Irritation or Grace? You Decide

(Here’s the post originally intended for Tuesday before my world got sideswiped by Crash’s diagnosis.)

One of my favorite mom-writers, Katrina Kennison, writes at length about living intentionally. Saturday morning I read an essay of hers that made the point that we can meet disruptions and disappointments with irritation or grace. She’s right, I thought before embarking on a weekend ironically full of disruptions and disappointments.

I will be the first to confess that my default reaction for years has been irritation, but a funny thing has been happening as I get older, I’m beginning to see that irritation gets me nowhere. And once more, it only makes a situation worse. I feel no better when I’ve handled an inconvenience or annoyance with irritation whether it was caused by strangers, family, dogs, myself, or the universe. I always regret my harsh words or grumpy attitude.

On a much needed date with my husband this weekend, we were enjoying a beer flight at a wonderful restaurant, when our waitress arrived with my salad and promptly dumped a bowl of Caesar dressing down my side. She was beyond apologetic and her manager rushed over to give me his card and ask me to send my dry-cleaning bill to him. After wiping myself down, I told them, “It happens,” and let it go. Nick laughed and said, “You did order your dressing on the side.”

Grace over irritation.

Prior to our impromptu lunch, Nick and I had packed a picnic and headed out to a winery about 45 minutes away. When we pulled onto the beautiful property, the open flag was out and a door to an old barn stood ajar with a sign that read, “Wine.” A directional arrow pointed us inside.

Perfect, I thought. Rain was threatening again and I loved the idea of a picnic in an old barn. We trooped inside to find the lights out and not a soul in sight. Snooping around a bit and finding no one, we decided on plan B. Lunch at the aforementioned restaurant.

Not so long ago, I might have left a nasty note or shared my negative experience on Yelp. After all, we did drive forty-five minutes and we were well within the hours posted on the website. But what good would that do?  I might feel momentarily justified, but then I’m the shrew who left the note. Maybe there was an emergency. How am I to know? Better to grant a little grace and let it go. We decided to put our picnic in the trunk and go in search of lunch.

The dogs give me the opportunity to choose irritation or grace on a daily basis. Darlin’, who is rarely one to stir up trouble recently used her big nose to burrow in Addie’s school bag. She found a muffin, cookies, and a butterfinger wrapper (yes, my daughter is a bit of health nut). As I grumbled and looked for the broom, Darlin’ only wagged her tail in response to my harsh words and waited out my anger. My irritation directed at a dog gets me nowhere.

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And Gala, whose mess-making potential is exponential compared with Darlin’, only meets my irritation with a big sunny smile and if I’m in range, a slurpy kiss.

Granting them grace isn’t always easy, especially when the mess is big, but I’ve come to realize it’s always the best choice. Unless I catch them in the act of misbehaving, there’s not a whole lot of point to yelling at them. They have no idea that I’m screaming about the butter dish that was left on the counter, but is now in a thousand well-licked pieces on the floor. They just think I’m a grump. After all, they had a wonderful morning – butter!

Darlin’ and Gala are becoming fixtures. “Hello, brown dogs,” I say to them each time I enter the kitchen. “What have we been up to?”

I know it’s rarely Darlin’ who is the instigator (unless there’s food involved). She’s just a happy follower. Left alone, she’d sleep and wait my return, watching the door with those baleful eyes. It’s Gala’s busy mind that is so capable of finding trouble. Combine that with the pent-up energy of the enforced rest following her heartworm treatment and she’s become quite creative in her efforts to entertain herself, and by default Darlin’ her trusty sidekick.

Gala is curious and smart and really shouldn’t be left alone anywhere except her crate. Besides the butter plate, she’s also managed to dump the basket of fresh eggs I absently set just inside the door before running back out to take care of another chore. That was a lovely mess.

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For reasons known only to her, she pulled my bucket of seed packets off the counter and sorted through them, leaving the packets scattered all over the kitchen floor.

