Trying to Judge Not

I judge others, sometimes quickly and harshly. As my time and experiences in this world have expanded, my cynicism towards and judgment of others have as well. I realized recently that my judgment and the anger and frustration I sometimes feel as a result was holding me back and hindering me from being the person I needed to be, and I had to let it go to move forward.

A couple of weeks ago I stood in the kitchen, my arms crossed with a scowl on my face, in full judgment mode. I was irritated and trying to wrap my head around the situation K was presenting to me. Our friends had decided to give up their dog Juno after five years, and they planned to take her to the shelter, simply because she had become an inconvenience.

IMG_0708This dog is timid, quiet, mild-mannered, well behaved, listens, is house trained, and gets along with anyone. She is a dream dog! Her shy personality in conjunction with her age and large size would work against her in the shelter, not to mention her physical characteristics indicate that she is likely a mix of multiple breeds associated with aggressive behavior. There was no way we could sleep at night while this sweet dog sat in a cold, dark cage cowering at the shelter, alone and heartbroken.

So I was angry. I was angry that someone would do this, that people I know would do this. I was angry that they could so easily shirk their responsibilities and cast their dog aside without any accountability. I was angry when I learned that the dog was flea-infested and hadn’t been to the vet in years. I was angry that they were making their problem our problem. We already have three dogs of our own!

But this was the reality of the situation. I had to move on from my judgment and anger in order to show feelings of love and acceptance when K picked up the dog and brought her to our house. Dogs are sensitive to human feelings and behavior. The last thing this dog needed was to feel like she is just another problem. I wanted her to feel safe and comfortable and welcome. I also did not want this situation to drive a permanent wedge between our friends and us. I realized that my judgmental attitude had left no room for empathy, and as hard as it was, I tried to see the situation from the other side in an effort to be more understanding and forgiving.

Many people are not responsible pet owners. I have had my own learning experiences as IMG_0744a pet owner and I understand the challenges. Many people do not form bonds with their pets the way others do, the way I do. This doesn’t make them bad people.

The lifestyle of our friends is very different from my own and is one to which I cannot relate. Much has changed for them over the past five years, many of those changes leading to added stress and overwhelming obstacles and obligations that I know would be difficult for anyone. I would like to think that I would continue to care for and nurture my dogs no matter what happens in my life, but I suppose I cannot be sure until something truly challenges that value. I hope something like that never happens.

Despite my disagreement with their overall care of Juno, our friends did call K and I before opting for the shelter, and we are grateful for that. We have had Juno for just over a week now. She is still adjusting, but she plays with our other dogs and likes to run around the yard. I think she’s homesick and maybe a little sad, but we try to mitigate that will lots of love and attention, and of course, treats.

K and I are thankful that we have the means to provide a home for Juno to keep her out of the shelter. We hope to find her a new home soon where she can live out the rest of her years with a loving family who will love and cherish her. In the meantime this is her home, and we dote on her as much as we can.

I know that I make mistakes. We all do. We all face situations in our lives that are hard and in which we make less than ideal decisions. We can judge each other for our actions, but those judgments reflect back on us as well, often in the form of anger and frustration. Letting go of those feelings allowed me to move past my judgment, keep my friendship intact, and focus on the more important tasks of making a positive difference, showing kindness, and providing a home for Juno.

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Bananas: A Crazy Dog

K came home from work and wandered into the kitchen absentmindedly, shuffling through the day’s mail, until he heard a squeal. He stopped and looked around but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Then he heard the squeal again. That’s when he noticed the lid of the trashcan had been knocked onto the floor.

K peered inside the trashcan, and there was our dog Haley. She broke into the trashcan, jumped inside, and then got her foot stuck and couldn’t jump back out on her own. Her look of happiness and satisfaction as K pulled her out of the trashcan said the whole ordeal was worth it. She would do it all over again if she had the chance.

I have referred to Haley as being bananas so often that it turned into a nickname, and – Version 2she responds to it. Other nicknames include but are not limited to Cray Cray, Little, The Buffalo, Poo Face, and Runt.

