My wife loves almost all animals, but she has a special affinity for creatures who look markedly more pathetic than all of the others. While this trait of hers has caused me some aggravation over the years, I’m not too upset about it. Without it she would never have agreed to marry me.
But it’s also the reason why we wound up with a three-legged hound dog.
Kristy was one of the first employees of the Knoxville-Knox County Animal Shelter (also known as the Young-Williams Animal Center). Even though she did not work there for a lengthy period of time, she was still able to do a few interesting things. She was able to have a little input in how the shelter operated. She voiced her opinion over how adoptions should be handled. And she became a licensed euthanasiast.
This basically means that she was trained on how to properly administer medications to animals in order to euthanize them. It also means that she got an up-close and personal look at dogs and cats as they were about to die.
She did not like this part of her job. It was heart-wrenching for her. Especially since, in most cases, it could have been prevented by pet-owners being more responsible.
Because of a lack of space, many of the animals that were picked up by animal control officers or dropped off by their owners were marked for euthanasia after the prescribed waiting period.
The hound dog with the missing left-front leg was one such animal.
No one at the shelter knew exactly how old she was, but she was old. Mostly black with a tan “mask,” she had noticeable patches of gray. She wasn’t particularly friendly and she had an awful hard time getting up on all-threes after lying down a while. She was half-blind. Because of her age and temperament, she was doomed to be put down.
Until my tender-hearted wife got a look at her.
Kristy asked and received permission from her boss to bring the disabled dog home. Shockingly, she completely neglected to ask my permission.
We already had four dogs living with us. George and Gracie were Great Danes who fancied themselves lap-dogs. Smidgen was a Dalmation-mix who liked to chew up the covers of my Bibles. Amos was a bow-legged, overweight Beagle who never did anything wrong (did I mention that he was my favorite?).
I did not want another dog. We did not need another dog. We became the owners of another dog. I was a tad upset. Kristy tried to soften my mood by agreeing to let me name the handicapped hound. So, I began pondering.
The first name that crossed my mind was “Tripod.” I walked outside and yelled it out loud as I would if I were calling her to discern how I liked it. I didn’t. It sounded mean. Plus, I vaguely remember a dog in some movie being called that and my mother didn’t raise a copycat.
A friend of mine suggested the name “Ilene” (I-lean). Since I am a nerd, that one made me chuckle. But she didn’t look like an Ilene.
After thinking of several other names and discarding them for one weird reason or another, Kristy and I decided to watch her a little to see if anything caught our attention. At first, I did not notice anything in particular. And then we saw her standing next to the other dogs.
Compared to them, she was a little wobbly.
We named her “Wobbles.”
Even though I had a hard time accepting the fact that I now had another dog to take care of, my relationship with Wobbles soon blossomed. As it did, I noticed something interesting.
I didn’t treat her the same as I did the other dogs.
If the other dogs had growled at me as Wobbles did on occasion, I would have severely scolded them. If the other dogs had refused to come when I called them as Wobbles was known to do, I would have grabbed them by the collar and forcefully reminded them that I was the “master.” If the other dogs had been as temperamental as Wobbles was, I would have responded with more corrective action.
In dealing with Wobbles, I showed a greater degree of compassion. I was gentle, patient, and kind. I showed her grace on a daily basis.
I guess I did this because I was fairly certain that she had suffered her share of hardships throughout the years. Of course, I had no idea how she lost her leg or exactly how she had been treated throughout her life. All I knew was what I saw and what I saw was a three-legged, half-blind dog who didn’t have much life left in her. I was determined not to make it any worse by treating her poorly.
A year and a half after Wobbles came to live with us, we had her put her to sleep. Her health deteriorated rapidly and her will to fight came to an end.
As I ponder life with Wobbles, I can know see that I was able to look past her poor behavior by realizing that there were reasons that she behaved the way that she did.
She had scars. She had been hurt. She was weary. It was easy to graciously overlook her temperament because she had suffered so much.
If only it were that easy when dealing with difficult people.
When we are harshly criticized by someone, we seldom consider that the reason that the person criticized us may be due to a lack of self-esteem brought on by some form of abuse that they endured as a child.
When the cashier is overly-rude, we only think how it affects us instead of wondering why she behaved so boorishly. It’s possible that she has just been told that her mother has cancer, but we’re to busy typing out a condemning e-mail to worry about that.
When someone in your family doesn’t express undying gratitude for the help that you gave them, it may cause you to decide never to help them again. Of course, they may have swallowed so much of their pride just to ask for help that they are emotionally incapable of saying much of anything.
With Wobbles, it was easy to overlook her behavior because her frailty was so evident and her scars were so visible.
With people, often the scars are hidden. But we can be sure that everyone has them.
Maybe we should all do better in remembering that fact before reacting harshly to what someone else does to us. Maybe if we did that, we would react with greater kindness, compassion, and love.
There are plenty of people out there who are simply trying to do the best they can with what they have. You’re probably one of them. I know that I am.
Let’s show each other more grace. After all, we’re all a little bit wobbly.