god gave me a difficult dog.

I do believe it’s true. Most days I don’t quite believe in God – or at least not in the textbook, throne-in-the-clouds, jealous God. Most days I keep my blind faith in science. I’ve never questioned the 99% killing power of my Clorox sanitary wipes, but I have mentally poked holes in His divine plan and shamelessly used His name in vain. Being raised Catholic, I’m not the oppressive guilty personality that a good Catholic girl should be. In church, I remember opening and closing my mouth like land-locked, gutted fish instead of singing hymns. I knew the words, but I thought it was senseless to sing praises to someone who should be perfect enough not to need them.

As far from perfect as I am myself, I grew up a difficult woman from sheer privilege. I don’t mean vacationing-in-the-Hamptons, “I am the 1%” with a trust fund kind of privileged. I’ve never even been skiing. I’m the white-girl-with-a-pretty-face-and-shapely-figure kind of privileged. This is the kind of privileged that comes with being quick-witted and clever. I haven’t often been told “no” in my lifetime and typically end up getting my way. When I am refused, it’s more of a temporary detour until I eventually find my way. Though I am not patient, I have the temperament and determination for folding logic, and manipulating compromise in my favor.

Now, all this makes me sound like a monstrosity of a human being. I don’t believe that’s true. The above paragraph is a gritty picture of myself, and is the one I often paint for other people. It’s a one-sided view of the truth. I’ve never minded one bit if someone thinks I’m a shitty person. Other people leave shitty people alone, so it’s a defense mechanism. But I’ve never hurt someone on purpose, or used my womanly wiles as weapon. I’m simply being honest. And more often than not, my intention isn’t to come out on top. It just happens that way.

Fact of the matter, I’m afraid I’m a more “complex individual” than other individuals care to tolerate. If admirers were any indication, you’d think I had the soft-spoken delicacy of Sleeping Beauty, or the vulnerability of Snow White. People, especially men, come to my aid as if I were some sort of damsel in distress. I never ask for help. Even with never asking, I have never had a lack of attracting men, nor finding friends. Keep in mind, attracting is one thing but keeping is another. The sorrow in all this comes from not knowing how to be any other than what I am. How many billboards, magazine advertisements, commercials, bumper stickers, and typewritten photos on Tumblr preach that to thine own self be true? What if thine own self is a pain-in-the-ass, obstacle-ridden, rubix cube of complicated gnarled yarn?

This is why I have a difficult dog. She’s beautiful, humorous and more intelligent than anything four-legged should be. But she is the most particular and demanding bitch I’ve ever known. I have peers with children that are difficult, or have special needs. This is not the same. Though a dog brings comfort and other warm and fuzzy nouns, a child is your creation. A child loves in an outward and open manner that a dog cannot, and can interact and communicate on a level intrinsically needed by human nature. Eventually, most children gain the ability to answer back, to play off of your emotions – and this is the ultimate rewarding experience in life. Or so I’ve been told.

As I may be difficult, I am not deserving of a truly bad child. When I decide to love someone, it is as unconditionally as an imperfect being can propose. No matter how it may appear on the outside, my obsessive, strategic and calculating manner can become self-sacrificing to a detriment. Like a light switch, my “on” is survival mode with a ruthless motivation, and my “off” is to give and give and give until I have nothing for myself. If there is a God, He forgot to shade in my grey areas. For His absentmindedness, I am able to do whatever must be done to achieve happiness and then quickly convince myself it isn’t so. I am either up or I am down, with no cruise control.

This is why I have a difficult dog. She looks up at me with those big, brown eyes and I cannot stay angry with her. Even if I have spent an entire afternoon, until my voice is cracking and my neighbors are dialing the authorities, repeatedly shouting for her to: stop barking, go potty, come inside, get away from the fence, let go of my shoe, leave that alone, get away from the stove, get out of the bedroom, get off of my comforter, go outside, drop it right now – I know this is only who she is, and the only way she knows to be.

Her schedule demands food at specific times or she will not eat since it is too soon or too late, and she must alleviate her bladder before all meals. She cannot leave the kitchen if her water bowl is empty, so I fill it. And then I watch her go lay down without taking a sip. She whines to go outside, does an about-face and scratches at the door to come back in because it is too hot outside. If I ignore her, she barks. If I let her inside, she sits at the door crying because I cannot change the weather. I spend most of my days flailing my arms and complaining until I am blue in the face only to have her do it all over again. I’ve trained a dozen dogs in my lifetime, and she has not learned a damn thing in hers. With even the same consequences for the same actions, she is surprised each and every time. The disappointment in her face when I have not met expectations is as clear as any child’s words, but when I speak to her – she cocks her head to side and dismisses me.

Primitive as it may seem, my dog is only creating for herself the environment that she wants and instinctively feels she deserves. Whatever she must depend on me for, she does not feel she has to ask. It is my duty as one that loves her to know what she needs. Our time together is solely spent with me serving and catering to her whims – to keep our relationship and household harmonious. Then sometimes I sit back and think how exhausting her expectations can be, especially with so little acknowledgement. Sometimes I think it would be easier to give her to someone else with more time, or a bigger yard, or to someone who is obviously not as mentally inept as I must be in caring for another living thing.

When I become very frustrated with her, I think about how stressful and strenuous even the good times with her can be from always anticipating a problem. I think that if I did give her to someone else, I’d be miserable alone but at least we wouldn’t both always be miserable. I sit back and think with as much as I love her, how I can never seem to just get through to her, or do one, single thing that makes her wag her tail. And then I know.

Then I know, who or whatever it is – whether it be fate, destiny, some omnipotent power, some great balance of life, the law of attraction, or even karma… Then I know, God gave me a difficult dog.

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