Learning to Love Chaos (or) Yes, I Adopted A Dog

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“In a world that constantly throws big, unexpected events our way, we must learn to benefit from disorder.” Nassim Nicholas Taleb

This quote is from “Learning to Love Volatility,” a fascinating Wall Street Journal article I read last month. The basic premise of the piece is that huge, unanticipated events, like stock market crashes, wars, and Al Gore’s invention of the World Wide Web teach us to subconsciously learn and advance through placement in an unexpected position of volatility, variability, and tension. Think “Survivor” without that huge stash of peanut butter and marshmallow fluff hidden in a hollowed-out tree or the anniversary sale at Nordstrom after the bank’s just put a $300 limit on your credit card.

Major stress.

This is an incredibly candid picture that my eight year-old freak of nature, canine fanatic took when we first brought our dog home, and the beer can is not a prop.

This is an alarmingly candid, non-ego driven, somewhat blurry picture that my eight year-old freak of nature, canine fanatic took when we first brought our dog home. The beer can is not a prop.

Building on Taleb’s “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger or at least less of a loser” philosophy, I recently entered, via free will and completely by choice, the fragile, deep, dark forest of the unknown.

I adopted a dog.

For anyone reading this who happens to be an animal lover, rabbit hoarder, or somehow ended up owning forty-three gerbils, please stop. You won’t understand me or my people. We’re of the Rent-A-Pet variety, not the hearty portion of the populace whose sole mission in life is to rescue stray lorikeets (or steal them from the zoo). We Rent-A-Petters offer to babysit your awesome, perfectly trained dog for the weekend simply because we know we can give him back. We do this not to help you, but to help ourselves by placating our eight-year-old canine fanatic offspring until the next Apple product rolls off an assembly line in China.

This is not my house.

Rent-A-Pet people don’t have time to bring a real canis lupus familiaris into our lives because we’re too consumed with alphabetizing our spice racks and color-coding the origami paper in our craft closets. We are busy, buried three feet deep in the nuance of separating paper clips from rubber bands in the junk drawer so that when we’re in search of our handheld hole punch to string together a quick homemade anniversary card for our parents? We know exactly where to find it. We are orderly, organized, and uncluttered. We are a band of cleaners, our solidarity purpose sealed by a true commitment to shoe bin organization, and our group doesn’t include anything that sticks to us like hairy glue.

This is my alphabatized Lazy Susan full of spices, made all the more efficient because I never use it.

This is my alphabatized Lazy Susan full of spices, made all the more efficient because I never use it.

Until, that is, as Taleb explains, life is upended, chaos ensues, and everything we know to be true in the depths of our solid core stone hearts is called into question.

After several fly by field trips to the local animal shelter with my eight year-old canine fanatic offspring where I was in and out in less than an hour, promising my daughter that she could do anything she wanted with these cute, friendly stray dogs except bring one home, I got a little tripped up. We spent time with one I actually liked, and not in the pet-and-flip, smile-and-wave (goodbye) manner I’d handled every other four-legged creature that had come my way in the past.

Ummmm, that’s not cute.

This one was different, so unique and personally appealing that I put him on hold (yes, there’s a layaway plan for adoptive pets), went home to get my other two freak-of-nature canine fanatic offspring to meet him, and pulled my husband off the river on a fly fishing trip in New York to discuss something I swore I’d never consider: inviting a living, breathing, hair-coat creating canine into our house to stay.

Within the first few hours of bringing our new family member home, I realized that shelters kind of lie, but in a nice way. When they say the dog you’re adopting is “kennel trained, leash trained and potty trained,” what they really mean is “hates his kennel, will pull your arm off if, while on a walk, he sees one of the 1,000,000 mangy jackrabbits that cross the street on a daily basis, and will immediately take a dump on your favorite rug when he enters his new house for the first time.” I think it’s just a matter of semantics or messed up hand signals, but still. I thought I was getting a Rent-A-Pet.

IMG_2050

This is what happened when I tried to run with my dog who isn’t really leash trained after he saw, and subsequently cut in front of me to chase, one of the 1,000,000 mangy jackrabbits that cross the street on a daily basis.

Right when I least expected it, life threw me a curveball, putting me in an unanticipated and uncomfortable position that has actually (I think) precipitated growth. On our shelter visits, my plan was to someday (as in probably never) adopt a non-shedding, small dog in the summer. Instead I ended up with a shedding, seventy pound, greyhound/lab/pointer mix who is both smarter and faster than me. And it’s the start of ski season.

It turns out that Nassim Taleb was right after all, and anything that doesn’t kill you actually can make you stronger, or kinder, or better, or less inclined to worry about personal hygiene, or something like that.

That’s me, selling my soul for some obedience training. Just ignore all the hair growing from my hand. I can no longer afford my monthly dermaplane appointments.

I once thought that people who swore their dogs chose them were suckers. But I love mine, he absolutely chose me, and by that definition, I’m a full-on sucker too. He’s been with our family for a month now, and although in some ways life is harder, in many others it’s better; slower, messier, and full.

