Me, My Parents, and a Plea to Parents of Disabled Children

 The first disabled person that I knew was my father. Except I didn’t know he was disabled. He’d had polio as a toddler ,and as an adult, walked with a limp.  He also grasped things rather stiffly with his left hand. Since Dad was right handed, it didn’t hinder him from what I could see. He could do anything he wanted to do. He could rewire a house. He could fix plumbing. He worked on his cars himself. He was incredibly strong.

  Dad was loved by some, hated by others. Years after his death, when he was discussed, nobody mentioned his limp. It was just the way he walked. It didn’t define him. It would have never occurred to any of us to discuss it.

  When i was in first grade, my parents found out that I couldn’t hear well at all.

The school district wanted me to have special education. My parents refused. They were afraid that if I was around other children like me, that I would lose the speech that I had, however impaired it was. So I went to the neighborhood elementary school and had speech therapy four days a week.

It was recommended that I be fitted with a hearing aid. Dad didn’t like the idea, but gave in. When I was 8, I got my first hearing aid. Two years later i got my second, paid for by the Lions Club, as had been the first one.

   I wanted music lessons when they offered them in elementary school, but refused because I “would fail”. Dad,  I’m guessing here, because he never talked about it may have had memories of being taunted as a child for because of the way he walked and didn’t want me to endure ridicule and taunting by other children when inevitably as he saw it, I failed because I could not hear what I was supposed to be playing. When I was older I wore them down and was able to take guitar lessons. I gave it up, but even years later retained the ability to read music and tune.

   In junior high we were required to take Spanish and my parents refused because once again, as they put it, I “would fail.”  They may have had a point here. I couldn’t even speak English plainly enough for everyone to understand me. How was I going to learn Spanish if I couldn’t hear well enough to speak English?

  By high school I insisted on taking German and they didn’t fight me. I took it in college with minor accommodation- no language lab because I could not hear the recordings. But I did well. I used my German the three years my husband and I lived in Germany where he was stationed with the Army. We were both glad that we had taken German!

  My husband and I moved often and one thing was consistent: Everywhere I lived, not giving any thought as to how it was I could sing, I sang in church choirs, which I had done since I was 13. Honestly, I don’t know how I did it back then. My hearing aids we found out later, were worthless. My hearing unaided is not good. I have nothing in the high frequencies. My loss cuts halfway through the speech range. I do have decent hearing in the low frequencies but that is all.

   Several years after the Army, my husband made a switch to the active duty Navy and was sent to Iraq. During that time I started seeing a new doctor to treat my PTSD. He’d casually had me tune his guitar after I had told him that I was going to start teaching basic guitar to a friend’s son. I tuned it and unwittingly passed his test. I got told that I was going to play the guitar again to relax. So, I got the guitar. While experimenting, I realized that I didn’t need to see music for anything I wanted to play…because I could play any melody by ear!  I had gotten frustrated and tossed my music aside because I didn’t want to adapt music written for the piano to the guitar.  So I just started playing. I was shocked! My brain had retained the knowledge of where the notes are on the guitar, and I didn’t even have to think about where my finger would go next.  It was also at this time that I discovered that I could sightread music well enough to tell if someone was playing exactly what I was looking at, or not. I was at choir practice one night, and our choir the directorplayed a song. Suddenly I  realized that while she was indeed playing the tune, she was not in fact playing what I was reading. What I was reading was within my voice range, and I knew it. What she was playing was an octave higher. I couldn’t sing that. it was too high!

   So here I was, near 50, and discovering music ability I didn’t know I had. A cousin confirmed that it was a talent that ran in the family, and I was no different. She was not in the least bit surprised! At least one of us wasn’t. I sure was!

    By this time, my parents were long gone. I began to mourn for what could have been. I decided that I had to move on, and enjoy what I could do now.

  My parents meant well. They tried to shield me, to keep me from enduring pain, which they couldn’t anyway, and their over-protection impacts me to this day.

