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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A Rescue and a Birthday

I didn’t even really want her at first. I didn’t want the commitment or the responsibility. I’d never had a dog, but I gave in, and I’d do it all over again. Rescuing Cora from the shelter was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. She has made me a better person, and six years later we celebrate her “birthday,” the day she became part of the family. 

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Getting a dog was my boyfriend’s idea. We were living together in a house with a nice, spacious back yard perfect for a dog. I was very reluctant, but he finally convinced me to take a trip with him to the shelter. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and I burst into tears as soon as we got back in the car. All of those homeless dogs with no one to love them – it was hard to see that. But I was sold on the dog idea. I could give one of these dogs a warm, safe, and loving home and would never forgive myself if I acted otherwise.

The next weekend we went to the Humane Society. I brought gum this time to help distract me and fight back the tears more easily. There were so many dogs. They stared longingly into your eyes, pawing the cages, barking and crying, begging you to take them home and love them forever. I handed a piece of gum to my boyfriend. He was fighting back tears, too.

I wandered slowly among the kennels, greeting and petting every dog one by one through the cages. The bigger dogs were in the outdoor kennels, many of them barking as much as possible to get attention. I got to the end of the row and there she was. She was a small white and ginger dog who clearly hadn’t had a haircut in a long time or possibly never. She sat quietly looking at me with sad, shifty eyes. I didn’t understand why she was outside with the big dogs given her stature. Perhaps the shelter ran out of room inside? I saw from her paper work she had been there a month.

I found my boyfriend wandering in another section of the shelter, and we compared notes. So many dogs we would love to take home! We made our way back through and stopped in front of the white and ginger dog again. I knelt by her cage. She looked at me with her sweet face, leaned back and sat up on her hind legs. I immediately fell in love, and we adopted her.

Cora and I bonded fast. She was my shadow. I worked hard to pay attention to her dog language and ways of communicating. I have countless stories of her intelligence and her sassiness, but I’ll save those for future days. When my boyfriend and I split, one of the first questions everyone asked me was, “You got Cora, right?”

When I look at Cora, I know she sees the best version of me, and thus that’s what I strive to be.

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Here are a few things Cora has taught me and continues to remind me:

1) Forgiveness is always possible.
2) Love wholeheartedly.
3) Peanut butter is the best food in existence. Broccoli is a close second.
4) Be patient.
5) Be resilient. Pull that sticker out of your paw and keep going!
6) Take time to enjoy nature.
7) Keep your promises.
8) Nap time is good any time.

Not only do I still have Cora but I also have Toby and Haley who came as a package deal with my husband.  While I am brand new to blogging (this is official post #4), I predict that my dogs will show up in future posts since they are part of the cast of characters of my life. Thus, I may as well introduce them now.

Cora: My sassy shelter dog Cora is an introvert. She enjoys napping in the sun, chewing holes in her blanket, eating broccoli, yoga, doing gorilla impressions, car rides, and Toby.

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Toby: This is my sweet boy Toby using his cuteness to sucker me into giving him a treat. It’s his favorite pastime (because it usually works). Toby also enjoys barking at dogs on TV, eating pizza he drags out of the trash, tap dancing, and cats.

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Haley: Don’t let this sweet face fool you. Cray cray Haley enjoys running zig zag laps around the yard, practicing her high jump, snacking on bird seed, licking you incessantly, making the bed, chasing balls/squirrels/lasers/cats, and cuddling.

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Three dogs can be a real handful, but they are worth it.  Every day they remind me to enjoy life and not to take it too seriously.