pity party I'll acknowledge that some of the problem is nature rather than nurture. But still I can see so clearly that most of what I've done "for them" were all the things I wanted to do, not necessarily the things they needed. They needed more walks, they needed more obedience practice, they needed reinforcement of the lessons we learned at school--lessons about home manners and responding appropriately to strangers, they needed a calm, assertive leader. I didn't give them enough of any of that.

The things I wanted them to need--affection, quiet times on the sofa, training as a feel-good hobby--these were not the things they needed most.

My point is that I knew better all along but I ultimately copped out and did whatever was most comfortable for me.

So here I am, on Day 7 of the emergency training. Praying to God we can all fix this. So I can keep my family intact.

(Some would say that my persistence in calling my dogs "family" indicates I'm still not doing what they need: I'm still treating them like humans rather than like dogs, still burdening them with my emotions. Yeah. Bite Me.)

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