Don’t let the cute face fool you. Haley may be the smallest and oldest of our pack, but she is also the fiercest and the craziest. She is a JRT, a Jack Russell Terrier (or a Jumping Running Terrorizer). She is the stereotype for why many people do not adopt JRTs.

Here are some of Haley’s favorite things to do:

  • Tricking you into thinking she wants to cuddle with you when really she’s trying to steal food off of your plate
  • Growling at the other dogs when they come close to things that aren’t even hers but that she claims anyway
  • Being a creeper when you are behind a closed door. She lies on the floor and tries to look under the door to see what you’re doing and squeals at you.
  • Jumping into the air repeatedly until she successfully grabs hold of whatever is slightly hanging over the edge of the counter and pulls it down for further investigation and possibly consumption
  • Barking at every single animal or person she sees
  • Eating and/or rolling in poo, dead bugs, dirt, anything gross
  • Chasing the tennis ball or laser beam until she’s about to pass out from exhaustion
  • Snatching her roommate’s favorite toys and destroying them right in front of his eyes, simply to remind him that she holds all the power
  • Racing everyone from one end of the house to the other or from the yard to the dog door. Everything is a race.

Haley’s mom was a race competitor, and she raced even while pregnant. I imagine that to IMG_5743be the source of Haley’s enthusiasm and energy. As crazy as she is, she’s also smart, and like all of my dogs, she has taught me a thing or two.

Use your strengths to your advantage.
Our dog Sid is three times Haley’s size. He would wrestle incessantly with Haley, and Haley always lost simply because she was much smaller and lighter. That is until Haley figured out a new strategy. She would jet underneath Sid and nip at his back legs one after the other so fast that Sid had no recourse but to fall on the ground, at which point Haley jumped on top of him. Her small size turned out to be a good thing.

Live in the moment and do the things you love.IMG_6378
Haley runs when she feels like running. She savors the treat she has in front of her. She naps when it seems like the best idea. She sees poo, she rolls in it and then comes in the house and happily shows me how gross she is. She chases squirrels all over the yard. She sees something interesting, she barks at it. She does what she wants from moment to moment and truly enjoys life.

Show your love freely.
Haley loves with the same energy and ferocity as she does everything else. When people come over, she is beside herself with joy. She can’t wait for everyone to sit down so she can jump in their lap, climb up their chest, and lick them incessantly in the face while her tail happily spins in circles. She follows K everywhere he goes. When he comes home from work, she cannot rest until he lets her greet him property with cuddles and kisses. She lies next to me or in my lap at some point every single day.

Haley is a true force of nature and just had her 13th birthday on, no joke, April Fool’s Day. While she is showing signs of slowing down and her hearing isn’t quite at full function any longer, she continues to surprise us, make us laugh, drive us crazy, and share in our love every day.

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The Quiet and the Storm

I am immediately suspicious when I didn’t hear any scratching at the door. K and I are returning home from dinner, parking in the driveway and entering the house through the garage as usual. The dogs usually hear when the garage door opens and wait for us in the entryway, Sid scratching at the doorknob impatiently. Since adopting him last year, he has gradually worn away the wood of the door in strips, his excitement at our arrival taking its toll. I listen, but I don’t hear the scratching. Perhaps Sid is asleep.

We enter the house to an empty hallway. Coming into the living room, we see our dog Haley curled up asleep on the back of the couch. She has lost some of her hearing, and the sound of our arrival is too quiet to wake her. Cora, our other dog, is curled up asleep as well in her bed in the closet. All is quiet. So where is Sid? He’s probably out roaming the back yard on this cool night, feeling the breeze rustle his thick Husky fur. I look out the window.

Sid is lying on the ground just outside the dog door. And he is seizing.

This isn’t his first seizure. The first happened four months after we adopted him from the local rescue group. The second happened about a month after that.

