Wednesday, February 27, 2013

what i learned from abby

abby was my dog.

i had her for a short time.

the time she was here was intense, hard, and emotional.
abby!

it started saturday. s and i were having lunch. i was hemming and hawing about my life and the things i am or 'might-maybe' commit to doing. something you must know about s is she always has pen and paper with her at the ready. she said, "let's make a list : what are your three big maybe's that end up being 'i won't's'" and so we listed them - number three - dog. which s pointed out is g o d spelled backwards. it was decided that we would go look at petco for a dog. and we did. the first one didn't have any dogs.

so we tried a second one. and there she was. at the very end. and when i read her name 'abby' and saw her i felt a 'click' - get abby. and before i knew what had happened - seriously ask my close friends they'll tell you it was a shocking experience - abby was in my arms and i was her owner.

i opted to phone a friend. in this case my brother. who happens to work at a vet hospital and is AMAZING with animals. *ring*ring*ring* no answer = frantic text 'i own a dog! help me!' immediate call back. what do you want me to do? he asks. i want you to come here i say. s and i quoted that for the rest of the day :) he comes, checks her out, gives her the ok, s goes home, me and my brother c go to wal-mart abby stays in the car and we get the essentials for her.

don't forget that this is an anxious girl writing the story. an anxious girl who loves dogs and was tired of being lonely and had an idea of pet therapy in her mind that was unrealistic and who had never owned a dog before. so it wasn't just anybody shopping at wal-mart. she was thankfully well medicated but working at the highest anxiety level she has been at for a long - long time. and when that happens her adrenal glands work over time and she never reaches a sense of calm or rest.

tell me what to do and what to buy i say to c. i would like to make this note :: NOTE :: i worry about money constantly - but this experience was a learning experience and you cannot put a price on learning. it also involved the life of another and that also cannot have a price put on it. (this is what i tell myself when my anxious brain remembers bills, phones, computers, rocking chairs, hair colorings, and other things i spend my money on - breathing)

so he tells me and i buy and we go home. and abby is sweet and snuggly. she is a terrier mix and a good small/middle size. she curls up in a ball. she is easily frightened. so i held her in petco, in the parking lot waiting for c to come, in the car, and carried her up and down the stairs to my house. (hoohaa to her and me for mastering the stairs in one day :) don't leave me i say to c - i don't know what to do with her. and the truth is i really didn't. see, i was told abby was 'potty trained' but that wasn't exactly the case. and it was a new environment and i assumed she would know being a year old that when i took her outside she would go. well, she didn't know. and she went in my house. a few times. i love the carpet in my house. it was one of the main selling points. and so it was hard for me to see it 'accidented' on. i didn't yell. and i used all of my little knowledge to teach her outside and no and potty. but she was skittish and stayed by my feet when we were outside, which was sweet but also frustrating.

that first night was rough. for both of us. she wanted to sleep with me and i wanted a bed buddy but i'm a tosser - just ask my friends c and k from the girls' trip - i'm crazy in my sleep, and my sweet abby thought every time i moved it was time to wake up and play. well it wasn't. i take heavy medications at night to help calm my anxiety and calm me but i had raised levels of anxiety and so was staying on high alert. that caused me to drift in and out of a light sleep all night. abby also cried and it breaks.my.heart. to hear animals cry. so she went from my bed to her kennel to my bed a few times and i drifted in and out of strange dreams. i believe the two of us also stumbled out into the night at 4 am for a potty break - she didn't go but i suppose it was the thought that counted - and i was of course in my night gown without a coat.

the next day was sunday. i left her two different times. she did ok in her kennel no accidents in there - to my knowledge - but had accidents in the house. at this point i had my first break down. what was i doing? i had no idea how to do this! i cried and cried on facetime to my sister b. and to my parents. why didn't she understand - outside = potty. i had this idea of how it was going to go and it was not going that way.

before i knew it it was night again. i was still sore, stiff and exhausted from the night before so i really wasn't ready for what was coming. i would like to add at this point that i am a frequent prayer but got some serious frequent prayer miles while abby was with me! i prayed and put her in her kennel and turned on a noise maker in my room so i wouldn't hear the crying just barking if she really needed me. she barked once at 1 am and i got her out let her know i loved her but it was still night time and she got a drink and went back in her kennel then i didn't hear from her until 9:30 - progress. we spent the morning in and out of the house - i was desperately trying to teach her what outside potty meant and researching and calling people.

afternoon came and it was time for me to go to work. i had been anxious about it all day. scared of leaving her. i felt guilty and bad about putting her back in her kennel. i knew she had to go to the bathroom. even though we had been out a lot that day she hadn't used the restroom and i watched her like a hawk in the house, so she hadn't gone inside either. i put her in and had plans to come back a few hours later.

well, my few hours turned a little longer. some of my patients were late and i had to run an errand ironically for ms abby and of course have another melt down and when i got home i could hear her barking and crying from downstairs. it was dark when i got home and i hadn't thought to turn a light on.

