Ranger Insists on Lesson Transfer

Ranger Transfers His Learning

Here is Ranger, applying the lessons he already has learned about ball handling to a new toy, the soft Frisbee.

I wish I could tell you I was able to freely transfer the learning about unconditional love to the rest of my life. Perhaps that is the nugget of truth experienced by teachers everywhere… a kid learns something on paper or in the classroom, but in real life there is nothing to which they can apply that learning. In my case, Ranger and I have talked a lot since that time about how difficult it is to transfer the unconditional love lesson to everyone else in my life.

Ranger: “Time now to have a session.” He actually pushed me onto the couch this time, impatient with something I must have been saying.

Me: “Hey, what’s going on? I have a lot to do, and now you’re insisting I lie down?”

Ranger: “Yep. That’s exactly what I want, and you do too, even though you don’t know it yet. I’ve been watching you and listening to everything you say, and while you got that lesson of unconditional love applied to your ex-husband, you’re not seeing how much you measure yourself against other people with the purpose of feeling better about yourself. I heard you this morning railing about a politically conservative colleague. You didn’t have a loving tone in your voice. You must have zero empathy for him and what his situation has been.”

Me: “That person drives me nuts. He is a complete hypocrite in terms of his morals. He’s the big church-going guy, but when you dig a bit you find he doesn’t live up to the standard he sets for others. He has had every opportunity handed to him on a silver platter, and yet whines about how much life owes him. What’s wrong with him?”

Ranger: “Don’t tell me you missed entirely what I’ve been talking about and can’t remember all the benefits unconditional love has brought you with your nuclear family. Look. Let me be clear on this: that lesson is for everyone. Today, when you go out and deal with people, just ask yourself, “Is what I’m saying reflecting of truth, empathy, and love? If you can’t check all those three off before you open your mouth, perhaps you’d be better off remaining silent. What you need to understand is that truth is pretty much relative. Depends on who is telling the story. One person telling the truth is liable to be contradicted by the next person telling the truth. Empathy? You think you have that in spades, but let me assure you that you’re no different than the rest of your friends who also consider themselves enlightened with that characteristic. You tend to get into little clumps so you can share your version of truth among yourselves. You say all the same things, nod your head knowingly at the same stories, tell the same jokes. Challenge for you, now, is to figure out what to do about yourself in relationship to the other people in your life, beyond the chosen circle. And, quite frankly, sometimes within the circle. You certainly love everyone within your circle, but love is a difficult term that is incredibly nuanced and means very little when you just say, ‘I love you,’ for it means very little. Today, work on other ways to say that to the first five people you see. Even if you don’t know them, and the message is only in your head.”

Me: “You realize, don’t you, that many of the conversations I have with my friends… and also family members… concern the behaviors of others? It’s the fodder for most talk, I believe. Just today I was on the phone with my friend in Minnesota, and it was like we went through a checklist of the rest of our mutual friends. Just the two of us, sharing our insights, many of them negative reflections of how the rest of them behave. We speculate on motives, grouse about perceived slights, just the two of us sharing feelings… felt pretty good, frankly.”

Ranger: “Then you felt smug, right? Is it possible that when two other friends or family members get together they might be speculating on your motives and grousing about how you reflect poorly or slight them?”

Me: “I know that’s true. It comes with the territory. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

Ranger: “Okay, how much nerve do you have? What if you put each person in your circle, and also your family,  on notice that the only time you’ll talk about any other  is when all three of you are in the same room? How would that change things?”

Me: “Pretty radical, I’d say. It would dramatically change how long our conversations are, and that’s a good thing, given how much I detest talking on the phone. But it also would turn our conversations towards ideas, I suspect. It would cause me to share more from myself, force the other person to share more from their own point of view.”

Ranger: “Well, then. You have a plaque on your kitchen wall that you’re very fond of. It says ‘Every Day Do Something That Scares You,’ and I’ve seen how, when people ask you about it, you proudly say you believe it and try to practice it. Would changing the tone of your conversations within the family be a scary thing to do? Why not try it?”

