Life often has parallels, doesn’t it? While my own little speckled dog was dealing with being a creature no one wanted, I was fighting my own battles along the same lines.
I grew up as the youngest in a family of 4 kids, and the others were quite a bit older than I was, so by the time I was in middle school, they were almost all out of the house and either in college or on their own. Being the youngest often means that the “big kids” don’t want you around much. With 5, 7 and 9 years of age difference between us, there just wasn’t much reason to have me hanging around them. My parents were great, but very busy, so they never had time for me either, and I often felt like my life consisted of “Go away kid, you bother me” when I was growing up. The family pets were often the only ones willing to spend time with me, and so they really became my best friends in many ways.
As an adult, part of me has always looked for somewhere to belong. I’ve found that many of my close relationships have had similar parallels with my childhood. Sometimes, it was just a matter of friends who had nothing in common anymore, and we didn’t end up going in the same direction. However, there were a few very meaningful relationships that ended badly, and left me in a tailspin of disappointment and hurt.
By the time Rugby came into my life, I was recovering from an especially hurtful time of rejection and I was really struggling. I had reached a point where I just wasn’t willing to trust anyone or reach out to make new friends anymore. To be blunt, I was just “over it.” I had decided that dogs were safer relationships to have. Yes, dogs bite, but you generally know where you stand with a dog. They’re honest, and they just aren’t shy about showing love and excitement when they really love someone.
This is what I was experiencing every time I went to train someone’s dog. My “student” would come out of his skin when he saw me, and I’d see his owners smile, happy that their dogs loved me. I often heard owners say, “He never gets this excited for anyone except you. He really does love you.” Yep….that was the story of my life. Animals loved me to pieces, but humans often used me and dumped me, and I just wasn’t willing to try having friends anymore.
Part of the reason that I got a dog was because I was hoping to open my world a bit. I had been so hurt with the latest round of rejections, that I had retreated to my safe place….my home, with my husband and my daughter. I really didn’t want to go anywhere or have fun. I just didn’t understand what kept going wrong. I saw others make friends, keep friends, and have a big, full life. It seemed like that just never worked for me, even though I had tried over and over to make it happen. I’d have seasons where I’d make some close friends, only to get dumped when the season changed. It was a pattern that had repeated itself in my life, and I was just withdrawn and unwilling to take another chance on friendship with humans. I was hoping a dog would get me out of the house so that I could start enjoying life again. I was tired of my small world, and hopeful that a dog would be my ticket to bigger and better things. There really was a lot riding on my ultimate decision….for both Rugby and me!