It's been eight days since I had to put Cocoa to sleep, my sweet, needy Cocoa. It's been an interesting week and quite a learning experience for me.
I published that open letter to Cocoa's former owners just 20 minutes after I got home from taking her to be put to sleep. I was sad, I was mad, I was frustrated. Cocoa was the second oldie I'd had to euthanize in seven months. I was a bit touchy. I was writing a letter that would normally be seen only by my Facebook friends. Ever heard of a blog called "A Day in the Life of Lunchy" before all this? I didn't think so.
The people who normally read my blog know me and they know the person behind the words. I had no idea so many thousands of people would read that letter and not know the person behind it.
Since the letter was posted, I've been called names. I've been told I have no right to voice an opinion on animal rescue if I eat meat. I've been told that I'm a selfish idiot for spending my money on a dog instead of humans. I've been told that I must be pro-abortion to have written the letter. I've been told that I should shut up about dogs and go adopt a baby instead.
This week has certainly been an exercise in restraint (a day late and a dollar short, some of you may think). I don't owe anyone an explanation or itemized list of how I'm helping the world but suffice to say I help the humans, too.
I do have to give the prize for funniest comment to the person who asked if I rescued the high horse I was riding from that same shelter.
I've also been accused of taking a sick dog from the pound and keeping her alive and suffering for my own selfish reasons. Cocoa had pancreatitis two weeks after I got her. It went away in a week or so and Cocoa was a happy little wooly mammoth running around my yard with the boys (which, by the way, are dogs to those of you who thought they were my sons). When I brought her in that last time, the vet told me I was suffering watching her more than she was suffering, but it was best to put her to sleep before the suffering started.
I was also accused of only approving the favorable comments on the original blog post. In fact, I approved every comment except one that wished physical harm on Cocoa's former owners. That was the only comment I censored.
You know what they say about opinions. Everyone's got one.
And that letter voiced mine. I've had hundreds of people tell me that I have no right to judge Cocoa's former owners because I don't know their story.
I disagree. I have every right to form an opinion of someone.
I, Jamie, could never take my 12-year-old family pet and leave them at a shelter. I especially couldn't take an old, highly incontinent dog to a shelter. I couldn't handle the stress of not knowing what happened to her. If you take a cute puppy to the shelter, it stands a much better chance of being adopted.
But an old, white-faced girl that stunk because she'd been lying in her own urine doesn't stand nearly as good a chance. And I couldn't stand to move on, not knowing what would happen to her.
This is me. This is my story. The not knowing would make me crazy.
When I got Cocoa home and realized she was extremely incontinent, we had a few weeks of adjusting. Every morning when I woke up I had to wash all the dog beds, because she only had accidents while she was sleeping. I would have to bathe her before work. I would come home and have to do all of that all over again.
I'm not telling you any of this for praise for taking care of Cocoa. I am telling you because I want you to know how frustrated I was. I got angry. I would never hurt any of my animals but I know that Cocoa could sense my frustration. I could see it on her face when I'd pick up the dog beds.
And it makes me really glad that she came home with me, and not with someone who might have gotten angry with her and punished her as a result.
See, that's the part that sticks in my craw.
I know there are people who have to surrender dogs. I hope to be lucky enough to never have to do that. I figure I will be, because I have an extensive network of dog-loving friends and family who would gladly take my boys if anything happened to me.
I don't agree with what Cocoa's former owners did. Had she been my dog I would have taken a different route. And that is what I was trying to convey in my letter.
Here's the thing. Along with people calling me all sorts of names, like self-righteously indignant twat (what?!), I've also had people call me an angel and that's problematic, too. I'm far from being an angel. Way, way far from being one. In fact, if you were to weigh my angel to devil ratio, well.... let's just say most of the time the devil's got the wheel. I am loud, I am ornery, I am chronically overweight, I have a hair trigger temper (as you've seen), and I have a big mouth.
But here's what I am good at -- I am a good daughter, I am a good sister, I am a good friend and I am a good pet owner. I may suck at a lot of other stuff but at these few things I rock.
So would I ever turn my 12-year-old dog into a shelter? No, I would not. No amount of arguing and name-calling is going to get me to understand. I've tried. I've had people tell me I should extend the same empathy I showed Cocoa to her former owners. I think that requires a level of Zen Master that I may never achieve.
Should I have lashed out at Cocoa's former humans? I was within my right to talk about something that upset me. Could I have handled it better? You bet your sweet bottom dollar I could have handled it better. My path is littered with good intentions gone awry. This isn't the first time I've lost my message in the delivery.
I suffer from what I call the Sally Field Syndrome -- I just want people to like me, really like me! To be viewed as an Internet bully stung. Well played, universe. I get it.
But here's the part that I regret most -- I regret saying anything in that letter that casts shelter workers or rescuers in an unfavorable light. Sure, I know there are some people working in shelters that are burned out but I believe in my heart of hearts that people working in shelters do so because they love the animals and want to help them the best they can. When I talked about Cocoa possibly dying on a cold shelter floor with someone who may or may not care how her life ended, I think I hurt a lot of people who have to deal with dogs dying on a daily basis.
And for that, I am truly sorry. My heart aches to think that I might have hurt someone who works in rescue or in a shelter. I have respect for people who do a job that I could never do. I walk around with my heart on my sleeve like an exposed nerve, constantly being bumped and bruised by the world. I couldn't do what so many people selflessly do on a daily basis.
To all the people who were able to look past the delivery and understand my frustration, I thank you. To all the people who shared their stories of adopting the old and broken ones, thank you. I read them and my heart hurt with love for all of them. I'm a sucker for the oldies but at this point I have to take a breather from adopting anymore of them. My heart needs to heal a bit. Boo Radley and Cocoa Loco took some chunks with them when they died.
Oh, and I may be 45 but I'm not too old to get in trouble with my mama. She didn't raise me to talk like that, so I'm sorry if I embarrassed you, Mamacita.