Dr. Ranger’s Credentials

Ranger has credentials from the most important school of experience, and canine smarts.
Ranger has credentials from the most important school of experience, and canine smarts.

Ranger’s Therapy Credentials

“I know, I know. Ranger can’t possibly impact your physical health. He’s a dog, for God’s sake! He doesn’t talk. He has to be leashed by a human being to go out for bathroom breaks. Come on, you cannot possibly present him as a therapist.” That’s what I hear from my friends.

Oh, yes, I can! I can present him, and proudly, as my therapist!

First off, my therapist can look me directly in the eye and calm me down. His eye contact alone is enough to lower my level of anxiety and my blood pressure immediately. When I touch him he makes my body respond in positive ways….

Let me count the ways:

  1. When I met Ranger I was on a daily dose of Ativan. That was to relieve the anxiety I was experiencing. Somewhere along the line I had messed with the system I was used to, and was paying the price of doing that. The system was one governed by others, including a husband and other family members, and in which I was an essential component. I’d disrupted that system by leaving. Cleaning out under the refrigerator on a regular basis? Me. Checking the furnace filter regularly? Me. Planning and executing the dinners in support of weekends and holidays? Me. Now, I’d deliberately and with intent removed myself from that, and with good reason. But the ripple effect was pretty intense. Ativan got me through some tough months.
  2. My blood pressure was a nightmare. The upper number continued to soar, and the medications prescribed were increased each time I saw the doctor. I would max out on one and another would be prescribed. After that, yet another.
  3. Sleep eluded me. I fell asleep just fine about 10:00 pm on any given night. But by 3:00 am it was another story altogether. At that hour, I would refuse to get out of bed, thinking that if I just lay quietly long enough I would eventually go back under, but most days I would simply be grateful when the clock finally got to 5:00 am and I had an excuse to get up.

Ranger was instrumental in changing that…. Along with Darryl, my other therapist. Let me just say right up front that Darryl is completely supportive of me and doesn’t tell me what to think or how to behave. He’s amazing. But Ranger is the therapist, and he provides the cure through his attention to me in ways that even Darryl cannot.

Ranger settles in on the couch between us, and proceeds to look from Darryl to me, his head moving from left to right and back again. Very intense eye contact, and prolonged as well. When Ranger and I are alone, he gives that attention to me directly. It can last for a long while, as long as a minute. When he finally shuts his eyes or diverts his attention I feel like I’ve been given a massage.

Let’s go back to the list:

Ativan: Gone. I got up one morning about 8 months ago, looked Ranger in the eye, and said I wanted to get off this bad thing. I weaned myself from the drug, and pretty quickly. In a week I was off all together.

Blood Pressure Meds: I was on the highest doses possible. I’d already cut out salt from cooking, and never added it to food any more. I’d even given up my beloved salted peanuts as a favorite snack. I walked at least an hour a day, if not more. I ate with moderation. My weight was fine. But the blood pressure remained dangerously high, and several times spiked into stroke territory. But…. two months ago I told Ranger that in my dreams I’d like to be off the medication all together. I never thought it might work.

Me: “Ranger, look, I feel really healthy. I’ve made some life style changes that are big, especially kicking the salt habit. I eat pretty moderately, frankly, and I’m eater lower and lower on the food chain. I’m not eating any beef, rarely any chicken, and if I have a strip of bacon occasionally it’s because it’s in a sandwich. So this blood pressure thing has me flummoxed.”

Ranger: “Ha. Your life, frankly, is pretty nuts a lot of the time. Yesterday was classic. You worked on your list all day without stopping. Then, you ran all over town picking up items on your list, and then grandkids from school and daycare.  And, you did all that in a rainstorm. Oh, yes, and you cooked dinner and did laundry in the process. I think you actually do the blood pressure thing to yourself. You could go a lot slower. Nobody is very impressed when you drive yourself like that. You actually make me tired watching you. It’s like you’re still earning your way, trying to seek approval.”