Sometimes, early in the morning and long before the sun comes up, when I can’t sleep and the entire world seems dark and still, I take him for a walk. Just me and my dog. With a patchwork quilt of snow on the ground and a tiny flashlight to guide our way, he matches my pace as we move through the night in silent step, tuned to one another and all of the elements that would scare me if I were out on my own. Yesterday, I saw a shooting star (or a rapidly disintegrating plane engine, I’m not sure which). Imagine witnessing an unexpected meteoroid rip through atmosphere as it burns a path through the clear, pre-dawn sky, with the knowledge that maybe, just maybe, you’re the only one lucky enough to watch its fall. That would never have happened in my previous life as a Rent-A-Pet person. It was pretty amazing to see.

Wrigley.

Wrigley and my  canine fanatic offspring.

A big shout-out to Calahan, who was kind enough to ask where I’ve been for the last month. The answer? Walking my dog.

For someone who never really cared for man’s best friend before adopting one, I’ve spent a lot of time writing about him.

If you want to see where my whole dog journey started, read this: Have You Seen Goldie?

If you want to see how far I’ve come, read this: My New Dog Hates Me.

If you want to cry, read this: My New Dog Is Gone

If you want to see what I do with stuffed animals when I’m bored, read this: Have You Seen Goldie? Part II

If you want to read something that might actually be of benefit to you in life, here’s the Wall Street Journal article I quoted above: Learning to Love Volatility.

65 responses »

  1. Wow – that’s brave. I think I’ll remain a rent-a-pet person, despite my kids’ persistent requests. At least for now. But wait, I didn’t see the puppy last Sunday? And really cool, that shooting star. 🙂

  2. Aw, this is adorable. And Wrigley — this is his name right? — He’s so fortunate to have been adopted by such a loving family… Looking forward to some cool Wrigley tales.

    • In order for them to walk him regularly, I’d have to home school them, and hell will freeze over and thaw again before that happens.
      =)

      Thanks for the comment, Guap. It’s nice to be writing again.

  3. Congratulations! Wrigley looks very sweet — and also like a ball of coiled energy waiting to jump. I loved what you wrote about your wee hour walks. My favorite part of everyday — seriously — is walking my pooch on the trail.

    Enjoy the newest member of the family!

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Beth. I’ve finally gotten the routine down so I can take him for a long walk in the morning, wear him out, and write for two or three hours while he naps. Well, at least for today. It’s my first one back behind my computer screen in a month. =)

  4. Wrigley is adorable!!!! Missy told me a few weeks ago that you got a dog. If that picture of the kids and Wrigley isn’t your Christmas card, it totally should’ve been! Loved it! I am a dog lover, but I’m not a crazy dog lady. 🙂 Harry is our 5 1/2 month old chocolate lab. It’s amazing how much love and loyalty they have for their owner. I can be having a crappy day, and if my son is at his dad’s house all Harry has to do is come over wagging his tail and lay his head on my lap and look at me with his big brown eyes and it makes everything better. I look forward to more Wrigley stories. Lord knows I have plenty of Harry stories!

  5. So glad you found a canine friend. We adopted one for a whole 8 days at which point my husband discovered he was really allergic to the dog. A strongly positive allergy test confirmed it. It was a sad day in the Rubin home when we had to return our little Abby. And I remember those walks of which you speak. Had she stayed with us, little Abby would have needed some training. 🙂

  6. A Show Dog if ever I’ve seen one. Now, will you be the owner/handler or will that fall to one of your “freak-of-nature canine fanatic offspring?” Westminster here comes Wrigley.

    • Nikki,
      You should know by now that I’m the alpha of the family. =p

      In all sincerity, I take training seriously. I’m working with/training/walking him for hours every day. The kids are in the mix for sure, but following my lead.

      Thanks for bringing your sweet, funny self over for a read!

  7. Woo hoo for another shelter dog getting adopted! I just read a horrible article about how Christmastime is the peak season for pet shop dog-and-cat purchases… many of which come from animal mills, regardless of what the pet stores swear by. Have a fun journey together!

    • We saw a lot of cute dogs before we found Wrigley. You’ll be happy to hear that our local shelter has such a high adoption success rate that they’re able to take dogs from other shelters who are slated to be euthanized. Wrigley is from a small town in Kansas.

      Glad to see you, Laura. I miss your posts!

      • Wow, that’s great! If I had more time, I’d go back to volunteering at the Humane Assoc, but I’m just too busy right now.

        BTW, I had some trouble with email delivery of my posts a few months ago, so I contacted the support people went through all the lists to figure out who was receiving & who wasn’t. I don’t think you’re subscribed anymore…

  8. I’m not really a pet person, but I understand too well the upheaval life undergoes just when you think you’ve found your equilibrium—sometimes it’s for the better. I like the idea of embracing randomness. But few would have the guts for that.