   Not long after I had made my music discovery,  I was lost in thought. It was a saturday, and I was thinking about my parents, and all parents who face the challenge of having a child with a disability. I decided to write a letter, and this is what I wrote. If you have a “special” or “challenged” child, I hope you will consider my plea. Here goes:

I am your “special” child.

 I may not see the world you see, nor hear the words you hear.

 I may be slow to learn to speak, if I ever speak at all.

 My legs may never hold me up to climb a single stair.

 My fingers may not ever know the nimbleness yours do.

 My mind may more simple.

 I may be slow to learn.

 The world I live in may not be the world my sister knows.

 I may not pick up subtleties that social skills require.

 I may never grasp the humor in my brother’s many jokes.

 Don’t see me as ‘disabled’, ‘impaired’, or even ‘challenged.’

 The loss you see and hurt for me is pain that’s all your own.

 How can I mourn the loss of what I never knew as mine?

 Why can’t you see that what I am is normalcy for me?

 I beg you not to shelter me.

 I beg you to let me fail.

 If I don’t try, how can I learn

 What strengths that can be mine?

 You may think you know my limits.

 You may think you know my strengths.

 But what you may not know is that, I may be the exception.

 I’ll paint an awesome masterpiece of what I shouldn’t see.

 I’ll write a ringing symphony of sounds I shouldn’t hear.

 I’ll sing the melody of words you think

 My lips can’t ever form.

 I’ll dance with joy the steps you’re sure my legs will never take,

 I’ll touch and sculpt with skill beyond the limits of my fingers.

 I’ll show you how I sidestep places damaged in my brain,

 I’ll teach you knowledge that I’ve gained, despite slowness in my learning.

 My identity will be far, far more than to be your “special “child.

  Copyright 2012 by Judy Dundas


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The last time I posted, there were many things I did not know, not being able to see the future, and to be honest, had anyone told me, I doubt that I would have believed it anyway.

I could not imagine that I would have surgery on my left heel the day after Thanksgiving last year, nor could I have predicted being unable to walk for several weeks. Since I kept falling in our townhouse, I ended up going to North Carolina, where my husband, who is in the Navy is stationed, for all of December, with forays back up north to the foot doctor as needed. I would have never guessed in a million years, that the dog would pack up and leave me, “just like that” as the expression goes. Yes, Molly, our sweet, loyal  dachshund-papillon mix left me. I depended on Molly to hear for me…let me know when someone rang the doorbell or there was something going on outside. But Molly found a better deal. After a month of walking with  her favorite parent along the beach and chasing deer, she balked at staying behind up north while I underwent physical therapy. She saw Daddy packing to go back down south, and she started wailing. I don’t think I’d ever heard a dog cry, but Molly couldn’t bear for her adventures to be over. While we had planned for her to go back anyway, because I couldn’t yet take care of her, I had to face the fact  that SHE was not coming back. How could I compete? I had a tree, squirrels and a townhouse. Her daddy had deer and the beach. It was no contest. She’s been in North Carolina ever since. sleeping all day while Daddy is at work, waking up long enough to boss him around in the evening, then sleeping some more.She comes home some weekends, and is always happy to see me. She makes sure she cuddles up to me. She starts barking when she’s close to the house . She greets me joyfully. But she makes it plain that she’s just visiting.

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PTSD, Depression, and The Problem of Suicide: When Life gets to be too much.

Recently I have read about an awful lot of suicides among everyone from people among our troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, public figures, and even young people among our local high school students.

The devastation that suicide leaves behind is tremendous. Loved ones are wracked with guilt, and wondering “Why? Why didn’t I see this coming?” In the case of someone who suicided out of anger, the emotional trauma is even worse to loved ones left behind, because the person wanted to punish them. They’re already going to wonder what they could have done, or think that the event was their fault. Reading an angry note left behind saying “This is all your fault” just makes the situation even more painful, and it’s cruel.

My great-grandfather committed suicide in 1920, I think it was. Upon doing more research, I discovered the reason. He had fallen off a windmill a year earlier. His physical pain must have been tremendous. There was no pain management in those days. He checked out because he could no longer endure the pain. He was found hanging in the barn by a grandchild. This is the problem with the aftermath of suicide. Someone has to find the the deceased. Someone has to suffer the trauma of  being the first person on the scene and seeing the results of the person’s final act.  Physical pain drives many people to end their lives. So does emotional pain.