Me: “You’re suggesting that I have the solution to this blood pressure problem right here under my own control?”

Ranger: “Wow. You actually verbalized that? You’re smarter than you act. Well, good luck on all of that. Notice that I like nothing better than curling up on the couch with you or Darryl, or even better yet both of you. If I’m not being productive every single moment I figure my actual accomplishments are more and better when they do happen.”

Today, as I write this, my blood pressure is normal and the medications have been reduced by 80%. My prediction is that within the next month I will be completely free of all medications.

And some people think dogs are a nuisance.

Ranger On Unconditional Love

We've both earned a Christmas nap.
We’ve both earned a Christmas nap.

FORGIVENESS VS. UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

It seems appropriate, now that I’m writing about it, that this final conversation about unconditional love happened with Ranger at Christmas. The Holidays are a time so fraught with tension and expectation, so no matter how old we get we are bombarded with messages from our past… maybe even the pasts of our ancestors!

Thanks to Ranger, I had started thinking about the difference between forgiveness and love. I am no longer a Christian, but my understanding of Christ’s teachings tells me that this is exactly what Ranger was trying in our sessions to get across. Forgiveness is holier-than-thou, a position of elevation and subtle discrimination. Loving unconditionally is another matter altogether. It’s acceptance of the other person in spite of what that person is or has done. “Look at me, for I have forgiven this terrible person who wronged me,” is the kernel of what I understood forgiveness to be before our sessions. That definition is rooted in self-absorption, in licking of wounds, in making the hurt entirely the fault of the other person. But now Ranger was challenging me to love unconditionally, to love in spite of me. For weeks that challenge was sitting with me in my meditations, and when I finally got it I was freed. Really freed. Really able to move on and build a life. Really able to stand alone as a person of integrity. Really able to love unconditionally.

Ranger paced the room during one session. “Your notion of forgiveness amounts to announcing that you will love someone in spite of them.” Umm… that was interesting but completely right, from my perspective. My longtime husband had harmed me, and I was rising above the harm. More pacing.

Ranger plopped down on my feet. “Look, unconditional love is where you love someone in spite of yourself. You’re not perfect, you know. You got into this situation and were part of it. Now you want to not own that part? Why not get on with it, live a real life, not a bitter one.”

The moment I finally got it: I was walking in the early morning, before the Florida humidity kicked into high gear and I would need to get over to by daughter’s home for another day of childcare. Typically I would spend this morning walk time weeping over an injustice I was rehashing. Today was, “How could I continue to ‘forgive’ the fact that my ex-husband was choosing to remain in the closet in our hometown in Minnesota, thus making me the bad guy to all of his many fans and acquaintances? Being the bad guy is hard. Our intimate friends knew the truth, but how about my reputation in the community? I was giving up a lot! Why would he allow that to happen? But despite this, I’m not going to blow his cover.” The subtext is, “Look at me. I am the bigger and better person, and I have risen above the person who wronged me and I am able to forgive.”

I walked long, talking to myself, reliving all that I’d given up. I imagined scenarios that didn’t happen because I’d been so good, so compassionate. How about if I’d just told everyone about his infidelity and let him deal with the public humiliation I knew that would bring? I imagined standing on the downtown square with a cardboard sign announcing the situation for what it was. How about if I’d sent out an email to his friends announcing the fact that I knew what he was doing? How about if I called his sister and told her? I had chosen none of those options, and frankly was pretty proud of my ‘longsuffering’ and my complicity in protecting his reputation.

Then I remembered something Nelson Mandela said as he reflected on his time in the South African prison. He said, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew that if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

At one point the full moon broke through the clouds, and on that morning I finally understood. My life would be full of acrimony and acid at this rate, and we would both be losers. I would be the loser, along with the ex. If I just simply loved him, for who he was and where he was on his journey, and also myself on my own journey, would that improve my life? How about his? I didn’t want to improve his life, frankly, at that particular moment, but now suddenly I saw that as not my issue. His life was his, and mine was mine. In order to move forward I would need to change me, not him.