the smell hit me like a ton of bricks. she did the only thing she knew to do. go pee and poo in her kennel. i started balling and took her immediately to my bathroom to give her a bath. she was thrilled to see me and did all sorts of tricks and was just as happy as could be but i was heart broken. i knew i could not take anymore of the pee and poo, i didn't have time to train her, i had less free/home time than i thought, and my freedom and peace of mind in leaving my home was important to me.

i cleaned her up and called my parents who came to my rescue. i cleaned her kennel and she used the restroom a few more times on the floor so i just followed her around sobbing and cleaning up with resolve. i don't know how to describe my feelings about the situation and what was going through my mind. panic and knowledge that this was not my time of life for a dog. i called a dear friend, st, who has 3 dogs and asked if she would dog sit abby for the night. i knew i couldn't listen to her cry another night. st was so kind and gentle with me. she was completely understanding and loving as she listened, validated, and heard what i had to say. she took abby for the night and i went to stay with my parents.
i loved when she would do this

the next day my mom and sister took abby back to the shelter where i bought her from as i had to work when it was open. there was more anxiety involved but i'm amazed at what medicine can do.

my counselor, shane, has talked a lot to me about shame gremlins. they are nasty little boogers that get on your back and tell you every negative thing about you that you can't do right and will never be able to do right now or ever. they bring up your failures and shortcomings and remind you of everything you hate most about yourself all the time. these shame gremlins often keep you so terrified that you don't let your true, authentic real self show. instead you cower to these monsters and let them walk all over you.

my shame gremlins have been rearing their ugly heads over this whole abby experience. 'you can't even keep plants alive; how did you think you were going to keep a dog alive?' 'you're a full time job; how did you think you could keep up with a dog?' 'did you think this was going to be easy?' 'you gave up!' 'you will never be able to have a dog in your life.' and on and on they go - absolutely killing me.

but truth is stronger than shame. and the truth is - if you never try, you'll never know. if i never tried having abby i would never know that now is not the time for me to have her. i would never know that having a dog in an apartment is really difficult. that training a dog takes a lot of time at home which i don't have. that it's simply not my season for a dog, and that's ok. as i was talking with st she said, "you're still a dog person. your life will change and one day it'll be better for you to have a dog. i have had to take back a dog or two and it's hard but it's ok." and she's right.

my mom also said many encouraging words. abby and i hadn't bonded. i liked her a lot and i wanted to be with her but it was ok that things didn't work out. i knew when i heard her crying and when she had been sitting in her own filth for i don't know how long that i simply did not have it in me at this stage in my life to give this dog what she needed. she needed a lot of time, attention, and training. and when i am home i'm busy doing my own things and when i'm gone it's for long periods of time.

that was another thing, i never got any down time. when she was in the house i had to watch her and make sure she was not peeing or pooping. it was exhausting. i couldn't do anything without making sure she was within sight. i never got a break or a rest. in my mind she was to help me calm down and breathe.

i learned i don't have the time right now for a dog. i don't have the time to commit to training an animal. i thought i was home a lot, but i'm really not. i'm gone quite often and when i'm out i can't call her to say i'm getting stuff for her and will be home soon. it doesn't work that way.

i learned that i don't need to 'jump ahead' in my life and rush to where i think i should be. in the show how i met your mother ted buys a house. and they all accuse him of jumping ahead in his life and trying to be where he thinks he should be. well, i was kinda trying to do the same thing. now my shame gremlins will say i gave up and quit, but it simply wasn't the right timing.

i'm obsessed with some things. one of them happens to be smells. when i had my first seizure it was like suddenly because i was in such a vulnerable way my other senses were heightened. most especially smell. that hasn't changed. my house *must* smell like lavender comfort and vanilla febreze and my car must be lavender vanilla and all sprays must be the same. i don't use anything different. having abby here created a new smell. a dog smell. i was trying to adjust but it was really hard. especially the pee smell. i did not do well with that. in fact i got home from work today and spent two hours cleaning my home and making it smell the *right* way again.

anticipation = anxiety :: the anticipation of something (ex : getting a dog) is probably the worst part of having an anxiety disorder. anticipation brings many, many different outcomes. the more time i spend anticipating something the more my anxiety levels increase. there are too many variables when you anticipate the outcomes. and so when i saw abby it was easier to just pick her up and take her then to stop, think through, anticipate, and prepare a little. if i had done this 1) i probably wouldn't have gotten her and 2) i would've had a full blown anxiety attack in petco. maybe not a seizure but i would've needed xanax.

something huge that i learned is if you surround yourself with the right friends and your family you will always have support no matter what decision you make. i have found this to be true. keep abby, take her back. we are here for you. rachel, we are invested in you and your health and welfare and we want what is best for you. i have witnessed an outpouring of love and sincerity that has strengthened my love for friends/family. how grateful i am for them.

finally, ms abby reinforced a simply yet powerful lesson ::: clean your house frequently. it just makes you feel better.

i learned so much while she was here. it was a short time but it was my time to have an unexpected growing opportunity. i think where i am seeing the most growth though is now that she is gone and i am left with memories of what was. am i going to choose to be kind to myself? will i treat myself with the same mercy i would extend others in my situation? she was only with me for a while but i still have the right to grieve her being gone. 

she taught me so much and i must admit, 
i'm grateful for the unexpected learning life gives each of us.
me and my sweet abby

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