011. Strays

From the National Greyhound Adoption Program website:

Race track surroundings are a greyhound’s life since birth. Because the racing greyhound has lived such a sheltered and regimented life, becoming a pet is almost like being “reborn.” Even though most former racers are over two years old when they leave the track, most have not been exposed to daily sights and sounds commonly found in your home and surroundings. Car rides, toys, TVs, children, stairs, kitchens, street noises, and almost everything else you consider normal are all strange to a former racing greyhound. As a result, they will be curious, awestruck, and a little frightened as they enter their new lives. They need time to adjust to these new surroundings and each one does so at a different pace. With a little understanding and love, they adjust and blossom very quickly into loving and well-mannered pets.

I’m happy you’re thinking of adopting a rescue. So many rescues come from backgrounds of force or abuse or neglect, and that’s just what they expect from even the best-intentioned new owners. You reach out a slow hand to pat its head; it flinches, cowers, bares its teeth. It expects hostility where you offer only softness. A learned response, the only way it knows how to be.

But I think that, of anyone I know, you’d be the person best able to acclimate a once-mishandled pup to a kinder world, to a kinder way of being. You, more than anyone, could help to reprogram its old expectations of harm and betrayal, its old stances of fear and defensiveness, maybe plant in its spirit some little germs of trust or restfulness. Coax it out of self-preservation mode, tease out a tail wag or a slobbery ear-kiss. Turning a fearful pup into a beloved pup is such a sweet & honorable act of redemption.

You have a kindness that just stuns me sometimes, that I don’t know what to do with. You sing to me in a voice too lovely for our parkinglot surroundings; you’re an excess, you’re an overflow. You say, “I don’t care what you’ve done or where you’ve been,” and those words fall foreign on my ears, they ring of un-credibility. Between the two of us, I don’t know who’s the bigger unbeliever. Sometimes I want to apologize for the misgivings and doubts that I bring into this space between us, but they’re hardly my fault or anyone’s fault, just the byproducts of a world not good at loving, and can I make a tiny confession? I love the way you hold just my hair and shoulders when we kiss. Part of me weeps with relief when you do.

We’re beside your car, or dancing under a night-tree, or balanced in the rain on the edge of the city. We’re standing heart to heart. Mine is moving at too many bpms, but maybe I’m not falling for you, maybe I’m just out of shape. I’m trying to be a realist, and I’m thinking about all the years of rough movements and easy exits. I’m flinching at the harshness that I’ve grown to expect, only to find you touching my face–my heart–with the gentlest hands.

How can we (two like-hearted strays) not be “curious, awestruck, and a little frightened” at all this?

I just settled into the glass half empty
Made myself at home
And so why now? Please not now
I just stopped believing in happy endings
Harbors of my own
But you had to come along, didn’t you?
Break down the doors, throw open windows
Oh if you knew just what a fool you have made me
So what do I do with this?

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