by Michelle Ross (Feb 24 2015)
Oh what a beautiful dog, what kind is she? A pit bull…….Ooohh, wide eyed, smile melts
As they quickly walk away. Tell me about yourself? I am an addict…..Ooohh Eyes lower, conversations stop and they turn to talk to someone else
My name is Michele and I am an addict and I have pit bull named Grace. Grace came into my life because of my addiction. I had been clean from using drugs for 14 months when I relapsed. . When I had 22 days clean in recovery the second time, my husband of 7 years decided he had enough of the wrath of addiction that infected our marriage and he called it quits. So at 45 years of age, I packed some clothes and moved temporarily into my parents house so he could pack up his life, our dogs and move out.
And that’s where it all began. It is not uncommon for an addict to replace their drug addictions with something else when they stop using. Sex, shopping, gambling, food, can all becomes “drugs of choice”. This wasn’t the case for me ( ok, well maybe a little bit with food, but that’s another story).
So instead of combing through Match.com looking for “love” or shopping on Bluefly, I found myself on Petfinder.com. Dogs, LOTS of dogs. I fell in love with their pictures, their stories, their names. A 4 month purebred lab name Molly who was a failed in -training for hearing impaired puppy, a beautiful mixed breed dog in San Diego named Luke, each one I discovered, obsessed about and applied for, had the potential to be my new “life partner”.
This search was occurring with the fervor of a woman looking for her new love. Staring at pictures, planning my life with them, how they would be my companion. Waiting for e-mails from rescues picking me “as the one” to be their new parent and then when I didn’t hear anything, I would obsess over my application and how I shouldn’t of been so honest and told them I am getting divorced and gave up my 2 dogs to my husband . People advised me to slow down. Maybe you shouldn’t make any big life changes right now Michele. You aren’t even back home yet. A dog can be quite costly. These phrases didn’t even touch me because I knew that there was something bigger going on for me. I just didn’t know it would come in pint size black and white pit bull.
Then I found him. Tristan. He was beautiful. He was regal. He was a large black pit bull lab with the personality of a pussy cat. So off went my application and then obsession kicked in. E-mail checking and making sure his picture was still on the website. For 10 days, nothing. And then I got the call. The call actually came as I left the signing of my divorce papers. A familiar sounding voice was on the other end. It turns out that Linda Blair the actress most famous for her role in the Exorcist is a huge animal rights activist and has her own rescue. We spoke for a while, well she spoke and I listened. I told her I was definitely interested in Tristan and couldn’t wait to meet him. She asked me some questions about my lifestyle, and as I answered. I heard several Uh Huh’s. She said Tristan was definitely still available, but she had a very special 6 month old puppy that she had been waiting for someone quite special to take and she had a feeling I was that person. She said if she didn’t find the right person for this dog, then she would not adopt her out. NOOOO. I said thank you, but I just got done raising a puppy with my husband and I wanted to rescue an adult dog that would have a harder time finding a family. Please don’t even introduce me to this puppy.
So a date and time was set and off I went to meet Tristan. When I got to her rescue he happened to be playing outside so I saw him from a far and my heart dropped. He was truly one of the most beautiful dogs I had ever seen. I sat down and waited til it was time for us to meet. Let me tell you this was turning out to be more and more like dating. Here’s the rub. Just like dating Tristan “just wasn’t that into me”. That’s actually putting it mildly. This dog could not be bothered with me. I was devastated. But as a a woman who had often sacrificed the truth for fantasy when it came to relationships, I said to myself…. I can make this work. Tristan was whisked off into the back and I sat there 2 hrs from home, awkward and well, basically shattered dreams.
I stayed at the rescue for a few hours and walked many amazing pit bulls. But none of them were a love connection. It was getting time to wrap it up and I had not given the puppy Linda mentioned a second thought. I had my keys in my hand waiting to say goodbye when Linda walked out with this little black and white stunner. Linda handed me her leash and said I should walk her for a few moments. I looked at the dog and she looked at me. And in that moment, I knew she had picked me. And I could not deny that I then picked her.
