As I write this blog post at my desk in the DDR kennel, I hear a few of the dogs barking, reminding me as if I need a reminder) that dinner time is now! My turn to take care of the dogs is every evening, except Sundays when Noemi takes over. The nightly routine of feeding and preparing them all for bed gives my life purpose. I never tire of seeing how excited the dogs get just before the food bowls come out of the kitchen. Their unwavering trust in me and all of their wonderful daily caregivers (Jenny, Shyann, Debbie, and Daniel) is constantly displayed by their wagging tails, zoomies, and puppy-like energy, even in the senior dogs.
I appreciate our kennel crew, not just for the work they do with the dogs, but also the opportunity they offer me to grow spiritually as I learn to trust people more, one day at a time. Writing my thoughts really reminds me that I have always had trust issues which prevented me from experiencing all the joy in life that I deserve. Until recently, I did not understand that I could be happy on a daily basis. There was always part of me preparing for the time when someone was going to disappoint me or let me down. That is what I believed most people did if I allowed them into my life.
Growing up with a father who was diagnosed as bipolar, I learned to be quiet, helpful, and kind, and not to cause problems. I never trusted anyone to be there for me when I needed help. From an early age, it was always easier to take care of everything on my own as this gave me a sense of control over my life. No matter how much my dad tried to be “normal”, he couldn’t. Violent mood swings followed by depression resulted in an often chaotic existence. The one solid part of my life was my German Shepherd, Heidi, who was always there for me – in good and bad times – licking away my tears and making me laugh. She and I had a magical bond that no one understood.
Maybe that is the reason I have always had a fascination and love for dogs since I was four years old. Dogs are exactly who they are. They do not make promises they won’t keep. As anyone who has ever lived with a pet knows, their love for us is unconditional, as is their trust in us. I always wished I could trust people as a dog does rather than the person I grew up to be. Even when someone has “proven their loyalty” to me over months or even years, there has always been a thought in my mind that perhaps this will not last or it seems too good to be true. For years, I believed that if people knew the “real Lori” they would not like her. In my head, it has always been about not letting anyone too close to get to know the real me so that I would not be disappointed or hurt.
Everything began to change eight years ago when we bought and built the DDR kennel property. I sold my house and all of my furniture, art, and collectibles – basically everything that a dog could destroy. I downsized my world down to a very minimal lifestyle. I knew that running a kennel is a 24/7 type of job. Dogs do not have holidays; they need to be cared for when it is pouring rain, when the temperature is over 100 degrees, and on days when I do not feel like working with dogs. The dogs are the center of my life. No one and nothing comes before them. As a result, one of my greatest fears has been getting injured and not being able to care for the dogs. Then, thanks to a strong and stocky little dog named Mikasa, the day came when I was given the great lesson of exactly that: being injured and unable to care for the dogs.
Mikasa was playing when she ran up behind me, hitting the back of my leg so hard that I crumpled to the ground like a piece of paper. I was in so much pain that I could barely stand up and walk. This injury was not like others that I sustained over the years. Not only could I not finish my night with the dogs, if I laid down, I was not sure how I was going to stand up again. I called Shyann and Noemi who dropped everything and came to my rescue. First, I felt foolish about how stupid I was to allow such an injury. I knew better than to play with a strong dog the way I had been playing with Mikasa. Second, I felt vulnerable because I was in so much pain that even I, the person who is always “ok”, couldn’t just think the pain away. While I was cared for every night for the next two weeks, something switched on in my brain.
Turns out I had an injury to my sciatic nerve. What a humbling experience. Not only did I have no choice but to trust Shyann and Noemi, but I learned that by allowing myself to be vulnerable, they could express their gratitude and love for me, bringing us all closer. And it did not stop there. Believe it or not, I somehow drove myself to work and was so touched to see counselor Amanda come into my office with a cane to help me walk. When she said she would do whatever I needed and all I had to do was ask, I believed her with all my heart. Volunteer Ruthie’s comforting voice over the phone assured me that I was going to get a little better everyday, which I have. For the first time in my life, I am living day by day, being (as my Pilates teacher Lulu says) gentle with myself.
Living a life filled with possibilities, joy, and hope is only possible when I recognize that I need to ask for help versus the situations when I truly can manage on my own. Most importantly, I can care for people without having to always be the one who takes care of others. Allowing others to help and care for me is a gift that I am now willing to receive without feeling ashamed. It is also a gift to my friends and family to allow them to help me.
I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post. I always enjoy reading your comments and words of encouragement. You can write to me at Lori@downtowndogrescue.org