T-Minus 2 Days: Wounded Puppy Syndrome

I began collecting at an early age. I think I started collecting as a coping mechanism. I liked to fix things; it gave me some sort of control over my volatile world. Over the course of my years, I have collected several dozen hamsters, a turtle with two heads, another turtle with a vitamin deficiency, a parakeet, several feral cats with various issues, a Yorkipoo, a German shepherd with hip dysplasia and mental trauma, another terrier mix, a duckling with a broken wing who lived in my mom’s bathtub for a day or so until she found a farm to take him to, a nest of birds which had been abandoned, as well as a den of bunnies (also abandoned). I tried (unsuccessfully) to collect a colt who was born with a genetic anomaly which prevented him from standing. I successfully collected a twice rescued racing horse from an owner who had left him in a field to rot. When I got him, I treated him for rain rot and other skin conditions, got a dentist and a farrier and didn’t tell my father even though I had only been out of college for a few months and had no money to speak of.

I also collected, in my time, a drug dealer and cocaine addict, a military brat suffering from some very serious daddy issues, a Bosnian war survivor, a boy going nowhere fast, and several other delinquents of varying natures. Then, of course, Joe collected me, and we collected Smokey, and most of you know the story from there.

Society, I believe, calls this collecting of mine “Wounded Puppy Syndrome” and as far as I can tell, I have a pretty severe case of it. It is nearly impossible for me to turn down an animal or a person in need. My dad says it makes me a sucker, too vulnerable, open for the used car dealers of the world to unite and take me for everything I’m worth. As it stands, he is partially right (though I did get a good price on my Mustang last year).

I have trouble turning down a charity or a person or animal in need, even when it means giving up a lot of the little I have. I think I picked that particular trait up from my mom, who is completely incapable of voicing the word “No.” In some ways, it’s a good trait, but in others, it isn’t. It is a costly pattern, taking on suffering, because a lot of the time you fail. The rewards are greater when you don’t, but the failing gets me every time.

Dusty coming to our house wasn’t coincidence. She was meant to come to us, to me, in particular (though Joe, through collecting me exhibits some of the same tendencies though he will never admit it). But now that Dusty is gone and Shelby is practically here, I am starting to contemplate what it means for me to have the first animal ever that isn’t wounded.

We went to Joe’s mom’s this weekend. She just collected a five month old German shepherd puppy who has been tossed around a lot already. He is unsure, insecure, timid, and unnaturally protective of his new family. He is a sweet thing at heart, you can tell, he just needs some time and a lot of discipline and love. When we left, I said to Joe that I really admired his mom for taking the pup on and giving him a forever home. I also said that seeing Zeus reminded me of the hell we went through trying to get Smokey out of the spiraling patterns of self-destruction he’d created for himself. I said to Joe, “I’m really glad we aren’t going with another rescue.”

Of course, one day later, I hear about a dog who needs a new home. Instantly, the wounded puppy syndrome kicks in, and I am trying to convince Joe that it would be a good idea to get our third dog now. After several minutes of bickering, he said, “You just got done saying you don’t want another rescue.”

I recoiled. He was right, of course, but the wounded puppy syndrome is hard to fight. I think I’m worried that Shelby won’t need me as much as Dusty did, as much as Smokey does, and that somehow she will love me less because of it. It’s an odd connection, need with love. Joe always says that true love is based on wanting, not needing, that need is the enemy of love, but I guess I still haven’t gotten that lesson yet.

So here I find myself, only a few days away from getting Shelby and once again I am trying to find peace within myself and once again, it’s a peace prompted by a dog. There is something truly majestic about the power of the canine, to bring about such changes in a person. I constantly redefine my being because some dog explained to me how the world works just by being in it. In that way, I’m glad that Shelby isn’t wounded, because for once, maybe I will be able to take on joy instead of suffering and be able to relish in the purity of unbridled happiness.