When someone comes home from battle, and the war is always with them, they see their present world through the glasses of their former world, the war. They have learned behavior to  cope with the danger they were formerly in. Upon hearing a loud noise, some people may dive to the floor. Others many grab for a weapon, any weapon to save themselves. However, upon returning home, the responses that may very well have saved  a person’s life  in war will hinder  their functioning back at home. The self preserving behavior that was formerly so useful has now got to be unlearned. The problem is that by now, the behavior is second nature. It’s unconscious. When the person says “I can’t control it, it just happens, ” he or she is being honest. What few people tell them is that with a lot of work, a lot of the innate behavior can be unlearned and weeded out. It won’t happen overnight. This much I can tell you from personal experience. I have never been to war. I do have PTSD from a painful childhood ruled over by an angry authoritarian father.

It wasn’t unusual  for my sister and I to be awakened at 2 in the morning because Dad had found a speck on a fork or a plate. Dad would burst through our bedroom door screaming at the top of his lungs, and the next thing we knew, my sister and I would be standing sleepily at the sink cleaning every dish and piece of silverware in the house.  To this day I startle at the least bit of noise, and it wears me out when I’m in a situation where I am constantly exposed to unexpected noise.   Dad is long gone, but my body is still waiting for him to come screaming through the door.

This is just one of my PTSD reactions. Let’s continue about PTSD in a military person returned from war. The person suffering will relive the horrors of the things they saw. He or she will constantly find themselves reliving events long past. The current reality fades and they are once again in a convoy, fighting for their lives, seeing, smelling and hearing death. How can you not be tormented by watching your buddy die? Or seeing dead civilians or children?  Or they’ll be fine and suddenly read or hear about someone in the same exact place or situation that they were in, and the war comes back to them. Thoughts and feelings run the gamut to “It could have been me, Why wasn’t it me?” to “Why am I here when my buddy isn’t? ” The person may feel that they don’t deserve to be alive. Not many professionals know how to deal with PTSD. Few people who have not been to war understand what it’s like to still be living in a war you’re no longer fighting, except, yes, you are still fighting it. You’re fighting it in your head, and you need help getting the war out of your head and moving on.

Physical pain from illnesses or accidents, are easier to deal with than they were in 1920, but even now some people come to the point where the pain has taken over their very being and they can get no relief.  Some people may look ahead to where they see that their disease is going to progress to, and not be willing to get to that point in their lives. They want to spare themselves the indignity of helplessness and unbearable pain down the line and spare their families from the stress of care taking.

Depression is an insidious disease that often leads to suicide. The feelings of emotional pain become too much to bear. The toll of day after day of being immobilized by emotional pain and bombarding one’s self with thoughts of things like : “I’ll never get better, I’m worthless, I’m stupid, I hate myself/everyone hates me” become too much in the sufferer’s opinion to bear any longer. Depression is also acerbated by a person not forgiving themselves for mistakes, major or minor and moving on. They may try therapy and not like the therapist and decide after looking for others that therapy isn’t for them. If I could say anything I would say “If you’ve found ten that haven’t worked, keep trying. There’s more than just ten people in the profession.”

The person may feel worthless or in the way, and all the evidence the person sees only backs up the person’s warped view of reality.

In my case I often think that the lives of those around me would be easier if I wasn’t here, because I often feel that all I do is take up space, cost money and distract people who do enjoy life from living their lives. I often feel like I’m in the way and that I do not belong here. I watch people around me live their lives and I feel like I’m looking through a window. I get so frustrated with myself because it seems like I am constantly failing. How hard is it to keep a house clean? It shouldn’t be that hard. Apparently for me it is. And so I let this failure help me define my self worth. I’m told that’s wrong.

I   used to be horrified at the thought of suicide and felt bad for the survivors. I still feel bad for the people that are left behind and are hurting because they lost a loved one. Unfortunately,as of late I have began to understand why the person who took his or her own life did so, and I can no longer criticize them for their choice. Some times I’m almost envious. And this is what bothers me. So far what has kept me has been my fear of pain and dying and not wanting to cause my husband pain. I hope that this will continue to be the thing that holds me back. In the meantime, my prayers are with everyone who suffers from emotional pain, or mental illness of any kind.

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Weddings, family feuds and those that rise above them.

Yesterday was my 27th wedding anniversary. Since that time, I have attended many weddings. I’ve heard horror stories about mothers, fathers, and other relatives demanding that so and so NOT be invited or they will NOT come. What they fail to realize is that the wedding is NOT about them, it is about the bride and groom. The person who objects to other people they personally dislike attending isn’t punishing the bride and groom. What they do succeed in doing though, is making themselves look petty and childish. I’m sure that many brides and grooms do give into these types of demands, which is unfortunate.

   My family, like many had estrangements, divorces and the like. I had three siblings at my wedding, but only had two come. The other one was too far away It’s a shame. It would have been the only time since I was a toddler that my mother would have had all four of her children together.  The next time we four were together was when my oldest sister was dying.

   I was  denied the presence of a niece and nephew because my sister was separated from her husband and they were with him. He refused to let them come. That did cause me pain. I adored them.

 But, let’s move on. At the time, I had not seen my dad’s brother and sister in five years, since my grandmother died. I greatly loved my aunt and uncle. I knew that Dad was NOT speaking to his brother and there had almost been legal action between them. I actually have the letters passed between lawyers in which they threatened each other.

   As far as I was concerned, this did NOT affect me. I heard that later, my dad had glumly said when he found out that his brother had been invited was “It’s HER wedding. She can invite whoever she wants.”

   Graciously, my aunt and uncle and their spouses came. Two cousins came as well. I was thrilled. My dad’s branch of the family was willing to be there because I wanted them there despite the bad blood between my dad and uncle.

To this day, I am touched. It was a big thing to have them there, and they did NOT disappoint me.

 Another person I invited was my sister in law, who was divorced from my brother. I loved my brother, but I also loved my sister in law.

I wanted her there. So I invited her. My parents had wanted her there, too. So, she came, with my niece and nephew in tow. I was thrilled that she had thought enough of me to come despite being divorced from my brother.

  Twenty-seven years later, I have begun to realize the unusualness of people going to a wedding knowing that their ex spouses or estranged family members were also invited.

   This year is a sad year. My husband and I are not together this day.

His father passed away this week, and my husband has gone back home for the memorial service. While I am sad that we didn’t celebrate our anniversary today, I know that he is where he needs to be.

Because of his military career, there haven’t been many anniversaries that we have had together. In recent years, we’ve been fortunate.

Today, I am torn. I miss my husband, but I am sad about my father in law. He had Alzheimer’s. In his last years, we had a special bond, and even when he was out of it most of the time, when he did come to, he would say one thing to my husband when he would fly to California and visit his dad in the nursing home : “Tell Judy that I love her.”

By then, I am sure that he had no idea about the events that had transpired to make us close, but one thing he DID know. He loved me. Because of this, he made sure my husband knew and told me.

 In the end, isn’t that what life is about? Love?

My life has had lots of pain where family is involved. But one thing I do know. I have family members that love me enough that they overlooked resentments, childish behavior and wrong doing to be at my wedding for me. This is what stands out to me the most of all.

  May I live up to their example.

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The Abbess Muses on “things “Of This World”

Christians have their own subculture and language. When I was 12, it bewildered me. Some 38 years later, some of the phrases now hit me as hysterically funny, especially when I’ve seen the extremes to which people take their meanings. The one that has hit me the funniest is how Christians beat the phrase “Of The World” around. These are not my own opinions. I’ve gathered them from people I’ve known for the last almost four decades.

  I’ve drawn on some of my friends more than others. If you recognize yourself, you may very well be right. But let’s get to my topic:


                   Things Of This World:


This refers to something that can’t POSSIBLY be of God. If something is Of The World, you don’t want it. It leads to hell.

