I just recently launched my book, “The Enemy We Know,” on Kindle, and it felt amazing. It’s the first in the Letty Whittaker 12 Step Mysteries and it’s taken me ten years, two agents, and countless revisions to get here. And, yes, it was worth it. A friend of mine recently told me that she didn’t think she could have been that patient. Yet, despite how long and hard I’ve worked to see my books in print, I am not patient.
I am stubborn, however, which is just as handy, if not nearly so virtuous.
In fact, I looked it up. According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, patient means “to wait without becoming annoyed or anxious.” So not me. Stubborn, on the other hand, is defined as “having or showing dogged determination to not change one’s attitude…on something.”
Nothing exemplifies the latter as well as Sophie, a petite and feisty beagle, that we adopted from the humane society years ago. Sophie, mistreated in her former home, had turned into a runner. Perhaps she would have been anyway; the breed is notorious for getting a smell in their nose and following it to the source, wherever that might be. So one of the things we had to be able to provide for Sophie was a fenced yard. No problem. We already had one--a nice white picket fence on a double lot. Problem solved.
Except Sophie got through it. Quite easily, in fact.
So my husband, Joe, put up two-foot high chicken wire around the 300-foot fence. This hurt his heart. Men don’t like applying flimsy metal stuff to wood. Not to mention the future hassles of weed eating, leaves getting stuck in between the wires and board, and the dreaded yearly painting. But he did it.
It worked for a while, too. Almost six weeks. Then, on Christmas Eve afternoon, little Miss Sophie learned how to wriggle and worry at certain spots to get through the barrier, and off she went!
I cried all afternoon. We could hear her running around town, baying madly. I pictured her being hit by a car. I envisioned her running so far away that we’d never find her. The kids, wavering between Christmas lunacy and lost dog syndrome, were frantic.
Despite my fear that she’d run afield, she stayed very close, unable to leave the intoxicating scent trails that had captured her attention. We went out after her in separate forays. We’d get close, waving tempting bits of ham and calling her name, only to have her scamper off when we’d get within five feet. She even ignored the chunks of ham that we’d throw at her rapidly departing behind. None of this--especially the waste of good meat--helped to endear her to my dear Joe. But her obsession had firm hold and her sniffing addiction held free rein. She was not to be stopped. We called the police station, the humane society, and all the neighbors who weren’t out celebrating Christmas and then we waited. We missed church. The kids and I cried some more. Joe ate the rest of the ham.
Finally, at midnight we got a call from the Pet Finder service (we’d put in a chip), who told us a Good Samaritan had discovered Sophie flopped on his porch, panting madly. So Joe set off in the middle of the night to go and, once again, rescue our wayward pooch.
The next day he shored up the hole. She made another one and was off and running. Many hours later, the coppers nabbed her burrowing into a garbage can and brought her back. We gave them Christmas cookies.
After Christmas I bought a running cable. Sophie slipped her collar--gone.
I got a harness. She slithered out and cleared the fence before I’d even made it up the porch steps to the back door. Nobody cried this time. She traversed the neighborhood for a solid thirteen hours, baying the entire time, following rabbit and squirrel scent in frenetic spirals through neighboring yards and driveways and down the middle of the formerly quiet streets of our idyllic small town. I got “looks” at the grocery store, but innate good manners of our fellow Midwesterners and the lingering Christmas cheer held, and nobody made a formal complaint. When Sophie eventually wandered home, she had road rash on her snoot from her frantic sniffing and slept for two days straight. I had to forcibly keep Joe from poking her awake every fifteen minutes to “teach her a lesson” in much the same way that Joe’s father had taught him following a similar night out howling.
The gloves were off. When she was finally ready to stagger back outside, I rigged the harness in loops through her collar and around her body in a convoluted doggy straight-jacket. I was tempted to staple it to her butt, but there are probably laws about that and the kids were watching.
She couldn’t stay in it for long periods since it rubbed her under her pits and it took ten minutes to get her in and ten to get her out, but it worked. We knew, of course, that it was only a temporary solution but winter in northern Wisconsin didn’t allow for the digging of an invisible fence and we couldn’t afford one until after we’d paid off Christmas presents and assorted anti-running dog paraphernalia that we’d already sunk our savings into.
So the point of all this? I find myself, even after all of these years, still inspired by Sophie’s sheer persistence in getting what she wanted. After a lifetime of abuse and neglect, she still rose up to meet opposition in order to head out on an adventure. Now, I’m not a “Born Free” singing idealist who goes into raptures and forgets about practicalities. This bid for freedom was dangerous for Sophie, and she needed to be restrained for her own good. And I, for one, won’t be sharing my “isn’t it beautiful how she never gives up?” thoughts with Joe. But I came away from the experience with a better understanding of stubbornness and how to make it work for me.
Don’t give up.
Don’t let the fences stop you from your adventure.
Don’t let your past make you doubt the future.
Get over, get under, get through, get past, and get on with your dreams. It’s all out there waiting for you to sniff it out.
Donna White Glaser, author of THE ENEMY WE KNOW, is a psychotherapist in northwestern Wisconsin. She is currently at work on the second Letty Whittaker 12 Step Mystery. She would love to hear from you via her website at www.donnawhiteglaser.com. You may purchase THE ENEMY WE KNOW at Amazon.com today!
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