The wounds of rejection
We were still grieving the loss of laughing, loving Danny when the call came. A young woman who had visited the monastery over the years had heard about the death of Danny. And then, at about the same time, she came to know, too, of an exhibitor who presented show dogs in competition. This trainer and dog exhibitor, she learned, intended to have one of her highly bred golden retrievers euthanized.
This dog had simply had the misfortune to “outgrow the standard of the breed.” He was, in other words, too tall or too broad or too something to compete. He was no good for stud. In fact, he was of no financial good to her at all anymore. He had to go.
Did we want him, the girl on the phone pressed? If we would promise to take him, she was sure she could negotiate some kind of agreement to make it possible. We weren’t over Danny yet. But we did love dogs. The house might not be ready for another dog. But it might be easier to accept when we were used to having one around than it would be later. We didn’t have the time to think it through. But if we didn’t think quickly, this dog was going to be dead.
I took him.
…oh, was he trained! It was almost pitiable to watch him. Call the dog to come and he trundled across the room and threw himself flat on his face in front of you. No joy in coming. No joy in getting there. He had been robotized to the point of pain.
Somehow or other, in anticipation of dog show ribbons and championships, puppyness had been stripped right out of Duffy. We had an old dog, an empty kind of dog, in a young dog who had never found life for himself. It had been given to him in short phrases: come, sit, down, and stay. All of them are valuable things to know, but all of them, in his case, had been exaggerated to the point of meaninglessness.
My first attempt to free Duffy was to decide that no one who was involved with caring for him would ever give him a command again. It was the one clear gift I could think of to prove to him the trustworthiness of his essential dogness.
“Duffy,” I would say silently as I looked into his deep, wise, and knowing eyes, “you are enough just as you are. You have had all the shaping into someone else’s expectations that you will get for the rest of your life. From now on, all you need to learn is how to be yourself.”
Then the lesson became clear: It is when we become ourselves that people have the least control of us and we have the beginning of the whole of ourselves. Then, like Duffy, we will begin to bloom.
—from Two Dogs and a Parrot: What Our Animal Friends Can Teach Us About Life by Joan Chittister (BlueBridge).