 The worst things “Of The World” always lead to fornication…which is the worse sin next to the unpardonable sin.  Nobody knows what the unpardonable sin actually is. But fornication is it’s runner up. Fornication is a scar that follows you for the rest of your life. You can be forgiven by God and Saved, By Grace, but you won’t be pure.

 . You can’t change your status. You are either a Godless fornicator, or a “Forgiven” ex-fornicator. That’s why it follows you. You can’t escape the word.  It’s just how it is. You’ll be loved by your fellow Christians if you’ve repented, but they’ll remember that you’re not pure. What category they personally fall in is neither here nor there. It’s YOU they’re concerned with.  They’ll conveniently forget the forgiven part if you date their son or daughter unless they are Liberals. Liberals think they are Christians. They’re not because they don’t believe in the devil, sin, or hell. Because they don’t believe in hell, that’s where they’re going. But here is the list of what leads to fornication and hell.

A. Psychology

. Psychology, along with Movies, Dancing and Rock makes the top four on the “Of The World” list. Psychology ranks up there with much of the faithful to be possibly more dangerous than drug addiction. See movies for clarification as to which sends you to hell faster.

B . Movies

Movies are definitely of the world. We learn many of our bad habits from movies and psychologists. Movies are, however more fun because attending them is considered downright sinful. They can lead to fornication. Psychology isn’t as much fun and it costs more. You’re more likely to be prayed for because you are “misguided”. It won’t send you to hell. At least not right away. It takes a while for psychology to send you to Hell. It’s not an instantaneous process. It takes a while for the doctor to convince you of the joys of fornication…

C. Dancing

Dancing will send you to hell as fast as attending a movie. It’s a given that if you are involved in dancing, you’re enslaved to rock music. See Rock music for clarification. Dancing is a horror. You’re (gasp) TOUCHING a member of the opposite sex, and it’s most likely with someone you are NOT married to. That’s bad. Touching leads to fornication. The only exception is if you are holding hands while praying. That’s because your eyes are closed. You’re not looking at anybody’s skin.

  King David danced in his underwear. It’s Ok. King David was one of God’s chosen people. They’re allowed to dance. There’s a song I learned in the charismatic churches that mentions that “when the Spirit of God moves in my heart, I will dance like David danced.” That song always alarmed me because the thought of 2,000 people stripping to their underwear in church was un-nerving.

D. Rock music.

  Rock music is anything that involves an electric guitar and drums. It’s just a straight prayer to the devil asking him to enslave you. It’s a given that if you’re a slave to the devil, you are also a fornicator.

 E. Drugs

This is easier to deal with than rock music or dancing.

 Sometimes all you need is prayer. If you are taking illegal drugs, you’re going to hell. Prescription drugs in your name are fine, unless they’re psych drugs. Those send you to hell. Psychiatrists are just as bad as psychologists, because they both work in hand in hand to enslave you to the devil. The drugs that the psychiatrists prescribe make it easier for the psychologist to convince you that fornication isn’t a sin, and God is a figment of your imagination.


F. Alcohol

It only became a sin after the temperance movement. Before the temperance movement, it didn’t send you to hell. Then after marching through the streets and pouring the beer in the gutters the temperance people rewrote the rules so it would send you to hell. It’s a good thing that the Temperance Movement wasn’t around when Jesus turned the water into wine. They would have sent Him to hell long before the Sanhedrin got a hold of Him.



G. Tobacco.

This is also a victim of the temperance movement, which involved a rule rewrite. It didn’t used to be a sin in the olden days. At my husband’s seminary they have a portrait of the Seminary’s founder with his hand in his pocket. Only it isn’t really a pocket. They were forced to paint over his hand holding his cigar after tobacco became a sin leading to hell. The only exception to the tobacco rule is if you’re a tithing Baptist in a tobacco growing state. Then it’s required because tobacco pays your rent and fills the offering plate.


