It’s one of those days when I don’t want to write, when I want to do anything but, when I feel overexposed in and to words, and so I want a break from them.
I’ve been up for a little while, wanted to get my blogging in early. I did a bit of journaling, jotted down a couple of dreams that I could remember, and then got distracted by looking up dog training info online.
The puppy and I need to go back to school. It’s been awhile since I’ve done a puppy update here. But nablopomo doesn’t give prompts for the weekends, and my freewriting at the moment is drawing me toward dog love and dog struggle and dog shame.
As of the end of this month, Sophie will have been with us for six months. Six months! Next month she’ll be a year old. You might remember the panic and overwhelm I was in during that first month, how terrified I was, how I wasn’t sleeping enough, how being with her was bringing up feelings about my past dogs, especially the one I had as my sole unconditional companion during high school, during my stepfather’s abuse.
Sophie feels like part of family here, and a part of redefining family, at a time when the Mr and I are re-engaging with what family means. She’s a steady presence and still feels new — I find myself pressing my face into her warm brown puppy smell and thinking, Who are you? How did you get here? She is a part of our everyday-ness, a part of home, now. We’ve been through one dog-training class and now I think we’ve got the funds to do another. And it’s time.
Yesterday, at the end of a great walk in the hills not too far from our home, we were approached by a small pug and his mom. The pug may have been a puppy; he was a fraction of Sophie’s size. Sophie hunched down, like into a prowl, and came toward the dog from that stance. When they got close to each other, the other dog, wagging, bouncy, wanted to play, but Sophie was rough and aggressive. She was growly and wouldn’t leave off the dog when I called to her; finally I got her collar and got her out of the situation. She wanted to play, then, barked, wagged her tail, what’s the problem? The other mom picked up her dog, we exchanged a few words, I said Sophie was obviously still in training, we said that both our dogs were puppies. I knelt there on the ground with Sophie for a bit, wanting her to stay calm, while the other two walked away. I felt awful, sick, ashamed, frustrated and scared.
This is why we have to go to school, why I need more training — in those moments, sick and ashamed aren’t useful feelings. They’re triggers, or, really, reactions to feeling triggered. At times like that, I’m more worried about doing what someone else will think is right. How can I explain this? I’m back under my stepfather’s gaze, being watched and judged, and get reacty and panicked. I’m not thinking clearly any more than Sophie is.
The triggered feeling is so old, and I want to move with and past it. I want to trust the parts in me that invite me to do something different, but that I often ignore — trust, that is, the connection between me and my dog. I want to know how to interact with Sophie in those moments, before we get to the dog, to the situation that’s freaking her out. There were many different things I could have done in that moment, well before she got into a fight, but I ignored them, hoping that she’d be all right, even though she was showing me signs that she was in an odd mood with respect to that dog.
The shame that blossoms in me, it takes over everything, is a bright wash of red-orange, isn’t any help at all. It coats the inside of my mouth and all over my skin, tingles me unapproachable. We will go out again today and try something different (treats, leash, redirection, practice, practice, practice).
I have a note that reads be willing to be uncomfortable stuck to my computer monitor. I have it there because I need reminding, encouragement, sometimes a push, to do the things that are important to me — and getting there often means moving through discomfort, often, deep, thick, bodily discomfort. I’m reminded of the thinking I do about safety, and about safe space — that I can be safe in the midst of change, in the midst of reaching beyond my comfort zones, in the midst of doing something that pushes all my buttons. Just because I’m uncomfortable doesn’t mean something is wrong. Sometimes it does. I’m learning to listen differently, learning to tell the difference.
There’s more to this, but now it’s 12 hours since I began this post, and I need to get it out. The puppy and I had a good and uneventful walk today — I brought more treats, did more training practice, she got to chase the ball and eat hot dog treats. I’m scared, reaching, and grateful.
Thanks for your practice, for the ways you hold your own growth. Thanks for your patience and presence with others’ discomfort, how you allow others, sometimes, to be present with yours. And your words, too. Thanks for your words.