It starts in his hind legs. He tries to get up or run, but his legs slide out from under him. He tries a couple of more times and then gives up, laying on the floor, looking at me in confusion, asking me with his amber eyes why his legs aren’t cooperating. Then his legs stiffen. They stretch straight out, tight and tense, and the rest of his body follows. He continues to look deep into my eyes, confused, as his body starts to shake under my hands as I stroke his fur.

And then he disappears. I see it when it happens. I see when his eyes go blank and he is no longer aware of his surroundings. Sid is in full seizure at this point, and all I can do is pet him and wait. I hold my breath and watch him intently, feeling helpless and distraught.

I wonder where his mind goes, what he is experiencing. At a recent consultation, the vet described the seizures as a storm in his head. I imagine sounds of booming thunder and clashes of lightening. I imagine Sid scared in the dark, alone. Meanwhile, I am stuck here on a separate plain, and all I hear is quiet.

And then he is back. His eyes focus on my face and he sees me. He recognizes me. I continue stroking his fur and whisper to him softly that it’s okay. He continues to shake and flex his limbs. He begins panting from the physical exertion of the seizure and from the heat of his raised body temperature. He lies on the floor a few minutes longer as gradually his involuntary movements cease. He his calm but exhausted, and when he’s ready, I help him back up on his feet. He slurps water loudly from his bowl and life continues.

We did research that indicated his monthly parasite preventative could be the cause of the seizures. We changed it, and he went two months without an event. Then over the holidays he had three seizures in five weeks. The night we came home from dinner and found him in the backyard was the worst one. It took him longer than usual to recover.

Three weeks ago Sid started taking epilepsy medication. We opted for the least aggressive, lowest dose option to minimize the side effects as much as possible. Every twelve hours we give him a pill wrapped in peanut butter, one of his favorite treats. While the strict schedule is an adjustment for us, K and I agree that we will do whatever it takes to stop Sid’s seizures, to stop the storms in his head.

We are 27 days seizure free so far, and Sid contines to be himself. He brings in treasures from the yard, steals things out of the cabinets, and shares his toys with us to play tug. He is happy, and we are hopeful.

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In response to the daily prompt Sound

 

 

A Moment to Myself

I enjoy time alone. In fact, I crave it. Solitude is a personal joy that is essential to my wellbeing. In solitude I am free from judgment, obligation, and expectation, aside from the conditions I create for myself. Retreating to a place of solitude renews me.

Only when I am left to focus on my inner most thoughts and ideas do I feel like I know who I am. I have enough peace in those moments to ponder the thoughts that follow me through the days, to replay the memories stored away, to make sense of my emotions, and to find meaning in the array of ideas and wonderment that floats around in my mind.

I often find myself feeling my own pressures to spend solitary time on responsible and productive tasks and begin to feel the weight of guilt as a consequence. Then I look outside and see my dog Sid, lounging in the sun. He watches the birds and squirrels, looks for treasures, smells and nibbles the plants and flowers, takes naps. It does not matter that he is outside alone, that the other dogs have opted to spend their time elsewhere. He is happy in his solitude and often seeks it out when indoors becomes a little too chaotic and disruptive. Sid finds peace in having a few free moments alone, and he reminds me to do the same. He reminds me that being alone with only ourselves for company is necessary and often a saving grace when we crave a little extra peace. For both of us, solitude is source of happiness.

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In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge
Solitude

A Bond

As I drove home from the shelter with this scruffy 4-year old orange and white mutt curled up in the passenger seat, I could feel my world beginning to shift. She was silent, communicating only by staring at me with her deep dark eyes. I wondered what she was thinking as she looked at me and hoped it was good. I hoped I could live up to her expectations as a new dog owner.

She wandered around exploring her new home before settling down on her new blanket. I img_1244was hesitant to leave her alone so soon, but I had standing plans with my grandma and my boyfriend L would be home within the hour anyway.

When I returned home about five hours later, L explained that the dog hadn’t gotten up since he got home. He talked to her and tried to coax her up from her spot on her new red blanket, but she just looked at him and didn’t move. As we were talking, the dog appeared around the corner and wandered over to me. L was shocked.

