Did I Say ‘Never’?
By NANCY PATRICK
Have you ever had to eat your words? I certainly have. I learned pretty early in parenting that I should avoid saying, “My kid would never do that.” Mastery of that lesson takes time and discipline, but it helps parents avoid future embarrassment.
I don’t think I said I would “never” regarding very many other issues, but I did say it thirty years ago when my husband and I had to give away the last dog we had. I have always loved dogs so much and always had them throughout my life.
My parents let my sister and me have pets when we lived at home. I always loved dogs, but my sister has always loved every creature that breathes—great or small. Most of our childhood photos feature her holding our pet or a neighborhood stray.
When Mike and I married, we purchased our first pet, a Chihuahua puppy we named Lisa. Then after our son Jason entered the family, we had a series of dogs and a few cats. I remember the dogs included Benjy, Buffy, Dusty, and Max.
The bottom line is that we had a major difficulty with each dog. Lisa hated our baby and tried to bite him. Dusty ran under my car, causing me to run over him. Buffy’s viscousness required that he be put down, and then we had Max.
We tried so hard to train Max, a miniature dachshund, but he was incorrigible. During his three-year reign, I did not have one entire night’s sleep. Max woke up ready to say good morning at 3:00 A.M. every day. After Max, we said, “We will never have another dog.”
Any time over these past thirty years that I weakened at the sight of the dogs up for adoption from the Taylor Jones Humane Society (TJHS), Mike would remind me of our oath—we will never have another dog.
Then along came Covid-19. Along with it came isolation, loneliness, and depression. I found myself longing for something warm and cuddly to hug and share my love with. I finally built up my courage and gave Mike the first hint several months ago after I rescued a little dog from a drainage ditch in our neighborhood.
After months of my looking at Mike with doe eyes and making appropriate cooing sounds, he finally gave in; thus, we began our search for our new fur baby.
Sharon Kelley, an Abilene High classmate of mine, volunteers at TJHS. She loves animals as much as I do, so when I confided in her that I needed a cuddler, she began looking for the right pet for me.
It didn’t take her long to call and tell me she thought she had found just the right dog for me. The humane society had rescued a group of dogs living in dirty, unhealthy conditions. Some of them were beyond help, but a couple of siblings with early heartworm disease were good candidates for treatment and healthy lives.
Sharon introduced me to Mary Grace (we have shortened her name to Gracie), a precious little mutt who has an adorable, tiny underbite. I immediately loved Gracie.
Gracie came to us with special needs. Of course, she must continue her heart worm treatment which requires her to remain calm until the treatment ends and the cure is accomplished.
Although only two years old, she has already had at least one litter of puppies and will be spayed after heart worm treatment ends.
Abuse and neglect have made Gracie extremely skittish. Although she bonded with me immediately, she is terrified of my husband Mike. He works very hard to win her over.
Gracie does not bark, growl, or bite. Mike and I feel that our adopted baby has never experienced love, patience, or kindness. It’s as though her neglect and abuse taught her not to make a fuss because it wouldn’t do any good.
We spend hours a day cuddling Gracie, petting her, talking baby talk to her, and praising her for everything she does. Adoption paperwork indicates that any adopted dog will need three days to decompress, three weeks to begin recognizing your household routine, and three months to begin feeling comfortably at home.
Gracie reminds me of all the children in the world who have had starts similar to hers. Some days she seems sad, unresponsive, and fearful—even with me. Other days, I think she shows signs of adjustment only to find her withdrawn the next day.
I think of the shameful number of children who need homes because their lives mirror Gracie’s. Some have never experienced cleanliness, health, caressing, praise, or love.
These children often go into an emergency foster home only to wait until a “permanent” foster home becomes available. They enter homes of people they do not know, with expectations they may not meet, and with the knowledge that these people are on a list of emergency contacts who will house them for a few days.
I cannot imagine the fear, anxiety, dread, despair, and sense of worthlessness many of these children experience. We can learn a lot from dogs and children. They need love, healthy food, clean homes, medical care, praise for behavior, and lots and lots of hugs and words of love. Maybe we all need these things—imagine a world filled with that kind of compassion!
Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing