Jack is not the kind of dog I wanted. I had this vision in my mind of the kind of dog I wanted before I adopted Jack. I wanted this really cool, laid back dog. An outdoorsy, sporty running and frisbee partner. I wanted a goofy, friendly, lovable mutt. Sure, Jack is a few of these things, but far far far from most of these things. He’s goofy in the sense that one time on a groggy morning jog, we were both not quite awake while running down the road alongside all of the parked cars when I heard a “thunk”. I looked down to see a dazed Jack who had just run straight into the bumper of a parked car. He’s not laid back in the slightest. If I sit with him outside a coffee shop, good luck to the person who dares make direct eye contact with such a lovely pup. Jack turns from adorable dog to the kraken in a split second. I especially love it when the passersby see this and step back with an audible “woah.” No pressure there! This past summer, Jack developed this horrible teenage back-talk in the form of growling, lunging, and nipping to both me and especially boy. We don’t know what to make of it, where it is coming from, and how to react to it. We both know it’s 100% unacceptable. We typically pull his head down to meet the floor until he can calm down, but the stress in this household peaks for a solid 12 hours after those events. Boy yells at Jack, Jack snarls at boy, and I separate them into different rooms and flutter back and forth trying to make amends and discuss remedies and work to put the household back on the same page of respect and discipline.
Recently, in an unfortunate and lightning fast turn of catastrophes, Jack bit boy. He has nipped in the past, the easy-to-identify herder’s nip that says “hey, you’re going the wrong way, mister.” This bite? This wasn’t a herder’s nip. This was a sheer white noise panic I don’t know what else to do because you just swatted my rear with your socks and I’m scared bite down and naw until I realize what I’m doing and start hi-pitched yelping and screaming in fear. I think our neighbors thought we were killing poor Jack that night. Seemingly unprovoked, Jack worked his way into a blind panic that had him squealing before boy even touched the poor pup. In a bad decision by boy, he swatted at Jack with a pair of socks and Jack’s squeals turned into a bite which turned into realization of what he was doing which was too late because boy had his face to the ground with blood dripping from his wound all over Jack’s fur. Jack’s eyes were fully dilated and his teeth were out. I ran up to both of them and we kept Jack in position until he calmed before boy stood up to wash his wound. Ears back, shaking, in a half tuck position, Jack had blood spots and fear all over his face. I took a wet towel and helped him clean himself off as much as he would let me. I sat with him a good 15-20 minutes before letting him sleep by himself in the living room. Boy sat with him alone for another 15 minute before coming to bed. It wasn’t a good night for anyone in this household.
The worst part of this? Whereas before I felt like I could trust that Jack would not bite, he is now in the category of a dog that can and will bite. This changes things. This changes a lot of things. I always have to be on guard. I will never fully trust my dog again. We have stricter limits in the household. Jack can only come up to snuggle on the couch when he is invited. He is blocked off from the bedrooms at night. If he becomes territorial of an area that is not his own bed, he has to leave the room altogether. He hates it. We hate it. Every night we sit on the couch, Jack stares at us from his bed on the floor with big glossy puppy dog eyes. Every morning at 6:00 am his nose is pressed up to the door waiting for one of us to wake up and open it. On weekends he lays by the door until 10 or 11 am, whereas before it was a weekend treat for all three of us to indulge in a very long morning snuggle fest. None of us like it, but it has to be done. And sometimes I can’t help but think, this is not the kind of dog that I wanted. And I want to curse and kick rocks about it.
I withdrew my applications to medical school. It took a lot of discussion and reaching out to those I trust 100% with my very sensitive emotional self. And then more discussion with both those who are in medical school, those who aren’t in medical school, and those who want to be in medical school. You see, in undergrad I knew what I wanted to major in the minute I walked onto campus. I dove into courses my freshman and sophomore year and was surrounded by juniors and seniors in several of my classes. Good on me, I thought. Getting this stuff out of the way so I can get it done. But in the end? I always felt a bit slower than everyone in the class. I struggled. I stressed. I felt like I couldn’t keep up. I didn’t enjoy what I was doing. And when I look back, there are a few classes I wish I could take again, because if I did? I would take the time to enjoy them a little bit more. I would stop worrying about my grade on the next paper and relish the material a bit more.
I could get into medical school for next fall. It only takes one acceptance, right? I think I could swing it. But would I be ready? And when I asked myself if I would be ready, I meant would I be ready to enjoy it? To relish it? To immerse myself in an environment that feels both right for me at the moment? I prepared for the MCAT and I filled out those applications, and I knew all along I was pushing the envelope of what I was ready to take on. I don’t want to be scared about anatomy and physiology my first semester in medical school because the only place I have seen it up to this point was a few chapters in the MCAT prep book that told me exactly what I need to memorize without an ounce of context. I’m not ready.
Sometimes I can’t help but think, this is not the type of person I want to be. And I want to curse and kick rocks about it.
I wouldn’t choose to adopt another dog if I could go back in time. Jack’s given me too much. He’s taught me about myself and despite his poor behavior at times, I am a staunch defender of who he is. He’s Jack. He’s scared at times and we all get confused at how to handle it and when we act bad he acts worse. And some days, we get it right. We exercise him just enough, we give him just enough discipline, set the limits just right so that he feels safe and protected, and he gives us just enough love to show that we did it right. We’re figuring it out. We make mistakes. A little blood is shed. We learn. We move on better than what we were because we have dropped our expectations and accepted what comes. Good. Bad. The in-between.
I’m playing it by ear. Learning how to keep myself immersed in healthy relationships. Weeding out the bad. Dismissing preconceived notions of who I need to be and who I think people expect me to be. Not taking it personally when people recommend vocational school or nursing school. Deciding that the in-between is the best place for me. And letting myself enjoy it.