Reflections About My Best Friend

In Colombia (my home country) the treatment of pets is very different than in the United States. Dogs and cats usually stay outside. We certainly don’t snuggle with them at night and we rarely recognize them as members of the family. We do love them, and spoil them at times, but we have it clear we are from different species, therefore we live separately. They are companions, soft to the touch, we take care of them, but their place is outside, in the backyard, or out in the farm, depending on where you’re located.

Boomer1

Then I moved to the United States where people share their dwelling space with their pets using terms of endearment and worrying about their illnesses as if they were… people! I found it a little funny and weird that  people referred to their animals as “my baby”, “my lil man”, “my son”…

Then, I hit a bump in the road. A series of jarring circumstances ended up with me renting a room in a house whose owner was a divorced woman who lived with a dog, and a cat. And she LOVED them as family, which I couldn’t understand. A few weeks into living with her she called me one morning excitedly, “I have the perfect dog for you!” Was I asking for a dog? Did I ever show any desire to complicate my world even more by bringing a dog into my life with all the responsibilities it carried? “What? I don’t have time for a dog!” I responded unhesitatingly. “Oh… he is super cute, you’re going to love him!” She continued as if my answer had been, “Yes, when am I going to meet him?” And somehow her wording switched my thinking.boomer15

She brought home a little mutt. “Boomer” was his name according to his birth certificate where it also said he was a chihuahua. Apart from his size I couldn’t see the chihuahua in him. I didn’t like him at first. He was overweight (he had spent his past few years tied to a pole being fed with bread), some of his teeth were green, his breath was… well, terrible, and he was extremely needy. I had been emotionally exhausted for a while, therefore there was nothing in my heart to offer him. So, I looked at him and said, “Hey, I’m gonna take care of you, but I will never love you.”

He wanted to climb to my bed and I pushed him out every time. And less than 24 hours in the house he started getting into huge fights with my landlady’s cat where both of them ended up hurt; he wasn’t potty trained as my friend had assured, and I was angry that I had to clean up his mess every single day. Not a great start for Boomer and I.

Then my father had a stroke and I flew to Colombia thinking this was going to be the last time I was going to see him. It was a stressful emotional time as my father went through surgery and I spent days with him in the hospital and then at my uncle’s house. My father was okay when I flew back to the States, but this experience had left me much more exhausted than I already was.boomer23

When I returned home, I tossed my luggage to the side, I looked down and there it was, little Boomer’s face staring at me, wagging his tail just a bit as if being careful not to upset me. His big eyes so bright, his little body directing all its energy towards me. Only he and I in that bedroom. I couldn’t take it anymore. I hugged him as I cried and told him, “I love you” for the first time. Boomer had torn down my walls. Now we both were vulnerable.

We began jogging together so we both lost some weight, I got his teeth cleaned and though he had three extractions he could start chewing his food better. His fur changed from a dull color to a shiny black. I missed him when I was at work, and if I was a little late he was already howling claiming my presence.

We moved out of that house when I started to earn a full time salary, but we kind of had to move because the fights between Boomer and the cat made the landlady and I fight, too!

boomer11I taught Boomer to roll over, I potty trained him. He had a bed, but I never denied him space in my bed whenever he wanted to jump in. After a hard day, he was there; after an exciting day, he was there; when I was sick, he was there with his little face on my chest… And when my mother passed away unexpectedly he cried with me as he lifted up his little legs to give me a hug. He howled as if something in him had died too.

I never wanted to leave him, now that he had become “my lil man”, “my baby”… But I wanted to travel. I wished for the opportunity to live somewhere else if only for a year. I always thought I would take him with me. Unfortunately, the opportunity opened at a school in China, and there are strong regulations for pets to come here. Also the flight would have been traumatic for my baby, spending almost 30 hours in a kennel in the cold cargo, and being in quarantine at the airport without me being able to see him. That would have been too much for both of us.

For the grace of God, a family in New York volunteered to take care of him and I am humbled and thankful to know they love him as much as I do. However, there is no one day without me thinking about him and all the time, events, jokes, visits, trips, and adventures we shared together.boomer-in-the-park

I also wonder if it is too selfish of me to want him back even though he is being so well cared for by this family of five.

I’m still “stationed” in China for half a year more. Whatever happens, I thank God for the extraordinary gift of Boomer. I have learned a lot about myself because of him. Always in my heart and thoughts ❤

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I AM A TEACHER AND I DON’T HAVE ANY POWER

ONE PERSON CAN AND MUST ORIGINATE CHANGE, but that person needs to be in a strategic place.

