No Shame

“You’re doing a really good job.”

That’s what the first vet who saw Titus back when this whole saga started said at that first lameness appointment, as I gave what has become a standard apology for him not being the very best patient in the world: “I know handling skills are important. We’re working on it. He’s touch-sensitive and hasn’t been with me long enough to have made much progress yet.” Now I add, “And he’s been poked and prodded a lot recently.”

“You’re doing a really good job.”

I could have hugged her. I kind of wish that I had.IMG_4002

It’s been interesting — in a really unpleasant way — to watch how reactions have changed since then, when I walked in with an anxious but fit and clearly in-training dog. It’s been a rough going-on-eight months. No one is fit now. Everyone is rusty. I’m pushing harder for answers on relatively mild but persistent not quite rightness that, I guess, most people would let go.

And everyone, it turns out, has an opinion.

Everyone has expectations.

Here is a short list of things that I’ve been questioned, challenged, and/or outright shamed about during Titus’s recovery and Lilo’s various events. Sticking by Titus. Trying to fix him. Not giving up on his athletic future. What I feed my dogs and how much (that last repeatedly by someone who had no idea how little). What I give them to chew on. (There is literally nothing you can give a dog to chew on that someone, somewhere, will not shame you for.) Doing too much with a rehabbing dog. Not doing enough. Using Trazodone. Letting him be too active. The degradation of training and manners. Accepting delayed loss of the extra weight in the name of actually getting some training done.

A short list. I could go on.

(I’d add especially, Not spending enough time with either dog, but that one, I mostly do to myself.)


And the thing is, I understand where every single person who said every single one of those things was coming from, just about. They all have points and concerns that are valid enough on their face. They’re all noting things that are more or less true.

But you guys, I just don’t care.


Shame is a terrible way to teach or encourage.

And doubt is a terrible way to show support.

I’m not against discussions or questions or disagreement. I’ve also had wonderful, heartening and healing, useful conversations with people whose perspectives and priorities differed from mine. I’ve even changed my mind and behavior more than once.

The difference is, those came from a place of support not conditioned on whether I was doing what they thought that I should. Those were with people who said, or clearly meant, “You’re doing a really good job,” before we talked about how to do better. Those were the conversations that kept my chin up when the other kind, even when I held my own and pushed back, crushed me flat.

I don’t have some earth-shattering conclusion here. Just, this stuff is hard enough on its own, I guess. For values of “this stuff” that include “loving a dog who is struggling” but also just “being a human being in the world.”

It has made me kinder, I think, and more willing to stand up for my dogs and myself, and more willing to believe that other people are doing the best that they can.

I just wish we could all be nicer to each other.

So I’m trying, anyway.