Christmas Day was, I rather suspect, a confusing time for Ray. His normal daily routines changed, the first one being that he was given two new squeaky toys!
Obviously he did not object and, once he had found the location of the “squeaker”, they kept him busy for a short time. Then he had a paper bag with a large biscuit inside. It did not take him long to extract that from the bag and devour it!
Meanwhile, we were sampling shortbread cookies from a neighbour (thanks Michelle), and a store fruitcake. The fruitcake ingredients left a lot to be desired but it tasted good. Ray was hovering around hoping that either we would share, or that we would simply drop something, neither of which happened so as a last resort he decided that our hands needed a complete wash by him!
He spent pretty much all morning (until we took him out for a walk) near Carol in the kitchen as she prepared a traditional (English style) trifle. His walk, however, dictated the basis for this post.
During the walk, Carol and I were chatting about Ray (we are both still quite overwhelmed by his now constant displays of affection), when a recurring thought surfaced once again. Ray had a very precarious start to life with us (stories for another time) which included a number of aggressive lunges and other examples of bad behaviour. There are some people who are no doubt wondering why we kept him, and it is unfortunate that those individuals cannot see the affectionate side of him that is now prevalent. Some hopefully will at some point in the future, but others will find it very difficult to forget their initial perception of him. Ray has established, to some people, an image which will dictate their reaction to him for a very long time.
Carol then wondered whether “the dog with the protruding lower jaw” was having a nice Christmas in her recent new home. We saw a picture of her when she was being promoted as a possible adoption candidate and felt bad for her because she was not a “nice” looking dog. She probably also developed into a really affectionate family member and so there is Ray, who came from a troubled past and through no fault of his own established himself as a “not very nice” dog, and then there is another dog who could have been a difficult adoption prospect simply because of her appearance.
Contemplating those two scenarios brings me to people. How many people have we basically ignored simply because they don’t “look nice” to us. How many times have we negatively labelled somebody because of tattoos, or facial jewellery, or attire, or hairstyle, or hair colour etc. etc.? How many times have we seen a person who is clearly living “on the street” and given no thought as to how they ended up there? How many times have we assumed that the person in the tailored suit is nicer than the individual in the torn jeans and tshirt?
People who have neither the patience nor the inclination to get to know Ray, and to allow him to get to know them, are missing out on so much. Anybody who overlooked the “girl” with the protruding lower jaw quite probably missed out on adopting a very affectionate dog. How many really nice people are we not meeting simply because of some pre-conceived set of standards that we are measuring them against?
Ray cost us a lot of money initially due to a serious health issue, and I have personally experienced his frustration/anger response and yet, I wouldn’t change him for the world! However my perseverance with him is explained, it was worth every dollar, every tooth mark and every fright that he gave me. To the question “Given your experiences with Ray, do you have any regrets?” I can honestly say “Absolutely! I should have adopted a dog years ago!”
I would like to be able to tell Ray that whereas he has been an ongoing work in progress, with the inevitable education that came with trying to understand him, he has also been an uncomfortable mirror of my own character. I do not consider myself to be anything other than open minded. I do not consciously pre-judge. I am very happy with my place in the world however, deep down, I know that I still label people. I may not necessarily allow that label to influence my actions ……….. but I do still attach labels and that is something that I must work on. Thanks Ray! Welcome 2015!