H. Living in a Co-ed dorm if you are a college student.

If you live in a college dorm that is co-ed, you will become a fornicator. You can’t help it. You’re surrounded with rooms of people the opposite sex from you. These rooms contain beds. You+opposite sex+dorm rooms containing beds=fornication. You can’t help it. It’s animal instinct. You have absolutely no control, because simply by moving into a co-ed dorm, you’ve given yourself to the devil. God can’t possibly be with you if you live in a co-ed dorm.

I. Long Hair On Men

 Long hair for women is considered their “crowning glory” as the Bible describes it, so it’s ok.  Long hair on men sends you to hell because it’s a symbol of rebellion. Nobody notices that Jesus has long hair in all the pictures painted of him….nor did they notice how long Billy Graham’s hair got when he was doing his crusades. I think God gave him special permission. His son Franklin however has short hair. He doesn’t have permission.

   There are two other exceptions to the long hair on men rule. Charismatic preachers are allowed to have it long in the back as long as it’s short in front.  Christian musicians are allowed to do whatever they want with their hair because otherwise they’ll stray into rock music.

J. Short hair on women

Most Christians don’t pay attention to a woman’s hair unless they are Pentecostal or Texans. The Bible says that a woman’s hair is her crowning glory, if you’re in some Pentecostal groups; you go to hell if your crowning glory is cut. You can repent and save yourself from hell, and restore yourself to God’s favor, but the fact that your hair doesn’t either hit the floor or brush against the top of the door frame will be a constant reminder of your past sin. In Texas, women wear their hair in these big helmets known as ‘Big Hair’. Not having big hair isn’t a sin but it tells them right away that you’re not from Texas.

K.  Pants on women.

If you belong to certain Pentecostal groups, you do NOT wear pants because that would mean that you would be mistaken for a man, so it’s a sin that will send you to hell unless you repent.  You cover up your knees and your arms above the elbow to show that you are a Godly, chaste women and to keep men from lusting in their hearts.  You can wear shoes like a stripper and it’s ok. You’ve just got to wear that dress.

    If you are non-Pentecostal, meaning that you have no problem for the most part with pants, but you are “Saved”, you leave those pants at home. You’ve got to wear dresses and hose if you’re a Godly woman.

Pants in church won’t send you to hell because saved women can wear pants everywhere else. It’s just that if you wear pants in church they might mistake you for a Liberal, and think that you are “NOT SAVED,” so they’ll be very concerned.

 ….And another slight variation:

Things of man or Things of Men.

 This is a cousin to things “Of the World”

   Things of man or things of men are never good. They’re religion and religious customs invented by man. If you don’t like someone’s liturgy, or religious customs, you can just disdainfully consign what they do to “Things of Man”. You would never, ever do anything religious that was “of men” instead of God, so you personally are safe. You don’t practice man made religion. Other people however do. They’ll pay for it, too because they are leading people to hell.



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Frieda, the dog biscuit, and what exactly wakes up?

 For 16 years, we had a wirehaired dachshund, named Frieda.. After retiring from security detail as “The Dog” at the age of 4 when we got our red smooth haired dachshund  Poo, as a puppy, Frieda spent much of her time asleep. Sleep was her favorite activity,.

    Since Frieda spent so much time passed out belly up, Steve and I used to take advantage of this by amusing ourselves at her expense. Since this involved food, she didn’t object. Otherwise we would have been treated to a show of gorgeous, perfectly white, straight and deadly set of teeth. She did NOT like being laughed at. Her teeth were big for her size, and she could have been an understudy for “The Big Bad Wolf” in the book Little Red Riding Hood.

   We’d get a tiny dog biscuit and we’d wave it back and forth over the underside of her nose, which was facing up. Eventually, the nose would start to twitch. Then, like a trap door, the snout would slowly open. We’d drop the dog biscuit in the open trap, and then it would close. Then, barely perceptible, you would see a slight movement of the jaws as she chewed, making me think of gears on a drawbridge. Otherwise, nothing else moved. The only thing on her that appeared to wake up was the nose and the trap door she opened to receive the dog biscuit. Everything else stayed perfectly still. The eyes never once opened.  We were never entirely sure just exactly what on this dog woke up, because otherwise she was perfectly still. It was amazing. We never got tired of doing this because it was so funny to watch, and as long as there was something in it for her, Frieda was always willing to comply. Frieda’s goal was always to get the maximum amount of gain for the least amount of effort.  She succeeded, for the most part, admirably. She took laziness to an art form.

