Monday, May 11, 2009

What We Can Learn from Our Rescue Dogs

As I wrote yesterday, on Friday my husband and I adopted Pinot Gris (a name we've changed twice, but still don't feel we've got it right yet), who's a five-year old male Chihuahua-Terrier mix. He's only 15 pounds, which is about nine pounds smaller than Spike.

What's amazing is that Pinot has so many of Spike's best qualities--without any of his baggage. And yet, as I write this, I realize I rarely thought about Spike's limitations because I loved him so much. But when Trudy, the rescue person, brought Pinot to our house, it brought back a flood of memories about Spike.

Initially, Trudy was concerned because Pinot growled at my husband for the first half hour. I said, "Oh, don't worry, when Spike came to our house the first time, he ran around in circles for a half hour until he was frothing at the mouth. Martha, the woman who brought him, didn't know what to say because she had told me Spike was low-key, when in truth, he was skittish and nervous with strangers for the duration of his life. Eventually, I'm sure Pinot will stop growling at my husband."

And he did. But what sold me on Pinot is that he's got a spunky personality, he loves being held, and he loves kissing me on the face. And yesterday when I took him to the park for a few hours, it was an amazing experience. He did well with people and other dogs. I had a wonderful time with him, and it was so relaxing.

While I could take Spike on walks, I couldn't take him to the park because he hated most men (he'd been abused by a man) and all other dogs aside from Murphy. And when people came over to our house, Spike had to get used to them, and he didn't like a lot of people although he mellowed with age.

Although I had asked for a dog who was good with children, low-key, and calm, Spike had none of those qualities. Yet, we overlooked Spike's limitations because we unconditionally loved him.

But, as I've said before, I was diagnosed soon after he arrived, and when I was so sick on medication and went through a year-long nightmare depression, Spike never moved from my side. In a way, I've often thought that Spike wasn't the dog I thought I wanted, but he was the dog I needed.

When I was severely depressed, it was very reassuring to know that Spike loved me despite my limitations. When I felt like I had nothing to offer others, I somehow knew that Spike thought I was wonderful--just because I was so gentle with him. When I could barely get out of bed, it was helpful to know I always had the energy to feed Spike, and take him outside when he needed to go.

What I learned from Spike was that even when I felt I was damaged goods, he didn't see me that way. And that's an important life lesson I hope I never forget. When we feel like we have nothing to offer, there are always others who don't see us that way.

Conversely when I was well, I was impressed by how smart Spike was. When I was healthy, I was glad to know I still could be accepting of Spike, who had so many problems with people and his peers.

When Spike bit a child who frightened him, I was proud I handled the situation with the child and his parents so well, despite the fact that the boy's father reported us and Spike was quarantined for two weeks. Yet, I not only protected Spike by being on top of the situation with Animal Control, but also with our vet, whom we stopped seeing because he said, "Spike's a biter, and you should put him down."

To me, our vet's attitude was unconscionable. I felt he was just like my psychiatrist who emotionally abandoned me when I was depressed.

Not only did we keep Spike, but I implemented a program at home so that every child learned how to behave with him so he didn't feel threatened. Yet, I was very careful to insure Spike never bit one of my son's friends again by keeping Spike on a leash with me when there were children in our house.

When Trudy said, "How lucky Spike was to have found you," I shook my head.

"No, I was blessed to have found him," I said.

And while no one will replace Spike in my heart, I now know my heart is big enough to fully and completely love Pinot as well. How wonderful is that?


marja said...

So good to hear all about the new addition to your family. Almost makes me feel like adopting a dog. But we already have a cat who would not take kindly to it.

Have a great day and a great week, Susan.

- marja

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marja,
Thank you! Yes, a dog is surely a woman's best friend! Hope you have a good week as well.


Mariposa said...

Oh lovely story...and so very true!

I feel like our lives in some ways resonates each other...because I had dachshunds before, but one very close to me was Mozart and like you he was with me in my down many times we sit on the porch staring far away...teary eyed! Can you imagine that?!

And he hates men...not that he was abused, but maybe he was ummm jealous?! LOL

Indeed so many things to learn from them...

P.S. I just posted some photos on my garden... :)

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Mariposa,
It's really comforting, isn't it. You'll be really surprised to learn that when I was a child, I grew up with Dachshunds--two of them--Willie and Schnapsie.

And I will go right to your blog and check out your garden!


katie said...

it's true, we can never replace one dog with another, the love and missing is always present with me, but how quickly love can blossom and grow for yet another sweet and needing soul. i can't imagine my life without dogs in it.

Emma said...

I am so glad you have included a photo, and I agree wholeheartedly about somehow the 'right' animal finding us! It has been suggested that Molly is so lucky to have us in her life, especially now, but I truly believe that we are the fortunate ones. Molly's gift has been some big lessons learned, and I continue to surprise myself at just what I am able to manage on her behalf. I suspect a name will reveal itself as you all become better acquainted. Molly answers to so many derivatives, that I know what she is really responding to is the tone and love in my voice. As a complete aside our family also had a daschund when I was a child. Hansi was quite elderly by the time I was born, and not very interested in a small inquisitive person!
I am just so delighted you now have such a loving little companion in your life. It makes such a difference.

Periwinkle said...

Hi Susan,
Posted you some flower pictures, a picture of our large vegetable garden and the soon to be corn patch.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Katie,
Sorry it took me so long to respond.
I certainly agree. We never replace the dogs we love who die. But, once the intense sadness goes away, it's always nice to learn we have the capacity to love again.


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Emma,
And I'm sorry it took me so long to respond to you as well. I was gone until late last night, and for some reason when I returned I couldn't leave a comment.

When Murphy was dying of a virulent form of cancer, and Spike of old age, people said how lucky they were to have us. But, I felt like you do (about Molly) --fortunate to have been a part of their lives.

When I was a child with animals, I loved them but didn't learn from them. As an adult, it was an entirely different experience. And there were some "big" lessons!

FYI...Last night in my absence, my husband and son settled on Jack, which works for me. But, I agree with you, it's probably more the tone we use than the name we choose.

P.S. Another dachshund owner? Interesting!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Periwinkle,
Just saw your comment too. Again, sorry it took me so long to respond. I'll be by directly to see your photos.


preciousrock said...

"When we feel like we have nothing to offer, there are always others who don't see us that way."

Thank God for that! Very touching dog and human story. It made me think about my life in a different light.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear preciousrock,
I'm so glad it helped! Thanks for letting me know.