Monday, October 10, 2016

Our History Shapes Us. The Same Holds True For Our Kids.

About 5 months after we adopted Lobo, we were participating at an event. Lobo was with us. At the time, his anxiety issues had eased up quite a bit, but not enough to leave him home for any length of time. There had been huge improvements. Still more to make. Some that would probably linger indefinitely. At the event, he barked quite a bit. There were lots of people. Lots of pups. Loud music. Hustle and bustle.

At one point, a couple of people we knew visited our display. I asked if I could get a photo of them with Lobo. They agreed. While taking photos of Lobo, he barked. The person holding Lobo appeared irritated. After about a minute, the person holding Lobo made it quite clear they'd had enough. They extended Lobo towards Lisa and said, "You need to do something about that barking."

I wanted to give them a high five. In the face. With a chair.

They didn't know Lobo. His history. The situation he'd been rescued from. That he was on death's door when rescued. He had been eaten alive by fleas, had lost most of his fur, was covered in scabs, and his hind leg had to be removed because of Gangrene. Lobo had also sustained an injury in his remaining hind leg that had gone untreated so his mobility is very limited. The list goes on.

We suspect his anxiety had a lot to do with his previous living conditions especially once his health started to deteriorate. I'm guessing he was secluded to a crate, closet, room or basement because of his flea infestation. And eventually, he was forgotten about and left to fend for himself without adequate food or water or medical treatment.

When he arrived at our home as a foster the day after his surgery, he barked every time he couldn't see Lisa or I. It took a lot of work to alleviate that and gain his trust. We adopted him two weeks later.

As the weeks rolled on, his anxiety eased up a lot. When we participated in the event I mentioned earlier, he still wasn't at the point where we could leave him home alone. Close, but not quite there yet.

The person who made the comment about his barking knew none of this. 

I'm mentioning all of this because not too long ago I came across a quote by author Gwen Cooper.

"My philosophy when it came to pets was much like that of having children. You got what you got, and you loved the unconditionally regardless of whatever their personalities or flaws turned out to be."

That quote has been weighing heavy on my brain. In a good way. If I had to sum up our experiences with all of our kids, that would be it. All of our kids have lingering characteristics stemming from the situations they were in before they were rescued.

A lot of people would view them as "flaws." I don't. 

Each of our kids were rescued from a nightmare situation. It took a long time to gain their trust. Coco was the most trying. He had issues across the board including his eating habits. Sophie was the least trying. Lobo was somewhere in the middle.

With time, their issues became less apparent. They decompressed. They came out of their shells. However, not everything faded. And, it won't.

Coco gets scared and barks excessively if there's too much loud noise or yelling. Mealtime is still challenging at times and some days, it takes several tries of making the right meal in the right bowl or plate for him to eat.

Sophie is terrified of storms, fireworks, flashing lights, and loud noises. During the summer months, Lisa and I don't leave the house at the same time if there are storms in the forecast. Sophie also eats too fast. We have to puree most of her food so she doesn't vomit.

Lobo still has anxiety. He barks at most everything because he can't see where the noise is coming from. He can't go up or down stairs or jump on furniture. After a few minutes of walking around, his legs tire out. He wipes out if he veers from the rug runners and scatter rugs in the kitchen.

I see none of these as flaws. Each of them lived through a nightmare, even several, before being rescued. Of course that's going to have an impact on them. Some temporary. Some not.

It's a lot like us humans. For those who have experienced something traumatic and horrible, think about how that's made an impact on your life today. I've known people who were in car accidents and, after recovery, were afraid to drive. Most got over it. One didn't.

I'm no exception to this. In my lifetime, I've lived through several nightmares. Although I weathered the storms and survived, it changed me. I'm afraid of the dark. I don't like being in crowded rooms where people are packed in like sardines. I'm terrified of fire.

Our history shapes us. The same holds true for our kids.

When I think back to that event, it still strikes a few nerves with me. The person who was holding Lobo became irritated by his barking and made it quite obvious they wanted to distance themselves from him.

"You need to do something about that barking."

I'm reminded of letter that went viral back in 2013. Remember the letter Karla Begley received, from a neighbor, about her 13 year old autistic son? The neighbor wrote a hideous letter addressing the issue and ended it by saying, "Do the right thing and move or euthanize him. Either way, we are all better off."

I know the two are totally different in comparison, but the bottom line is the same. We've turned into a society that is quick to judge. We don't learn the facts before we have a reaction. We don't take the time to understand the situation one has faced or is facing.

The person who held Lobo that day judged him. They judged us. Not once did they take the time to ask why he barked so much. They didn't know him. His history. How far he had come. The progress he made. They didn't know us.

They. Just. Judged.

That's the problem. We have knee-jerk reactions to people and situations.

I'm guilty of that too.

Last year, while running some errands, there was a woman and small toddler nearby. The toddler was screaming. Her other child was running around and almost crashed into my cart several times. I'll admit, I became irritated. I wanted to lock eyes with the mother and tell her to get her kids under control.

By the time I neared the mother and screaming toddler, my nerves were vibrating. Seconds later, the mother looked at me and apologized. Her husband was in the hospital. The babysitter never showed up. Her in-laws were traveling from California to help out, but wouldn't be there until the day after.

Lesson learned on my part.

After all was said and done, I wanted to take this woman out for a decent meal, or at the very least a cup of coffee, so she could exhale. Vent.

To the person who held Lobo that day and told us we needed to do something about his barking...screw you.

You judged before knowing his story. Our story.

Your reaction was a reflection of who you are as a person. Not who we are as Dog Moms. Not who Lobo is.

We love our kids unconditionally. We have a few close friends who love them unconditionally too. They're not bothered by the barking.

Yeah, we got what we got.

We have no regrets.

We're a family.

And, we wouldn't change a thing.

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