Once I was able to see Ranger again, I told him about my internal transformation. I actually didn’t have to tell him, for he knew I was somehow different. Now, with his head in my lap, I told him about me. About my own dreams and desires, about my own foibles, about my desire to have a full life of my own. I told him about my sleepless nights, self-talk, and long walks during which I had hung on to the past. I told him I wanted to sleep like a baby, undertake a self-improvement regimen, write more than I did, make a lasting contribution to others.

Ironically, it was not long after my transformation that my ex had one of his own. He didn’t have Ranger to guide him, but somehow he embraced himself in ways he had never been able to do. He made the difficult decision to step out of the closet, a transformative experience. He found only acceptance and love. Funny how that works. Now he didn’t have to be afraid of who might know and who didn’t, for he told everyone. He traveled to visit with his sister, and found only love and acceptance. He wrote a letter to our out of town friends, explaining why we had decided to pursue an amicable divorce. He too was freed.

The rewards multiplied. He decided to free himself from his worries about money, and told me he would no longer cash the checks I had sent him each month to cover the discrepancy between our incomes. When he disavowed any further payments from me, it allowed me to seek more comfortable housing and to travel more than before. Rather than clutch his money so carefully, he began to share more generously with his children.

 

Moving Forward

Therapy on this topic was long and difficult.

Ranger: “Let’s talk about today.”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Ranger: “What I mean is what today means for you. Tell me.”

Me: “Well, it means I will clean one room of my house, because that kind of schedule works for me. It means I will go to the grocery store to get the makings of the soup that Alex is especially fond of, and it means that I will pick her up from school, take her to my place, and we’ll work on that soup. Then when I take her home I will bring the soup so the entire family can enjoy it. Then I will get home and go to bed… is that what you are talking about?”

Ranger: “Not exactly. I am asking what your day means to you. You’re giving me your list. I’m asking for what the heck this day means for your life.”

Silence from me.

Ranger: “Well, let me dig a bit further. When you’re at the grocery store, what are you thinking of?”

Me: “I’m thinking about the clock, and if I will actually have time beyond the soup making to take her to the pool.”

Ranger: “I’m almost ready to give up on you. Come on, you can do better than that.”

Me: “Well, I am also juggling finances in my head and trying to decide what amount I dare send to each kid for Christmas…. And, yes, I am also patting myself on the back about how successfully I am managing in my situation.”

Ranger: “Ah, now we might be getting somewhere. Come back later and tell me more about patting yourself on your back. Just so you know, it’s a dangerous place to be and I’d advise you to think it through just a bit.”

Short Session Looking Back

This session, Ranger warned me, was going to be brisk and to the point. His body told me to move on and make myself useful, preferably getting him a treat. But I persisted, to complete the story.

Me: “So, I learned that he was not only gay, but was acting on that identity. I could rehash the details, but won’t because you obviously believe I should not spin my wheels doing that. I will say that I had to not only confront him, but also that part of me that allowed our lives to be so locked up in conformity. I had to stand in the gap with him, but also myself. I needed to hire a divorce attorney, but also speak clearly into my friendships so that I didn’t cast too much blame. I was more than ready to accept his identity as a gay man (like my children) but was more than ready to blame him for the need to remain hidden in the closet. I was resentful of the fact that he was cowering in the closet!”

Ranger: “Okay, so I see your point. You deserve some licking at this time, and I will give it to you as soon as you feed me and throw the ball for me. The past is what it was. Now your job is to find a life you can be proud of…. but that pride needs to include pride in your past life.”

No more whining, no more tears. Moving on!
No more whining, no more tears. Moving on!

 

Ranger Listens Some More

Ranger started our next session with a message: “Hey, I’m willing to listen to a little bit more whining, but I need to warn you that patience will wear thin if you start blubbering about your lot in life. Go ahead, and I’ll stop you if it gets maudlin.”

