I want to share a special story from our last clinic that not only surprised me, but also caused me to have a good laugh. When it started, the situation was no laughing matter.
It was almost the end of another busy clinic when an older model Toyota pick-up pulled up to the entrance. Three large men were squeezed into the cab without an inch of breathing room. A scared shepherd was tied to the back of the open metal truck bed. It was a hot morning and I was already feeling the heat when I caught a glimpse of the dog in the back of the truck. My mind snapped. I was thinking, “Oh Hell-to-the-no, he isn’t bringing that dog into the clinic like that!” When I jogged over to talk with the driver, I discovered that attached to the shepherd were two small dogs, cabled from an eye-hook. My approach was not the best when I greeted him by saying, “Hey, there is no way you guys are going to drive on to this lot with three dogs tied up in the back of your truck.” I went on to explain that not only were their dogs in danger, it was a safety issue for all the other pets and people at the event. The driver nodded and apologized. He told me he didn’t have another vehicle, didn’t have a cage, and didn’t have money to pay for vaccinations, so that’s why he tied them up like he did. I asked him why he needed the two other men? Why couldn’t the dogs ride inside the cab, leaving the men at home? He explained that he, being an older man, could not physically handle the dogs on his own so he brought his two sons along to help. I acknowledged his effort, and said “Ok, I feel really bad asking you to leave, but your need to back up, go home, bring one dog at a time.” I also mentioned that the clinic was ending soon and unless he lived really close, we probably couldn’t help him. He told me he understood, put the truck in reverse, and off they went, sounding like the truck was running out of gas or had some serious engine problem.
Typical thinking pattern for me is to immediately regret telling someone no. It kind of made me mad that I felt he put me in that position. My internal conversation began with, What was he thinking? How could I help him if he was a safety hazard? My thoughts continued… he did care about his dogs, and he was really trying. No, there is no way it would have been safe. Coming from a place of separation, me vs. them, I reverted to old thinking patterns, and convinced myself that I made the right decision. He drove off, and I assumed that he wouldn’t come back.
About ten minutes goes by and here comes the truck again. This time, the two sons are walking on either side of the truck while dad is driving, dogs all inside the cab. I smiled as the truck pulled up. “Is this ok?”, the dad asked me. I replied, “Yes, it’s perfect.” I was overjoyed they had figured out a way to make it work so the dogs could receive the free services.
With the clinic winding down, the truck pulled towards me as it was exiting the lot. The family wanted to thank me for helping them. I was touched and handed dad one of our business cards, telling him to call us if he ever needed help with the dogs in the future.
As a joke, I told the younger adult son that I wouldn’t mind if he rode in the back of the truck, but the dogs should never ride back there. He smiled and said, “Don’t mind if I do”, jumping into the truck bed and stretching out his legs. “OH NO, I was only kidding!”, I laughed. Dad explained that his brother had a car parked on the street and the two sons would drive home together. He definitely was not going to drive with his son or his dogs in the truck bed.
One of the volunteers who watched and overheard our conversation, was laughing too. I shared with that volunteer that when I was a kid growing up in the 1970’s, riding in the back of a pick up truck was common. In fact, some of my happiest memories were riding with a bunch of neighborhood kids in the back of Mr. Taylor’s Ford truck. During that time, dogs and kids rode in the back of trucks and no one thought twice about it. It was just something we all did, just like this family because they did not know any better. Amazingly, it was only when I could personally relate that the “me vs. them” thinking disappeared. Now they can do better because they know better. Just as me and my family had to learn.
Perhaps the greatest gift that I received was the second chance to help this family care for their dogs, which was always the goal. I admit, I choked, panicked and should have figured out a way to bring them safely into our clinic the first time. But, thinking from a place of fear instead of love cause me to shut down my creative thinking. Is’t that what we all need, to think creatively and be flexible when confronted with a challenge?
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post,