Nature of the beast

Angel's first ever pic on her way home

Mama’s theory of the pedigree of my parking lot puppy had changed a few months ago. Her latest theory, which she expressed daily, was that Angel Doodle was a pit mix.

Now, this irritated me. Why, I am not sure. Other than the fact it was my Mama and sometimes just because it comes out of our mama’s mouth can be enough to irritate us.

But just about every day, Mama would say, “I think she is a pit mix.”

It also irritated me because I know the stigma that can go with a pit.

And, I will admit, I had felt that way for a moment or two myself before.

“Why do you get so upset when I say she is a pit mix?” Mama asked.

“Because she is not a pit!” I replied a tad too stridently.

“You don’t know what she is. But I think she’s a pit.”

The woman thought for sure she was a great Dane four months ago. Now, she is convinced Angel Doodle is a pit.

I looked at the pup, now bigger than the Border collie, as she lay on her pillow, watching her cartoons. Yes, this dog likes cartoons. She actually prefers Road Runner, of all things. She is easily entertained.

She didn’t seem like the aggressive dogs I had heard of; if anything, she loses bladder control if she hears Mama snore, so she’s not real fierce.

I know pit bulls have one of the worst reputations of dogs and top the list of dangerous breeds; my beloved shepherds were on that list too. We even had a realtor refuse to sell us a house in Athens once because we had three.

“Good luck with finding a home,” the lady told me. “Unless you get rid of the dogs.”

I tried to explain our dogs were Schutzhund and obedience trained; it didn’t matter. Probably part of the reason we live on the side of a small mountain with the bears now.

I deduced she was a lab mix, and the way the rain falls off her fur has to be a Labrador coat. She has sweet Lab eyes too.

She is the world’s biggest baby, her feelings easily hurt when Lamar pushes her off the bed, retreating to my side to cry underneath.

She loves to be cuddled and cradled like a baby. When she was a tiny puppy, I could put her between me and the arm of the chair and prop my laptop up to work; she doesn’t understand why that doesn’t work now, 45-pounds later.

She is my alarm clock and my snuggle buddy, particularly after she has eaten my shoes. She is deliriously happy to see me, knowing I am the one who brought her home and her whole body will wag with delight. Her whole body just exudes happiness and joy.

She still hasn’t found her voice, only barking twice – once being when she fell out of the chair – she thought she had been pushed- and the second time, when she was trying to jump into Lamar’s arms while he was standing. It was as if she was giving him a warning yell.

She’s a leaning dog, which I love, as she leans up against my legs and looks up at me with that sweet honey colored face.

She is scared of the dark and won’t go out without a flashlight.

When she is doing something she knows she is not supposed to, she hides in her ‘basket of shame’ to carry out her mischievous deeds of eating my Velcro curlers.

I did another Google search and there was a dog that looked just like her – a lab/pit mix.

“Sweetest dog ever” the caption read.

“Mama, I think she is a pittie mix,” I finally admitted.

Mama was quiet for a second, probably because that was the closest she had gotten to a “you were right” in 41 years.

“Oh, really?” she began. “I don’t know, I don’t think she is. I don’t know what she is.”

“She’s a Whosa!” Cole announced. “A ‘Who’s a good girl’ – Angel’s a good girl!”

“I don’t think she’s a pittie mix,” Mama finally said, probably because I had agreed with her.

“What are you going to do with her if she is?”

“Same thing we’re doing now,” I said. “Take care of, feed her and love her.”

“Do you think Lamar can train her?” she asked.

He had already started working with her and was excited to find her to be very ball driven.
She wasn’t a shepherd, he had said, but she was learning.

“If anyone can train her, he can,” I told Mama.

I don’t know if she is a pittie or not. I know I am a firm believer in the nature versus nurture argument and plan on focusing on nurturing her sweet, loving traits, the traits that are almost humanistic in her responses.

I don’t think pitties are ‘bad’ dogs either. For the most part, I think dogs are a lot like people, or rather, better than most people I know. Because even though they each have their own personality, get grumpy when they are couped up and have their favorite spot on the couch, they mainly just want to be loved. Like we all do.

We all really just want to be loved. That’s one of the basic needs for everything that breathes. Well, with the exception of snakes. I don’t think they really care.

