If you don’t know this, my dog is a war veteran. My oldest son adopted her from the mountains of Afghanistan. Part Shepherd and part wolf, she was Marine-trained to keep watch.
Suffice it to say, she has a reputation as a bad ass. Every morning, at the break of dawn, she goes on patrol from my screened in porch. She barks at strangers whom she does not recognize. She intimidates dogs who have not been properly introduced. She is prepared to go through the screen if she feels a significant threat. She is my protector, my warrior, one of my best friends.
That being said, she has a story. Doesn’t everybody? She was born in a war zone. She learned to be overly alert and protective. Frankly, she has post traumatic stress disorder. Have you ever heard of that?
So do my two oldest sons who are also war veterans. As a matter of fact, the whole family has it to some degree. That’s what violence, intrusion, and the sudden death of loved ones leave behind. Believe me. There are many military families like mine. Don’t get me started.
Some of you know from my recent facebook posts that my condo has become a haven for nesting animals. At the end of March, a robin built a nest on top of my front door. I adapted, using the garage or the back door as much as possible. I watched the eggs hatch, and eventually, the young birds flew the coop.
Then, a duck made a nest by the same front door and deposited 8 eggs. I named the Mama duck “Ethel” and talked to her every day as if she belonged here. I did the same for “Robin”. Let me say, I used to live on a tiny farm.
My daughter raised ducks for a 4-H project. We built a pen in a grove of pine trees to keep them as safe as possible. We let out the ducks at least twice a day. They would immediately take flight, circling our property three times. Then they would land and expect us to chase them back to their pen. Heidi, our watchdog, loved their game.
Back then, Heidi would swim with them in our pond. To the ducks, she was not a bad ass, but part of the family. So, it didn’t surprise me at all that Heidi welcomed Ethel to our home. Heidi was accustomed to ducks. In some odd way, she knew them as our kin. Then Mia, the golden retriever, showed up.
Mia is the darling dog of the community. Because of her breed, everyone admires her. Yet, she’s the off-leash blond bombshell who wants to take over the world.
Heidi, on the other hand, is greeted with on-going suspicion. Because of her aggressive bark, she is labelled as a nuisance, one to be feared. People have no idea what she’s been through. Neighbors have no idea that her bark is her cry for help. She is broken and overly-stressed. She is anxious and afraid. Like other war veterans, she longs to be accepted and loved. Could that also be true for other neighbors as well?
The other night, Mia was out and about. As usual, she was the gentle and flirtatious politician making the rounds, until she smelled the duck. She charged the nest. Frantically, Ethel took off. I had to intervene.
In the meantime, Heidi was on lock down in the back yard. Because of her reputation, she was on the patio. She was anchored by the gas grill, even as she lazily nested in the mulch nearby.
Mia is a sweet dog. There’s no doubt about it. Perhaps, she just isn’t trained to be kind and welcoming to ducks. Perhaps she is so accustomed to being the center of attention, she doesn’t realize that there are other creatures in the universe who don’t want to be bothered.
Here’s my point. Beware of the “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” They can cause much anxiety and stress. Here’s another point. Listen to the stories of others. Be gentle with strangers. Give thanks for those who made sacrifices for us through service to their country. Advocate for our veterans. They deserve our kindness and respect, regardless of their species.