One of her favorite activities is upending the blankets in Gracie’s crate to find the treats Gracie hides. Gracie is not a big treat-eater, but whenever the foster dogs are getting a treat, she sits nicely for her own and then proceeds to bury it in the blankets of her crate. Gala quickly discovered there’s gold in them there hills and regularly cases Gracie’s crate.

Nick and I were eating dinner at the glasstop bar on our porch the other night and Gala was trying very hard to respect our space, as she’d been asked to do. She retreated under the bar, but when she realized she could see us (and our food) through the bottom of the table, she climbed up on the bar shelf and peer up through the mottled glass at us. Her funny, fuzzy face beneath our plates made it hard to enforce the no animals at the table rule.

Gala’s natural athleticism has led to her performing some amazing feats like leaping over my head on the couch, touching off the back of the recliner and landing on the other side of the room in two neat bounds to greet my daughter’s arrival home from work. Addie steadfastly ignores the dogs and is not impressed in any way by Gala’s efforts.

Gala’s personality and smarts makes her hugely entertaining. She recently discovered the joy of balls and is captivated by Ian bouncing his soccer ball. When I roll a tennis ball for her, she pounces on it with enthusiasm and runs it back to me. I can only imagine how much fun she will have when she’s recovered from her heartworm treatment and can run full-tilt. I’m certain she could learn to catch a frisbee and rock the agility dog world. And if by some chance she likes water, I am positive this dog would win any dock diving contest.

When our kitchen was built as an addition to the original house, a window was left in the wall that faces our front hall. Lots of stuff piles up there waiting to be carried to the mudroom/puppy room where I store my canning jars. On any given day there are jars, lids, dog bowls, collars, etc. I’ve never given it a second thought.

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Until today.

Today, Gala leapt up onto the sink and then up onto the window sill and bounded into the rest of the house where she pulled Gracie’s uneaten bowl of dog food off the top of her crate, scattering it across the floor, and then zoomed up the stairs to case Addie’s room for more treats. This caused Gracie to chase after her, Darlin’ to commence whining, and several jars to tumble into the sink and shatter. I was stunned. In the 75 or so dogs we’ve fostered, not one has ever considered jumping through that window. Gala has now done it twice and would still be doing it, if Ian hadn’t pointed out that there are working shutters on that window.

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Irritation or grace?

A dog with this level of athleticism and enthusiasm will challenge her adopters to answer that question on a daily basis. I’m certain there will be no dull days with Gala.

We’re scheduled to welcome a chihuahua puppy (yes, chihuahua!) named Punkin at the end of this week. I’m in serious need of a puppy. And Addie deserves a tiny dog, as it’s been over a year since we fostered one.

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Punkin is only 7 pounds, but I have no doubt she’ll still give me plenty of opportunities to practice choosing grace over irritation.

Thanks for reading!

Blessings,

Cara

If you’d like regular updates on foster dogs past and present, please join the Another Good Dog facebook group. If you’d like information on how to apply to adopt Darlin’, Gala, Punkin, or any of the other deserving adoptable dogs through OPH, click here.

And if you’re curious what else I write, please stop by and visit my website, CaraWrites.com. (p.s. I have a NEW book coming out soon!)

 

 

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Published by

Cara Sue Achterberg

I am a writer, blogger, and occasional cowgirl who lives on a hillside farm in Southern York County, PA. You can find information about my books and all my writing adventures on my website CaraWrites.com.

9 thoughts on “Irritation or Grace? You Decide”

  1. Oh my gosh Cara, you still have Gala after all of that? She is a lovely dog though – I loved her when I met her at the Pet Smart in York the other week. Wish I could adopt her, but no, I have 2 kitties and that is enough right now. Love your stories!

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  2. It’s hard on some of those days to choose grace but you’re right – the older we get the more I think we realize anger and irritation get us nowhere…,but sometimes I’d like to just go postal for about 5 minutes still 😜

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