Other People’s Children

I plan to have a family someday.

I’m not in any hurry. I don’t feel the biological clock ticking yet, but its not something I’ve ever been unsure about.

In the interim, I have had fish, plants, and a cat. None of those ventures worked out very well. I plead guilty to neglect in the case of the plants. (Although I am working on an aloe vera now, 8 months and counting! I realize that’s essentially a cactus, but… baby steps). The demise of the fish came at the  hands paws of the cat. And the cat… well that is another story for another day.

I have wanted a dog for years, probably since college. I told myself that a dog would come only after I had a house and a yard, and/or had become responsible enough to give an appropriate amount of time and attention to a canine.

So exactly one week after I got the keys to my house, I was at the Canyon County Animal Shelter, ready to hand over my money and take home the Boxer-Rhodesian Ridgeback mix that I had been to visit twice in as many days.  I knew I was taking a risk, and maybe being a bit stubborn. The shelter didn’t know anything about her. I had two facts: she was a stray, and she was about two. As I signed off on the paperwork that included statements like “I understand that this animal may not be house-trained” and “I understand this animal may not be good around children or other pets”  my heart started beating a little faster. I was recalling the worst stories I had heard about my friends’ dogs, and episodes of “The Dog Whisperer” where the tearful owners were at their wits end. But when I looked in her sweet brown eyes, I knew I had to take her home.

 

Kenya

Who could resist that face?

 

I watched and waited, looking for signs of the Cujo lurking within. A day passed, then two, and then a week. She didn’t bark. She didn’t chew things. She did her business outside with very little hassle. She didn’t freak out when I left the house. She didn’t try to dislocate my shoulder or pull me down the street when we went for a walk. She didn’t take off after birds, squirrels, cats, ducks, goats, llamas, sheep, cows, or other people. She curled up with me quietly at night and went to sleep. She was near-saintly.

Then the worry set in. There had to be a catch. I waited for a family (with crying children in tow) to appear at my doorstep, telling me thank you for finding their lost dog, who had jumped from the back of their moving truck, and how they’d been searching everywhere for her! And of course I’d have to give her back, because of the crying kids. Or maybe, somebody’s amazing dog had been diagnosed with a horrible terminal illness which the owner couldn’t afford to treat and they had taken her to the shelter and not disclosed the fact that she was dying. There was just no way anyone could have gotten rid of her.  I had decided to call her Kenya, and I was scared to use the name for a while because I didn’t want to get too attached.

No family appeared, no signs of illness, and no unattractive behaviors came to light. We started visiting the dog park on a regular basis, and I was the proud mother of a well-behaved furry child. I will admit I was bursting with pride when I first saw her kick into a full-speed run at the park. She was beautiful. Plus, she smoked the other dogs. I congratulated myself, as a former middle-school star sprinter, that she surely took after me. And, as they say, pride comes before a fall.

Once she was settled in, and I was settled in with some honest-to-goodness furniture in my new house, I had some coworkers over for a house-warming party. I told one of my girlfriends to bring her dog along, so that she didn’t have to worry about him at home. She has a big yellow lab, about the same age, but a solid 90lbs to Kenya’s 55.  We figured they were both good dogs, and we did not foresee a problem. Yeah. I doubt anyone saw the problem before introducing Stalin and Trotsky either.  When they weren’t hackled and growling territorially, the lab spent most of the evening trying to hide from Kenya.
She was put to the test again the following weekend, with the yellow lab and a black lab. Same story. My dog, is a bully.  She seems to miss something important about social interactions indoors. She watched the other two dogs playing, and wanted to join- by trying to sneak up and nip one of them. A few minutes later she lunged at the other dog when he came too close to me. Again, no biting, more posturing, but I was crushed. I was embarrassed. Obviously my good friends were going to think I had was training my dog to be brutal killer, to take what she wanted and never apologize. I put her and myself to bed, wondering if it was too late to fix this problem. I’m reading up on it.

It made me think about children though. From time to time as a teacher you encounter a child who makes you stop and say, “Dear God. Maybe I don’t  ever want children if there’s a possibility they could turn out like that!”  Or the more common sentiment, “My kid will never behave like that!”

I think Kenya may teach me a little lesson about judging parents without knowing the whole story.

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~ by Lindsey on October 8, 2010.

One Response to “Other People’s Children”

  1. […] Kenya and I are preparing an agility routine for America’s Got […]

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