I work at one of the toughest schools in NC. This is my sixth year as an ESL teacher (5 of them crying 1-5 times a week). I felt powerless in front of the bad manners and hatred students projected against me, and their low performance not because the scholars weren’t smart enough, but because they didn’t care or lacked the motivation. I started creating mental strategies for them not to get under my skin, but inevitably I usually ended up crying on my way home, overexercising, and screaming at the top of my lungs in Zumba class when there was a move that emulated a punch or a kick. That was my strategy. Survival.

Administrators kept adding to the emotional load. When I was hired we had a good principal; then we had one that… oh well, he simply wasn’t a people person (which is somehow important when you are working with… you guessed it, people). I felt trapped between rudeness and a bunch of deadlines.

Now, if you are a pet lover you know there are a great deal of things we learn from our pets. Compassion, being the most important one. But what I have noticed is that our own behavior sometimes resemble the one of our furry ones. We look puzzled, like them, when someone gets mad at us when we are caught in a “bad” behavior. Like when Boomer, my dog, pees on the carpet and I yell at him pointing out at his mess. He looks at me puzzled and concerned, kind of trying to figure out why I am so mad and waiting for me to stop my little “tantrum.” Likewise we might be mean not knowing we are hurting someone’s feelings. We might make fun of a friend’s “ugly” dress while getting high fives from others; but when our friend confronts us with tears on her cheeks we look at her puzzled thinking, “What I said was really that bad?” And when they finish their speech we hug and console each other because now we both have learned something. We are seeing beyond our own persona.

Going back to my students… They talk too much, they use profanity way too much, they also fight, and bully others. And when they are caught and confronted by my angry expression, they look puzzled, like Boomer, as if nobody had taught them respect and obedience. They inflict pain to others unknowingly, and the sad thing is they leave their number ones and twos all over the place.

I am a Christian woman and forgiveness should be my priority. However, I hadn’t been able to forgive the scholars for their behavior and the “suffering” they inflicted upon me unknowingly (Luke 23:34 They do not know what they are doing). Through the years I have been able to observe that if we receive hate and abuse, what comes out is hate and abuse, which is the same as saying “Hurt people hurt people.” I was an abused child, therefore I was a handful for my teachers, but I couldn’t find the connection before. It is only now that God has opened my eyes. Fortunately, there is a cure against this cancer, and you don’t have to spend a single penny on it. It’s called “love”. Quoting my yoga instructor, “Where there is love there is no fear, where there is no fear there is no anger” (1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love because fear has to do with punishment). The good news is if you are one of those stray dogs who hurt people you can learn new skills or behaviors to find inside peace which will reflect in the outside. I am talking to teachers and students specially.

I don’t have any power. I lost it. I lost the power to punish and walk away during hard situations. I lost the power to hurt and feel hurt. I think of everything God has done for me. How he has stopped my tears on the palm of His hand uncountable times. My dog’s face gives me encouragement as well. I don’t yell at him anymore. If he pees on the carpet it is surely my fault. If my students curse, fight, or bully, I don’t lash back at them and walk away. In my mind I caress them behind their ears, which softens my expression, and they come back to push their head under my hand.

Dr. Timisha Barnes-Jones

Dr. Timisha Barnes-Jones

A new school year has come and I am in the same place physically, but thank God, not emotionally. We have a new Principal, Dr. Barnes-Jones. I feel overwhelmed with all the meetings and information received; however I can say with a big grin on my face that I have hope. We are being trained to change through the No-Nonsense Nurturing Approach. We have a new set of rules that create a CONSISTENT, STRUCTURE, PREDICTABLE environment, and yeah, school already feels different ☺

I come from Bogota, Colombia, and it took one man, one crazy man with a vision to make us believe we could be better. The city and its inhabitants had the potential and the responsibility to be better. Like everything, it takes a leader to move a multitude. For us cachacos (the way they call people from Bogota), it was that crazy Major Antanas Mockus. It sounds funny now but he and Enrique Peñalosa, his sidekick, actually taught us to put the trash in the trash cans, to pick up our dogs mess, to obey the street signs, to be careful with our belongings, to stop jaywalking, to RESPECT our city and the people we shared it with.

Boomer
Boomer

It is said that happiness comes within. That is partially true. The environment (work, friends, co-workers) play an important part on your wellness. I used to feel miserable at work and be a whole different persona at home. I didn’t even wear make up and wore my less attractive clothes to come to school because “they didn’t deserve” to see my beautiful side. Now we have a new leader. Dr. Barnes-Jones is strong but soft, she likes to sing, she has shared her story with us, and through her I have been able to see myself. Beautiful. Confident. Strong. Determined. Committed. I found a purpose where I felt helplessness. God is my Shepperd, I will not fear.

Keep the faith. Every morning is only the beginning.

Yours honestly, truly, and lovingly,

Kurma Murrain ♥