So I resumed my story.

“Dad, I don’t know what I’m doing here. I want to come home,” was my sobbing request. It was September, and I had been assigned a roommate who had matching cashmere sweater and skirt sets. I counted them once when she was out. They were arranged in degrees of color from white to brown, through every pastel available. Mint green, yellow, pink, mauve, pale blue, and finally light brown. They fascinated me, but no more so than the fact that each and every time they were worn they went into the special cleaner laundry bag which went home by parcel post, to be replaced in our room by a “care package” sent by her mother. Cookies, cake, potato chips, fudge. It was a Pandora’s box of goodies I could barely imagine. My own mother had plenty on her plate already, which didn’t include care packages to a daughter who worked in the dining hall.

“Well, here, you can talk to your mother, but remember that there is a three minute time limit on long distance calls, and you’ve more than half used those up with your sniffling. You may come home at Christmas if you can find a way to get here, but otherwise you can simply do what you need to do to get by.”

He was right. I got by.

I’m pretty sure they both rest in peace today, since their responsibilities to us ended at the very point when we crossed over the bleachers and accepted that high school diploma.

Probably not a wonder that I resorted to lists to manage it all. Juggling three part time jobs and a full load of classes, who wouldn’t?

It was at the juncture between adventure and God that I married. I had my college degree and had been a high school teacher, a far cry from what my talents and interests were. Why did the boy who was the high school class clown, the gregarious and infectious guy who everyone wanted to be with, get my nod? I was serious, always working hard, ever the demure wallflower. We’d barely dated, given the fact that he was always on the road in his new ’57 Chevy driving with his friends between rural towns. He moved fast, had no deep friendships that I could see, and made sport of everything and everyone not in the same car. We married after a week when he suddenly decided that he couldn’t live without me another moment, and I didn’t have a single person to call and talk to about such a momentous event. Certainly I couldn’t talk it out with my mother, and my father for sure did not welcome phone calls. I was on my own, as usual, but very programmed to be a dutiful and supportive wife. Hindsight tells me he was running scared and ready to make the most of his predicament. If I thought carefully about it, I’d have not only seen him more clearly, but also the deep missionary streak in me that was bent on saving my new young husband.

And it was a predicament. He was gay, but didn’t know any more than I did the meaning of that word. His story is his to tell, but mine intersected with his when we were in our early ‘20s, and the world was our oyster in many ways. Back in those days we could pick and choose where we wanted to teach, and could dictate dual contracts from whatever geographic locale we desired. We settled in a small town in Iowa, where I followed in my mother’s example by putting blinders on.

Here is the crux of the issue, after finally learning at age 69 about his situation: How could I govern my reactions to the information that came to me? How could I insure that my words and deeds were such that they only reflected on my own character, not his? I kept asking myself what I wanted my world to be like in ten years, and how I could make my reactions what they needed to be so I could live with myself.

Therapy: Looking Back or Looking Forward?

++++++++++++++++++++++++

Looking Back? Okay, But Keep It under Control.
Looking Back? Okay, But Keep It under Control.

