I had to give up the puppy. I made a million excuses even when one of my girlfriends at work said, “Listen, you need to get rid of Cujo”. This after he had finally bitten my son which I had always said would be the breaking point. But, he didn’t bite him in a vicious way, I explained. However, no matter how I explained or excused or rationalized, the puppy continued to grow more aggressive and I couldn’t deny that he wasn’t thriving in our house of chaos.
When I made the decision to get a puppy, I knew what puppies were like. I knew that they had a lot of energy, I knew that they put everything in their mouths, I knew they had to be trained, I knew they required patience…I knew. It didn’t quite prepare me for Oscar and his super alpha nature despite what I still believe was an underlying anxiety after having such a traumatic and unstable puppyhood. And as much as I love that dog (and still do) and believe in his potential as a fantastic companion, I couldn’t ignore that all signs were pointing toward the fact that he didn’t seem to be the best companion for us. The puppy consumed so much of my energy and brain power that I am certain my sons, at least one of them, was kind of feeling like, hey! remember me? I used to be the center of attention around here. What happened? I’m not even 8 yet! And even as his aggression with me was growing worse, I kept agonizing…I couldn’t give him up! What was I supposed to be learning? Was I supposed to be learning that I had to stick with it? Was this a test of my patience? Was this a test to see if I could stick with my resolve? Stand by my decisions? And what about everyone who thought I was crazy for taking on a dog to begin with…didn’t I need to prove them all wrong? And he is such a good dog. Shouldn’t I stick with him…nurture those parts of him in which I saw such potential?
Then I started to recognize a different pattern. A pattern in which my loyalty starts to look a little something like insanity. A pattern in which I continue to be treated badly and I overlook the overwhelming negatives and focus on those small glittering lights of positive potential that I tend to see in all things. I cling to the light like a lifeboat even as the dark storms of negative rage in the waters all around me. I’ve done it in friendships and relationships; I do it with work colleagues and acquaintances. I have always believed that it was one of, if not THE defining feature of me: the ability to reach past all the other stuff and find what is most worthy in another being and focus on that. However, I have learned over the years that this isn’t always necessarily a virtue.
And so I began to wonder if this puppy hadn’t been sent to me as a lesson of another sort. Maybe what I was supposed to be learning is that I shouldn’t allow someone to harm me over and over and make excuses about why it is ok. Or worse, take responsibility for the actions of another. To know that if I am doing my part and doing it well that it isn’t my fault if the other party can’t or won’t get with the program. After all, isn’t that what I have been doing my whole life? Trying to find the good in others even if it continually seems like it comes back to bite me, both literally and figuratively? Maybe it was time to say–enough.
Of course, I will admit that I probably wouldn’t have made the same decision if I didn’t have kids. I more than likely would have stuck it out. On the other hand, none of this probably would have happened this way if I hadn’t had kids, but who knows. Bottom line, I could never risk the dog biting one of them (again) and having it be more serious. It was bad enough that my arms were bruised and bitten and I now sport scars that look a little like I may be a cutter. (As if the people in my town need anything else to think about the frazzled single mom with the twins.)
I can’t say for sure that I have totally learned my lesson. Giving up the puppy was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. If I hadn’t done it on the day that he bit me repeatedly as I tried to lead him home from our walk, I am not sure I could have done it. I needed those bruises and bite wounds to be fresh and painful to assure myself that I was doing the right thing. Because as I have experienced in the past, as soon as those wounds are memory, and they fade into barely noticeable scars, it is so much harder to remember why you are doing what you are doing. I know that it isn’t right to let someone continually hurt you. Whether it is a dog or a human. Whether it is your husband or wife or brother or friend. But I also know that I carry many scars external and internal that betray a lifetime of allowing exactly that. I don’t know if I have learned my lesson. I hope so. I do know that it was the first time in a very long time that I can remember saying, enough. Saying, I don’t deserve to be hurt repeatedly. And then making the decision to end it. At the very least, I think I can say I have made some progress. Hopefully, my sons will look back on this and take away the fact that their mom stood up for what was right even though it hurt and that they will be inspired to live their lives in such a way that they will ALWAYS look for the good, but know when to say “enough”.