  It’s been years since Frieda passed on. I think of her often, because my computer’s wallpaper is a drawing of her in a major sulk.

    I miss her moodiness. I miss her inflated ego, and extreme sense of entitlement. I miss the power fights in which neither of us would back down, sometimes forcing me to find a muzzle. But I also miss the hysterical lengths she would go to keep from exerting one more muscle than necessary. And then in my mind’s eye, I see a nose twitch, the jaws slowly open, and then close over a dog biscuit. I see the barely perceptible chewing, and somehow she doesn’t seem so absent.  She could make me angry, and often I would be in tears. She also made me laugh.  They were the best of times, as they say, and the worst of times. I’m glad I was there for every minute of it.

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Dachshunds (ours) and their contracts


We have a little dog, named Molly. The Moll, as we call her, is a cross between a dachshund and a Papillion. She was found abandoned at the age of six months and given to us.  From the very beginning, her dachshund heritage was unmistakable. Already obvious was a long body, dachshund chest and the crooked front legs. Her ears were dachshund ears, but they were set wrong. They wouldn’t lie down. Her non-dachshund features made us and a Sheltie breeder think of sheltie, but as Molly grew, her Papillion heritage became obvious, both because she developed a bit of the butterfly fringe over her ears that papillions are known for, and the cascade of fur for a tail that curves over the back.

   Molly has both the dachshund and the Papillion personalities, but she doesn’t mix them. Either she is one, or the other. She either wants to please us, or she’ll have a “screw you” attitude that dachshunds get when they do NOT want to cooperate.

   Molly’s food is kept in a galvanized trash can with a lid. We buy her 20 lbs of food at a time and it lasts for quite a while. I’ve come to think of buying her food as “renewing her contract.”

    Why do I think of buying food as renewing her contract? Because if I buy food it means that I keep her and she continues on in her role as dog.  We do however, have a contract. It’s not on paper, or a computer file, but we have it nonetheless.

For agreeing to be housebroken, Molly requires a small dog biscuit for going outside. While I think Molly would be housebroken without the “cookie” as we call it, it was in the contract that we had with our dachshund Poo, and Poo expected the cookie because it had been in Frieda’s contract when Poo, the cute shorthair red puppy joined the big black wirehaired dachshund. So, because 25 years ago, I had to add a cookie clause to a dachshund’s contract or she would use our carpet as her bathroom,(boldly in front of us.) Molly, our dog today benefits from the cookie clause.

   I eliminated the cookie clause from the dachshunds once and was successful for a year. Then one day, while outside, Frieda got to thinking about how she really resented the cookie clause being deleted from the contract when we moved to West Virginia. She apparently talked it over with Poo, and together they went on strike.

  All of a sudden they would stare at me and demand a cookie every time they came in, and they wouldn’t back down. Not that a dachshund is known for backing down anyway, but for once, I gave in on this issue. The cookie clause was written back in, and the dogs were happy, at least until Frieda found another power fight to wage against me with.

     One of Frieda’s loves was cheese. When she was about three years old, she took a big block of cheddar cheese that had hardened out of the trash and ate the whole thing. We found her wild eyed in her cage and an empty cheese wrapper where there should have been a hardened block of cheese. She had the tummy ache from hell. Since we knew that she wouldn’t be miserable for ever, we left her alone, checking on her occasionally.  We’d laugh, and she would glare.

   This did not break her of stealing cheese. Instead, it was the instigator. There was a cheese dip that was popular when we lived in Texas. You took some velveeta cheese and a can of rotel and put them in the microwave and ate it with corn chips. Frieda would lie underneath the coffee table when we served it to our friends and would moan loudly until she got some. Not wanting to hear that obnoxious moan, Frieda  got lots cheese dip, earning her the title of “The Queso Queen”, Queso being the Spanish word for cheese.

