Sunday, July 29, 2012

Lightening up with Beckett

A friend of mine recently posted the above picture on my Facebook wall.  While he and I saw each other evey day in highschool, it is only through the power of social media that we managed to reconnect after almost twenty years of lost contact.  Even so, this photograph reminded me that although many of us now choose to communicate our daily thoughts and actions in the form of posts and threads and tags and tweets, we often convey so much more than the standard "140 characters or less" restrictions allow us to type into tiny internet boxes.

The whole truth is, my recent journey through pet adoption has proven to be my greatest "Lighten Up" challenge to date -- and I have shared the daily details on Facebook.  Last fall, I wasn't sure I was ready for a puppy or could care for one by myself, so I debated and made my customary pro/con lists and researched and talked to other pet owners.  My allergies made the hypoallergenic poodle breed a wise and necessary choice, even though poodles, from what I was hearing, were "energetic" at best, "fiercely destructive" at worst.  But none of that seemed to matter the moment I saw my puppy on -- I instantly knew I was going to bring him home.

Listed under the name "Aruba," the adorable little Schnoodle (Schnauzer/Poodle mix) I decided to name Beckett, after my favorite writer, was a rescue at a shelter about an hour from my home.  Although I expected him to have the customary tapeworms and fleas and hyper energy of most rescue dogs living in close quarters and fighting with other animals for food and attention, I had no idea what I was in for.  Beckett had hookworm.  Tapeworm.  Roundworm.  He suffered from what I would later learn was chronic Giardia, a nasty, hard to cure intestional parasite that led to a refusal to eat or sleep and caused frequent vomitting and diarrhea. He had difficulty with housetraining, a hatred of the crate I struggled to convince myself was not, in fact, abusive captivity, and more than anything, he was completely aware of my refusal to bond with him, so he seemed to take absolute pleasure in destroying our surroundings for sport.  I cried almost daily as his health deteriorated, his weight dropped, his energy came and went - mostly went - and my bank account reduced itself by hundreds of dollars every week.  At one point, my kitchen counter held seven bottles of prescription meds, only one of them mine.  (And therefore, only one of them covered by insurance.)  Basically, my attempt to lighten up, to rescue a beautiful animal and give him a loving home, to find companionship for myself, and to prove that I could unconditionally love and be loved by another living being, seemed to be failing.  I seemed to be failing.  And I was filled with regret and sadness. Yet no matter how often I thought about returning Beckett to the rescue, or how hard I tried to convince myself that he would be better off with a family of four in a huge home with a huge yard and a huge bank account, he was mine and I couldn't imagine giving up on him.  Or myself.

And then something happened.  Not to Beckett, but to me. It wasn't an "all of a sudden" sort of thing, more like a gradual shift that I only noticed once in awhile, when I stopped to realize I hadn't cried or indulged in one of my signature germophobic freak-outs in days. In the absence of lightening up, I was actually starting to grow up.  Even if only a little.  I began to look at my decision to adopt Beckett as a conscious choice I made, rather than something that was thrust upon me by an unidentifiable, unknown force. Before I got Beckett, I had fully intended for him to share my life, but when the four-legged reality actually walked into my house, I turned into a three year-old who refused to share her toys.  Her snacks.  Her space.  I gated him out of rooms, confined him to linoleum floors only, and structured his time in ways that would force the military to retaliate. I realized, after awhile, that my behavior was not likely to encourage better puppy behavior, and that, more than anything, Beckett's health crisis could not be all about me.  Not if I wanted us both to be stronger, happier, more peaceful beings. He was in pain and he wasn't getting better.  So I did more research.  I found a new, more proactive vet.  I started Beckett on a special diet and put him through seven rounds of Giardia meds (the last of which finally seems to have "taken" as his most recent tests were negative). I enrolled him in doggie daycare and made socializing him at the local park a priority of every weekend and most evenings. 

Sure, I did some crazy things, too, like resorting to puppy pampers to spare my carpets and furniture until the worst of the Giardia ran its course. 

And I learned my lesson the hard way about whether or not Beckett "really needed to be crated" while I was at work. 

But ultimately, I have learned - and am continuing to learn each day - that Beckett, like all puppies, craves boundaries. He does not want to make the rules, he wants to follow them. And, understandably, when left to his own devices, he will do whatever feels good in that moment, whether eating my walls or using my couch as his own personal bathroom

Today marks ten months since Beckett came into my life, and though I continue to grow up, Beckett has actually started to lighten me up as well.  He is a loving, tail-wagging example of how far we have both come, and of how much potential we both have to continue going forward together.  He effortlessly returns the unconditional love I now have for him, and he fancies himself my 25-pound bodyguard whether we are being approached by a 6-foot man in the park or ... a leaf.  Most of all, Beckett makes me laugh.  He makes me smile.  He makes me remember that I am capable and strong and full of love and compassion.

I am thankful every day for the faith I had in both of us, and for my determination to bring this little boy home.  Sharing my life is not so hard after all, and it is actually more rewarding than I ever imagined.

Do you have a funny or frustrating pet story?  How has your pet made your life better, crazier, more rewarding, more exhausting?   Share it all!

Until next time,
~~ Hasky


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