What prompted her to get up now after all this time? She had heard my voice when I arrived back home. I understood then that she had bonded to me in the car when I picked her up from the shelter, when she was staring at me with her soulful eyes. I named her Cora after the Spanish word “corazon,” meaning “heart.”

Since those first days, Cora and I have been through a lot together. She has been with me through break-ups, graduate school, career changes, relocations, getting married, and surgery (for both of us). I used to work all day and then study at night while Cora quietly watched me from the comfort of her bed or slept under my desk.

img_1663We have been on many adventures together.   We have hiked together in the snow-covered mountains. We have trekked through the woods and plains. We have gone on road trips and gone fishing. We even went to a bar together once, despite Cora being an introvert.

When my husband and I were dating, he wooed Cora with tacos and trips to the park. He is still trying to fully win her over, but she will always be my shadow. She follows me from room to room, hesitant to take her eyes off of me for too long.  She barks for me to join her outside, and shows me how great she is at chasing squirrels when I do.  She continues to laze in bed until she sees me in the doorway and realizes it is me that has arrived home.  We have trust, understanding, and mutual respect.

We have weathered many storms together, real ones and metaphorical ones. When the sky is taken over by thunder and lightening, Cora shakes and I tell her things will be okay and that the storm will pass. When I’m facing a storm of my own, she gives me the same advice in her own way. She looks at me, lays down by me, and I know that everything will work out fine.

The new year got off to a rocky start for me. I was sick for the first two weeks (and am still Cora - 160not fully back to normal yet). Fever and chills and the worst sore throat I can remember threatened to take me down. I still went to work when I could but spend a lot of time in bed and on the couch, must more so than usual. I was never alone though. Cora was always by my side, reassuring me that it’s okay to take naps in the middle of the day, especially when you are sick.

As we were both resting, relaxed in the comfy, warm bed, it occurred to me how lucky I am to have her and to have had her for so long and through so much. She has been a constant flow of love in my life.

When I rescued her from the shelter seven years ago, I knew my world was shifting, but I had no idea how much and how much for the better since having Cora in it.

 

Arise

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breath, to think, to enjoy, to love.
-Marcus Aurelius

Most mornings I am rushing around the house, tackling tasks with focused energy, eager to cross things off my to-do list and leave the house on time. Most mornings my dog Cora wanders around the back yard and eventually sits down to take in the dawning of the new day.  She reminds me to revel in the simple fact that I woke up and am breathing, and thus I spend a few moments in the yard with her, just being present.

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In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge
Morning

Friends to the End

In a partnership, you lean on each other. You teach each other things. You support each other and do things together as a team.

When Toby was a year old, he got a sweet little sister, Haley. He showed her how to make the cute sad face to get more treats, how to play a game of Tug, and which door to greet us at when we arrived home. He showed her how to live the best life a dog could live.

Eventually Haley grew up and became the annoying little sister, but Toby still looked out for her. He’d make sure she was okay after returning home from a trip to the vet. He cried at the backdoor when she was stuck outside. They worked in tandem to take down the trashcan and eat the leftover pizza inside. They searched for rodents in the shed and patrolled the yard together at night. They were partners.

Friends 2013 - 005 – Version 2

When Toby died earlier this year, Haley was lost. She had never been without him. She wandered the house, restless and lonely. She refused to eat, not having Toby there with his usual watchful encouragement. When we came home from an outing, we would come through the back door and find Haley standing anxiously at the front door. She didn’t have Toby to tell her where to stand to greet us.

But now it’s Haley’s turn to pass on her dog knowledge. She shows her new friend Sid how to squeal for attention, where the dog treats are kept, and how fun it is to run really fast. Together they chase squirrels and play Tug with their favorite toys. Haley now knows which door to greet us as when we come home. She has Sid’s help in figuring it out, and she almost always gets it right.

Version 2

In response to the Daily Post photo challenge
Partners