       Molly likes cheese every bit as much as Frieda did. While she’s never had opportunity to steal it, I’m sure she would. My life revolves around the tortilla, and with tortillas comes cheese.  As soon as she sees or hears me opening the bag of shredded cheese, Molly alerts and sits in the kitchen between me and her food bow, wagging furiously, and as excited as she can be. She knows what’s coming next: namely; that I will take a pinch of cheese and toss it in her dish.

I’ve come to refer to this as “The Cheese Provision”, because Molly now expects it. It doesn’t matter to her that she gets just a tiny amount. What matters is that we fulfill our part of the contract.

   We got Molly food recently, thus, as we have every time she has needed food, renewed her contract. While Molly’s contract has some leftovers of contracts from years past of dogs long gone, much of her contract is unique to her. She knows that she WILL get some cheese. Frieda had to get obnoxious and demand it because as much as she loved it, we never wrote it into her contract. With Molly, a few stands of cheese gets put into the bowl and she doesn’t bother us for cheese after that. There’s also something else that SHE has put in the contract. Upon entering the front door, no matter how tired you are, or how full your arms are, you MUST drop everything and acknowledge the dog by picking her up, petting her and sweet talking to her. If you do not, she will howl in protest. It’s a cute, funny, feminine howl, but it’s a howl. We aren’t often quick enough for her.

We have a small antique pew in our entryway by our front door. Molly rarely lets me past the pew before she howls at me in wounded protest for not adoring her sooner. Sometimes I’m not even given time to shut the door behind me. Because of this, I start sweet talking her the minute that my key hits the lock.

      Frieda didn’t have this written into her contract because she honestly didn’t care whether we came or went. We would walk through the door and she would be stretched out on her side, reminding me of a side of beef. She would raise her head up an inch and give us a look, making this thought pop into my head :”Oh. It’s just you.” Poo would always want to be greeted unless she had done something. But she didn’t get vocal and complain if we put our things down first. Molly also has a clause for going for fast food runs because she loves drive through. She doesn’t get many of these runs any more, but she loves them when she does. If we come home bearing food, she always gets her own very small hamburger. She constantly nags us when we are eating, because she knows that this isn’t something written in the contract. It’s not a given that anything will be tossed to her. I’m often forced to stop eating and tell her “Stop this. GO somewhere”, which I’ll admit is a big vague, but she knows what it means because she gets sulky and slinks resentfully out of my line of sight.

   If you have an animal, then you’ve got a contract with them, too. Before you stop and protest, think about it. Are there things that you do that your pet EXPECTS will happen? Sure there are. You’ve got yourslf an ironclad contract, and your animal will be resentful if it’s not met. The amount of clauses in the contract depends on negotiation.  If you’ve stood firm, there shouldn’t be a long contract. If your pet has you wrapped around the smallest toenail, then they’ve written the contract themselves and keep you running. The only way to change it is to rewrite the contract and not give in to demands of  “But you’ve always done this before!”

   Frieda tried to renegotiate her contract every day in her favor. We were there to serve her and she got increasingly demanding as her ego grew through the years and the sense of entitlement hardened in her little brain. We’d always refuse to sign, and the next day it would be once again, a power fight trying to get us get with the program and cater to her every whim. We called her “The Queen” because of this.

   Over the years she manipulated people into playing into her hand, by not moving when it was time to go outside so she would be carried, playing dead so she would be the center of attention, and in the case of one person, had him up every 10 minutes by going up and moaning at him. This was Frieda language for “Go get me a cookie”. One day I watched in horrid fascination as that man let our obnoxious dog make him get up from a recliner every 10-15 minutes because she could. By mid afternoon, I was tired of her bullying and put a stop to it.

   Be aware when  renew your next contract with your pet. But choose the specifics carefully, because once it’s in, you’re locked in and duty bound to comply because “It’s in the contract.”

I wish you well in your next negotiation. If you have dachshunds, hang on. It’ll be an arduous and lengthy ride.

And with that, I’ll go back up to my cell and the very, very, top of the Abbey.

Molly in a classic "What do YOU want" pose
An angry Frieda in a classic sulk

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