I’m still in therapy 101, and I’m thinking I will need to relive all of my life. Ranger and I look at each other, and I decide to ask the question: “Do we live forward or backward on this therapy thing? I assume I need to relive all the trauma of my life in order for you to name the problem and make me whole.”
Ranger: “Actually, I’m pretty impatient with all of that backward stuff. I prefer looking forward. But also, let me point out that it’s impossible to live a life that means anything that ignores the past as well. I am NOT excited about revisiting your previous situations, but if you can keep it to a minimum I’ll put up with it. I’ll let you know my limits by kicking back and falling asleep on you.”
So I started:
Imagine my mom’s shock when her husband arrived at the parsonage of 1st Presbyterian in Prince Albert to announce his enlistment in the Allied army. W.W.II had called and he responded, despite his seven children and pastoral duties. I was in diapers, the youngest of the tribe, following five brothers firing on all pistons and into every possible challenge of the environment. In the pandemonium that followed, she buckled her good woman seatbelt tight, sold everything, and headed to rural Iowa with the entire brood. It was on a train, which caught fire somewhere in southern Minnesota and needed to be evacuated, that I first became conscious. My earliest memory is riding in the back of a livestock truck down the highway into Iowa and to another truck which transported us to the farmhouse. There in Iowa were my patriot father’s brothers and sisters, our aunts and uncles, offering to put a roof over our heads. She stuck with her determination to be independent. Rather than live in a vacant and rundown farmhand’s house on a brother-in-law’s farm, and against her distant husband’s protests from New Delhi, she bought a home in the village of Clarion, where we spent the war years quite happily. He sent his paychecks to her, and she managed with creativity and determination. I can never remember being hungry or unhappy while the war lasted. When it was over was another matter.
This feistiness mom demonstrated disappeared when he returned, handsome and lean in his captain’s uniform and ready to resume the important discipline required to make his children leave home as soon as they could formulate a plan. It’s possible that he held her accountable for the rambunctious behavior displayed by all of us. The lessons she taught me, her most dutiful and observant daughter, was this: love your children, defer always to your man, and look to God for solace. Until I left for college at age sixteen I watched and learned from her. I watched her pack up and move from one rural manse to the next, the detritus of her family trailing behind and subjected to what her husband touted as God’s will for our lives. She talked to herself, and I suppose to God as well, behind closed doors in whatever drafty house we occupied, but never to me, a sad omission to whatever the gods had planned for me. I needed not only licking, but more talk than I heard in that Dutch-German cauldron. Today I marvel that while I recognize how important and seminal those times were for me, I believed that I could overcome every taint brought by early life experiences. I believed that into the lives of my all of my children, three of whom were older adoptees from abroad, my parenting had arrived to make all the difference. I thought I was all powerful, perhaps, because God had visited me with the mother I got. She had persevered, taking her lot in life stoically and bowing her head in obedience, so why not me? Why not model these same characteristics for my children?
Fate delivered what I probably needed and signed up for, despite how much I’d like to maintain my innocent victimhood. I’m pretty sure Ranger would tell you that. I’d been raised in a rural, adventuresome, rootless household with a broad world view that clashed with the parochial stereotypes of whatever local sensibilities we encountered. It certainly clashed with the model of motherhood so carefully fostered by every small sigh and gentle pat from my mom. My father served rural parishes, and he was able to pretty much dictate not only the mood but also the composition of the congregation. He had a list in his suit pocket when he arrived home for Sunday dinner (usually a beef roast cooked earlier in the pressure cooker on the top of the stove, and then allowed to simmer slowly in its own gravy), with the names of people who hadn’t shown up for the service. He probably had a notepad in the pulpit and put the names on in between hymns. Soon after lunch he would be out on the road, God’s circuit rider, tracking down the unfortunate enough to be on the list.
My mother, saint that she was, truly believed that her destiny was to be able to raise god-fearing children who understood not only God’s finger of fear but it’s embodiment on Earth, the returned and never-quite-domesticated man who fathered, but then abandoned us, to whatever crucible we inadvertently chose, while he moved on to the next rural mission church. It was a human arc of barely grown adults, my siblings and I, that stretched through Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan, and our post-high-school adventures usually meant that we became welded to whatever geographic morphology happened to cross our paths. Each child peeled into that ether like a layer of onion, through marriage to a local, by going to a local college, or in my case traveling across the country to a college he deemed acceptable to a young Christian girl, even though he wouldn’t pay for my attendance there. I was on my own, but at least I was far enough away I didn’t get reminded at every opportunity by him or someone else that I was the pastor’s daughter. And because I really did work my own way through school, I didn’t ask for a lot of input past that first terrified phone call home.