  9. Stacie,
    First off, nice to see you back. It’s been awhile, although your archive has kept me entertained Secondly congratulations on your new dog. Lastly, where did you get the picture of my house? Those aren’t all my rabbits. I borrowed most of them. I’m a rent a rabbit kind of gentleman.
    Bill

    • I could swear I saw that mischievous grin of yours peeking out from behind a pile of rabbit feces. I didn’t want to say anything though, Rent-A-Rabbit people are super-territorial.
      I’m coming over to read your last two posts as soon as I walk my dog for about 16 hours today. That New Kids One had me hooked from the title alone. =)

  10. I am so glad that you decided to let a dog adopt you Stacie. You will adjust to the chaos. It’s been about 6 weeks for me and I love her to pieces but it’s been an adjustment. You’ll do fine. xo

    • Oh good, now I have a friend to exchange dog stories with so that I don’t drive my other non-canine owning friends crazy with my professions of true love. I remember seeing that you were going to get a dog on FB. What breed did you end up with? Yay!

      • Ah yes, the energy. I found an antidote today. The dog park. Could she handle it without going crazy? Wrigley is completely sacked out on the floor right now as I type. I feel like I have a sleeping baby…. =)

  11. That last picture!!!!!!!! Just the way it should be 😉

    The dog is amazing, such a beautiful beast. Unruly as all get out, but hey, it’s man’s best friend or something.

    So glad you’re back! You were missed.

  12. Yay! I’m so happy for you. A family isn’t complete until it has furry members who shed, drool, bark incessantly, and chew up the occasional TV remote in the middle of your bed when you leave him home alone too long. I love that last photo!

    • Awwww, thanks! I had to run my middle child to swim team last night and while numbers 1 and 3 were supposed to keep an eye on him he ate an entire angel food cake.

      Many lessons being learned….

  13. Okay, so there you are. Your millions (dozens?) (million-dozens?) (whatever) of fans were getting worried!

    First off, Michelob Ultra! Yay! Best runner’s beer ever!!!

    Dogs, sheesh! I gotta say; I absolutely love dogs, but I’ve never owned one and don’t intend to anytime soon. Can’t get past the whole picking-up-the-poop thing. Not that I’m squeamish or disgusted or anything. It’s just that I find it insulting… like the dog is laughing at me. I am 100% convinced that dogs find it effing hilarious that we pick up their poop. I’ll even go as far as saying that they have probably figured out how to use the humans’ facilities, but won’t, just for the sadistic pleasure of watching us scoop the poop. My son(‘s girlfriend) is getting a dog in a couple of weeks; a friggin’ Pomeranian watchamacalit. I’m already anticipating that the furball and I will get along really nicely until it’s time to go “walkies”.

    Anywho, nice to have you back!

    In other news: big Kentucky shout-out. Esquire magazine just named the Louisville Slugger unto its list of Great American Things. The Slugger came in at # 45.

    • Probably closer to dozens than millions, but it’s not quantity, it’s quality, right?

      The whole bowel movement thing isn’t easy to get your arms around (no pun intended, and it would be a really bad one if so), but it gets easier (but never less gross).

      Not only is that KY news, it’s Louisville news, and since that’s my hometown it makes me proud. Thanks for the head’s up!

      Always happy to see you here, Phillipe. Thanks for the comment and support, I trust you and your family are well.

  14. I have never fancied the idea of pets, and animals do not feel comfortable around me either. I like the dynamic that way, and as much as I like the idea of being able to handle any chaos life pushes me into, I have to admit I like things being within the realm of predictability. I like variety, but not utter randomness. I am glad you’re enjoying your slice of randomness though 🙂

    • I know where you’re coming from. It took me forever (years and years and years) to get to the point of no return, not to mention three messy kids. Since there is no return, buyer beware, right?
      =)

  15. Awww….a yellow lab. I grew up with two and they are the best! And it is so hard to go to a shelter and not walk away with a new friend. Learned my lesson in college when I roommate wanted to do just that.

    Looks like I’ll be back out in your neck of the woods soon to collect our belongs from storage. Time to make the move back to DC official!

    • We should grab lunch before you’re gone for good. I love DC (lived there for a summer in college…I was an intern before Monica Lewinsky made interning a four letter word). Let me know when you’re here and if you’ve got spare time….

      Thanks for the comment, always love seeing you here!

    • It’s been great so far. One of the many things he’s already given me is a different perspective to see things through. It’s a gift, but on frigid nights when it’s time for a walk, I’d like to give it back. =)

  16. I’ve missed you! (I’ve been really bad about reading stuff lately, and I swore I thought I changed you to a daily update instead of weekly, so much of the missing has been my own damn fault.)

    And I’m so happy you have a four-legged family member! Animals always adopt the people; don’t ask me how or why they know, but they know when they’ve found their forever home. He’ll just get better the longer you have him. Remember that next time he takes a dump on the rug.

    • Awww, thanks Mary! I, like you, can’t get to posts as quickly as I’d like so I spend an afternoon doing catch-up reading. Thank you for including me in yours.

      I love my new dog, but don’t tell him that. =)

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