Sunday, May 29, 2011

Not a (Completely) Cold Fish

First, let me start out by saying that, if no one has yet coined the term "emotional initiative", I hereby stake my claim to its creation. What I mean by "emotional initiative" is the normal capacity to spontaneously react with appropriate emotional response for a given stimulus. In other words, the ability to viscerally feel the normal spectrum of emotions. Why this comes up is, lately, I think I've come to the realization that I generally lack this capability. It feels like most of my emotional existence lies on the bluer end of the emotional spectrum. But, mostly, I lack the ability to feel anything, or at least, it feels like I don't react with the same types or degree of emotions I seem to observe expressed by other people. I'm kind of dead inside.

What most brought this lack to light was the recent passing of my dog, Puckett. I've had pets "all my life". I've had dogs. I've had cats. I've had rabbits. While the passing of each saddened me, the loss of Puckett has been the one pet-death that has really hit me hard. He's the first pet I've actually missed. I've never really missed pets (hell, I don't really know that I miss people to any normal, non-detached degree). I think I've discovered why that is.

If you had to take the emotional state of "happiness" and put it into a tangible, physical form, that form would have been Puckett. There are plenty of dogs who are pretty up-beat, but Puckett seemed to just always be that way. I mean, the damned dog wagged his tail in his sleep! Even if you couldn't see him, you knew he was around just by the insistent thump of his tail wagging into his cage, a door frame, a door, a wall or whatever happened to be within tail-reach. He always had a kind of insistence with his happiness. As obnoxious as that may sound, somehow, with him, it wasn't. If it was anything, it was infectious. I don't know anyone that spent any amount of time with him that would disagree That's a huge part of why it has always boggled my mind that he was given up not just once, but twice. I still don't understand how it was I was lucky enough to have come upon him and I don't know how two sets of owners could have been stupid enough to let him go.

When we got the cancer diagnosis, it filled me with a sense of dread beyond simply knowing I'd too soon be without him. I knew that a big part of my happiness would be gone. It's that whole not seeming to have much of a capability to initiate the feelings of happiness or joy within myself. Things that tend to make most people happy sort of just roll off me like water off a duck's back. I'm able to acknowledge that good things have happened. I'm even able to sort of appreciate them. But, such things have, at best, a transient feeling to them - for better or worse, most things feel that way. Having Puckett around, I often felt like I was actually able to experience those kinds of feelings through him. He was the kind of dog you could just look at and it would lighten your spirits. And now, that's gone. All that's left is my "normal", dead self.

We've been trying for coming up on two months, now, to try to find a pup to fill some of the huge hole he's left. What should be a fun experience, getting to "interview" lots of dogs, has been a soul-crushing experience. Each time, I go out, hoping to find that connection. For the most part, I haven't. Yeah, the first part of the visits are often uplifting, but then there's the hangover from it - the emotional letdown of going home, empty-handed. Sometimes, it's even worse.

A couple weekends ago, I met Mook. He was a nifty Boxer/American Pitbull mix. Something about the way we interacted said to me, "you need to take me home." He was too big. He was an energetic handful. But, in spite of that, there was still that, "you need to take me home" feeling to him. Unfortunately, he fairly badly failed cat-testing. Give we've got two cats, we have to have a dog that gets along with cats. So, I had to take a pass on him.

This weekend, we met two dogs, Micah and Miss Lady. Each had qulities to recommend them.

Our current dog, Cira, seemed to love the time we spent at the dog park with Micah. Yeah, she was having fun playing with all the dogs, but she did seem to be gravitating towards him, in particular. I got the feeling that, were we to bring him home, they'd be the doggy version of "best buds for life." Unfortunately, I didn't feel much of a "you need to take me home" feeling from him. I don't know whether this was just because he was surrounded by and distracted from playing with a pack of other dogs or just that there wasn't really a connection to be made (I'm firmly of the school that dogs claim their owners at least as much as we claim them). I just don't know. I'm thinking that, before I can say, "we need to bring this guy home," we need to try to get a meeting under circumstances that are likely to foster a connection. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how best to go about that. Worse, because of prior disappointments, I'm afraid to try to make a connection in case he fails the cat test.

After meeting with Micah, we had to take Cira home to bathe her. She'd gotten quite dirt and slobber covered from the 40+ minutes of running around in the Clarendon dog park. This cost us the opportunity to meet another boy - at least for this weekend - but still left us with time to go meet Miss Lady. Like Micah, Miss Lady is a gorgeous-looking dog. Where Micah was a gorgeous red-brindled and sleek bully, Miss Lady is a too-skinny ball of energy recently rescued from a high-kill shelter. She has arresting white/blue eyes and a friendly demeanor that says, "you want to take me home." Or, at least, I think it does.

Her eyes and her manner are evocative of Puckett. I'm hoping it's mostly her manner and not just the color and quality of her eyes.

At any rate, meeting her did make me feel something. I should probably sort out the source if I'm to do the decision justice. Yesterday, her interaction with Cira was very poor. So, I'd thought I'd been rescued from having to sort out whether the source of that feeling was genuine or not. Today, however, when we went to a dog adoption event in Columbia, to meet a different dog, Miss Lady was there. And, today, she and Cira got along very much differently than their first encounter suggested they ever might. There wasn't anything in the way of raised hackles. There wasn't any growling, snarling, barking or baring of teeth. There also wasn't any of the "I don't like you so I'm going to go over here and do my best to ignore you" posturing we'd seen the day before. In fact, they just generally seemed a lot more interested in each other and able to get along. At one point, I was giving dog-treats to each and Miss Lady thought she'd try to intercept one that I was giving to Cira. Cira calmly asserted herself and no growling (etc.) was evidenced from either dog. More of an "it's my turn" from Cira and an, "ok, we have to take turns" from Miss Lady. So, now I'm torn, again.

Worse, I'm a touch beaten. Part of me really wants this dog. Part of me is really afraid that the universe is teasing me, again. And, a third part of me is thinking, "you're really overthinking all of this." Probably, I am. I don't know that most people go through this when looking for dogs. Most people are more impulsive in their decisions. Most people are easier to let themselves go. Or, at least it seems that way. I just don't really know. All I know is that it's really draining. All I really know is that feeling tends to be really draining. Perhaps that's why I tend not to do it, much?

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