So that was what I was going to nurture in that pup. I was just going to love her. Whatever she was, pittie mix, lab mix, Whosa – all she needed, was love.

And a ball. Lamar says she needs a ball.

Forgiving and forgetting (1/15/2014)

Cole was mad at his father.

I am not sure what happened.

Cole would not say. But his lip was poked out and he was not speaking to him.

“You sure you don’t want to talk about it?” I questioned.

Usually, Cole jumps at a chance to talk about his feelings. He can get down and discuss his reasoning and logic behind the deepest emotions better than Freud.

He shook his head.

“I don’t want to say a word about how hurted I am with that man right now,” he said solemnly.
That was understandable. When I am deeply hurt, I usually don’t want to talk about it. Not even to Mama.

“You think you will feel better later?” I asked.

He shook his head again. “I don’t know. This may take a while.”

I wondered what the transgression had been – Cole once got upset at his father when he thought Lamar had disrespected the piggies, but Cole had been quite vocal about that. This time, he was silent as to the offense and his feelings.

“What did you do?” I asked Lamar.

He didn’t know what he had done – it could have been a dozen little minor things but to Cole, whatever it was, it had added up to be big.

“Mama, do you ever forgive Daddy?” was Cole’s question an hour later.

“Forgive him for what?”

“Anything. Everything. He makes you angry a lot. So do you forgive him?”

I can nurse a grudge better than anyone. I have practically elevated it to an art form in some ways. It was genetic.

To this day, you could say certain people’s names and Granny’s eye would bulge as she uttered a curse under her breath.

Mama was the same way. Her normal benevolent, peace-loving, hippie ways would come to a grinding halt the minute certain people were mentioned.

So it was natural for me to hold to unforgiveness like a safety blanket. I have a list – yes, I do – of people who had run out of second, third, fourth and 12th chances with me. Or as Granny would say, “I’ve washed my hands of them,” which is southern talk for “they’re dead to me.”

“I’ve forgiven Daddy,” I said. I think I have; not sure which offense Cole was referencing.

He looked up at me, his big blue eyes searching mine. “You did?”

I nodded. “Yes, Cole, I am not holding any anger or unforgiveness toward Daddy.”

“What about when he broke your bowl?” he asked.

“I forgave him.”

“What about that nice antique plate you had on the sideboard?”

I didn’t know about that. But it wouldn’t do any good getting upset about now, after the fact, would it?

“Cole, I know it’s natural to want to hold on to those things that hurt us – they remind us to not let someone hurt us again. But at some point, we have to let it go. If we don’t, it’s like drinking a poison and expecting it to hurt them when it’s us it hurts.”

I could tell he was digesting this as he planned his rebuttal. “What if I can forgive, but I can’t forget?”

“I am guilty of that. I can remember every single wrong and offense that has ever happened to me. I carry it around like some badge of honor. I try to make myself believe that it keeps me from getting hurt again but the truth is, it doesn’t. We have to be able to let it go, so we can move forward.”

“So if you don’t forget, you stay stuck?” he asked.

“Pretty much,” I replied. “If you keep playing over the same old hurts, it doesn’t do much but remind you of some pretty miserable things. I would rather focus on the happy, wouldn’t you?”

“I guess so,” was his answer as he went off to think this all over, leaving me with my thoughts of forgiveness.

I had read somewhere once that forgiveness didn’t mean what happened was okay, it simply meant we were not allowing it to cause us pain and control us anymore. I wondered if Cole would understand what that meant.

I thought about how carrying the unforgiveness was really a pretty heavy burden too. There was a lot of work in rehashing the reasons why I was not speaking to someone or why I refused to acknowledge any goodness in a person. It was exhausting. Maybe, it was time to let that all go once and for all. But how? I had cultivated a nature of grudginess.

“Best Daddy Ever!” I heard Cole call as he ran through the back door, escaping the chill to get warm.

“I thought you were mad at Daddy?” I asked.

“That was yesterday. I forgave him,” he said.

“What were you mad at him about?” I asked.

Cole smiled and reached up to touch my face.

“Oh, sweet girl,” he began, “that doesn’t matter, does it? It’s over now and all forgotten.”

With a burst of energy, he was off in search of his next adventure with his father.

And just like that, the transgression had been wiped clean and forgotten. Amazing.

I should try that, I thought to myself. Right after I find out about what happened to that antique plate.