A DOG NAMED GRACE
So I went back the next week to get her. It was my 45th birthday. I choose to spend it in Lancaster, first walking dogs all day, then leaving at sunset with my dog. I called her Grace because when I first got clean from using drugs I wanted to live my life with grace. I had faltered a bit in my relapse and now was being confronted with a divorce. I wanted to be a person who walked through my divorce with grace. I wanted to live life on a daily basis with grace. So I named her Grace and knowing I would be reminded every time I said her name.
So what has Grace taught me?
So this little puppy who was picked out for me before I had ever met Linda in person or seen this dog, presented as a cute little dog that was half the size of her 7 brothers and did not look like her brindle pit mom at all. Hmm she looks different from all the others and doesn’t seem to fit into her pack ( this felt really familiar to me). There were some things that I did not know until I would bring her home into my parents house. She had never been in a car so she was very quiet on the ride home. When I carried her into my parents house I was not prepared for what was about to happen. She was terrified of them. She was terrified of the furniture, the tv and the sidewalk and well, pretty much everything. She growled at everyone and everything. Hid in fear. Cowered when someone got near her. I thought maybe it will pass in the morning, or the next day but I soon came to learn that I had a “shy” dog…..which is a politically correct way of saying scared shitless.
As I have trudged this road with her, what started to become revealed more and more was how much she reminded me of an addict. Not the part of what one thinks of when they think of an active drug seeking addict, but what is usually underneath all the addiction is a person who is extremely sensitive, feels like they don’t fit in and often perceives life as scary and dangerous. Maybe they had bad things happen to them. Or maybe they were born that way. In my case and in Grace’s case, it’s a combination of both.
Some pit bulls “don’t look like a pit bull” and some addicts “do not look like addicts”. So I often have to brace myself to see what the result will be. I have been in parks with Grace and all of the sudden realize people have taken their dogs and left. Or cross the street or tell me all pit bulls should be put down “especially a dog like her”
Having a fearful dog has made me very aware of my own fear. It has made me think about how much harder Grace’s life is, because of her perception of life. Her lens tells her bad things are going to happen and because of that she misses out on a lot. Very similar to all my years of using drugs. I missed out on so much. However, I continue on my path in recovery and so does she. When she first started her LARPBO classes she was terrified of the milk crate she now places on. And she can let people be close to her ( not too close) She has been on pack walks and wags her tail after she finishes a few jumps during the agility part.
I have had dogs all my life and they have all touched my soul. But I have never had a dog that has taught me more about love, compassion and patience as my little black and white beauty that I call Grace.
Meet LARPBO Dogs & Peeps
These stories illustrates LARPBO’s part in keeping dogs home and out of shelters AND guiding owners to help dogs reach their potential. Please help us continue making a difference in the community. Click here to donate to our Shelter Intervention & Prevention Program so that we can continue our mission.
- Bodhi: Better than a Doodle!
- Cali: It’s All About Cali!
- Cathy & Isaac: A Note to LARPBO
- Dexter: There’s No Stopping Dexter
- Frannie: How Did this Happen?
- Grace: An Addict, a Pit Bull and Grace
- Hope: Where there is Hope
- Houston: From a Dog No One Wanted to Therapy Dog
- Jane, Moses & Andie: A Human-K9 Pack
- JJ: Capturing the Heart of a First Time Pit Bull Owner
- Lacy: What’s in a Name
- Lisa: LARPBO and My Journey
- Lynwood: The Chick Magnet
- Miles Woo: So You Think My Dog is Good?
- Ollie: LARPBO Dog Becomes Therapy Dog
- Rusty: Discarded “trash” to therapy dog
- Samson: Samson is Family
- Tito: LARPBO Speak!
- Wesley: Following Wesley