My First Session

I arrived on Ranger’s couch from a life of responsibility, duty… and betrayal, from a start in northern Saskatchewan. Ranger would tell you I needed more licking along the way, and he’s trying to make up for its lack at every opportunity. His opinion is that once you get enough to eat, and play with the blue bone for a while, then it’s time to just chill out and sit with a movie or newspaper or book. And a lick or two along the way, for reassurance, is a good thing. Not a bad plan at all.
Our first session happened even without my knowing it had happened. I was reading the newspaper, on Darryl’s old TV couch, with my feet up and my head on the armrest. Ranger jumped up and settled between my feet, his head draped casually across my thigh. He had obviously accepted me into his herd by this point. I read the funny pages first, a guilty little pleasure long denied by the years I either had no time to read a paper followed by years too rootless to have a subscription delivered.
Ranger: “Ummm….” It sounded like a low rumble from his throat, but not the same as the one he uses to warn us that someone is approaching the house.
Me: “What’s up, fella?” Silence followed, but without a blink of those eyes.
Ranger: “We might get somewhere if you leave off trying to continue hashing over today’s list of things you need to do. What you need to do is forget everything on that list. Today is a Saturday. Your job is to enjoy this day. Your job is to let Saturday take you where it will. But you may be beyond help. Your body is all jumpy and you keep checking your mobile phone for email, but for what? If your daughter calls and says she needs to have the kids watched tonight, with apologies for the short notice, will you make that a priority, or will you turn that damn thing off and go out to the park with Darryl? You’re now old enough to not have to prove yourself, but you may not believe it. I notice you took your blood pressure medication this morning, and I’m not surprised that you need that kind of thing, frankly. You’re wound up tighter than a spring. Tell you what. Let’s make a deal: you turn that thing off for the rest of the day and I’ll stop begging for stuff while you’re in the kitchen. Fair enough? It’s called getting unplugged, and it’s now or never for you, my friend. You cannot live your kids lives for them, and solve their problems. Be there for emergencies? Sure. Be available when they need to talk? Of course! But to wait on a Saturday morning for the phone to ring in case one of your kids has an emergency? Please! You need to get your head straight.”
Me: “Yes, but…. But I am the first person they usually call when they have a problem, or just want to talk. And here I am, just on the other end of the phone line. I should be here for them!”
An eye is cocked at me. Suddenly it drifted shut, and I got the message.
Ranger: “This is such a trivial conversation I can no longer be part of it. Notice that I’m going to be napping now. Wake me up when you’re willing to grow up.”

First Session. Not a success.
First Session. Not a success.

Ranger’s Journey

My therapist is pretty insistent on having daily sessions.
My therapist is pretty insistent on having daily sessions.

OUR JOURNEYS:
No one is spared difficult times. They are part of every life. The trick we all must learn is in managing our own reaction to those times, for the only people we can control is ourselves, and the reaction we give is the only testament to our character.
Our respective journeys all started in tough places, although just how Ranger’s began is up to our guesswork. Whatever road he traveled from north Florida involved littermates (we assume) and certainly grand purebred Border Collie parentage. His beauty as an animal can only be appreciated now, after two years of constant and careful care. His black and white markings are complemented by a burnished coat and appropriate body weight. Obedience classes and structured play have resulted in a lean athletic body. However it happened early in life, he landed in a shelter and was adopted by someone who probably had good intentions, but also live-in boyfriends who did not. By the time he was resheltered he was fearful, defensive and overweight. The person who brought him in admitted to “some abuse.” He shunned other dogs and most men. His hair, what there was of it, was spotty and thin.
Darryl’s supervisor, Leeann, provides foster placement for dogs, but she was “full up.. can’t take another right now.” She asked Darryl to provide a temporary home for a few days, “Just so we can keep this dog from being put down.”
Darryl tells the story of that day.
“LeeAnn and I went to Tampa to meet Ranger. I’d agreed to keep him in a temporary foster situation. We walked in. Ranger, who preferred women, came over to us, walked past Leeann and sat down next to me. I looked down at him, and he looked back up at me. It was that simple. He’d picked me out of the crowd and claimed me. We didn’t look back, and Leeann didn’t have a chance to get him.”