I’m used to rejection. After all, I was runner up to homecoming queen. I’m still scarred by that almost-ran moment when the football coach turned toward me with a tiara in his outstretched hands, then quickly feinted to the right and placed it on another girl’s head. I have grown accustomed to life telling me, “Yeah. You. No. Never mind. Not you.”
My world begets rejection. I’m a writer. I’m blue in a red state. I’m a parent and would dare to say that most of us with teenagers understand that rejection is our raison d’etre. We provide the springboard from which our offspring push. It’s our job to allow them to reach for us, think, “meh” and turn the other way. We nurse our wounds, remember when our parents said, “You just wait,” and crack open a bottle of wine.
When I worked full time before working ALL of the time as a mom, I was an advertising copywriter. One agency head took my copy, read, it, proclaimed, “This is shit” and threw it against the wall. He then proceeded to floss his teeth with a fingernail he ripped off, so that particular moment lost its impact. Still, ask anybody who’s had the misfortune of writing in an agency environment if he or she has ever experienced rejection and they will spew their recently gulped fourth cup of coffee before 9 a.m. over your head.
Rejection usually doesn’t keep me from trying. I tried out for basketball in junior high and I tried out for majorette in college. I tried for a writer’s conference just this past summer. Of the three of those, I only really thought I’d get one, but apparently I really screwed up the routine in majorette tryouts.
I’ll try for the writer’s conference again next year. What I won’t try, after two distinct rejections that shocked me with their vehemence and Trump-like wall, is to get a dog from a rescue.
I’m not confidant on many fronts, but there is one aspect of my life upon which I know I excel and that is of dog owner. I am the best kind of dog owner. Dogs reincarnate themselves just to get back in my house. Humans are left to fend for themselves as the Caldwell dog lies on its back and gets its tummy rubbed. For hours. To the humans, I say fix your own damn dinner. Yes, you’re bleeding from the ears, but you know where the Band-Aids are. Go away, can’t you see I’m rubbing the dog’s belly? To the dog I say, oh honey, where does it itch? There? Mommy’s got it.
It’s my mother’s fault, as most things are. We always had a dog, whether it was Gidget, the cocker spaniel, Pepper, the Boston terrier mutt, Suza, the miniature schnauzer, or Lady, the beagle.
Lady was the offspring of my dad’s favorite hunting beagle. When she had pups, he was going to teach them how to be rabbit dogs and he was going to sell them, keep the mom and one pup and have himself the best huntin’ dog in Cabell County. Mama Beagle gave birth in the winter, in her dog house, down over the hill that is my parents’ back yard. Daddy told my mom, “Those pups are warm enough. You leave them alone,” and he went to work. Every day.
And every day, my mother would bring the pups up, one by one, and play with them and keep them warm and feed them yummy things. When it came time to sell them, they were the fattest, happiest, lovingest, most spoiled beagle pups you ever did see.
I think he ended up giving them away and selling the mom, the best rabbit dog Daddy ever had. I imagine there was a tear in his eye as he watched the pickup she was in go up the driveway and he turned around to face the beagle pup we kept. The littlest, most spoiled of the puppies. Lady.
For years, Lady had a good life. She managed the neighborhood that is the subdivision where my parents live. All of the other dogs had to run their ideas past Lady and she would pretty much approve anything. She helped my mother garden, barking at snakes and digging up recently planted things. She stole neighbors’ cooling peanut brittle during the holidays and she befriended her neighbor Ralph, the St. Bernard next to us. They watched television together at the neighbor’s house.
She never once chased a rabbit. Live and let live was Lady’s philosophy. Daddy still hasn’t recovered from the mortification. I imagine him at the Liar’s Table in the downtown diner, taking heat from the other retirees. “Hey, Bob. How about that rabbit dog you owned?” Guffaws. Thigh slaps. Daddy hangs his head in shame. He hasn’t been this embarrassed since his daughter didn’t get homecoming queen.
As much as Daddy would like to blame my mother, spoiling dogs runs down his side of the family, as well. I have twin aunts who make spoiling their fur babies look like an Olympic sport. Each time one of their dogs passes, they grieve deeply and swear they will never, ever, EVER put themselves through this again. Within months, a dog literally shows up on their doorstep, so these women and their husbands once again dive headfirst into the deep end of dog love. Dogs know.
But sometimes people don’t. It’s not their fault. After all, they’re people. They can’t sniff my butt and determine me worthy of their time. However, I would challenge some people to be more like dogs when they are thinking for dogs.
The first time I was rejected by a dog rescue was shortly after Diesel died. Somewhere in the cosmos, a practical joker thought it would be one hella good time if Tina’s dog, the golden retriever that raised her children, died the same summer her Boy Child went off to college. Grief mixed with fear mixed with loneliness mixed with not wanting to pick up food dropped on the floor because that’s the dog’s job and the next thing I know, I’m responding to a rescue’s ad for a bonded pair of Great Pyrenees.
I spoke on the phone with their representative and explained that my golden retriever had passed away months before and how much that golden retriever had meant to me. I didn’t want to replace Diesel, but I did want to fill the hole. A bonded pair of fluff balls who didn’t need me too much, but played with one another and provided background noise and mess sounded perfect.
“If you loved your golden retriever that much, then you don’t need a Great Pyrenees,” the rep responded.
“But. I mean. I know they aren’t the same. I don’t want the same,” I stuttered.
My plaintive cries were pointless. I had been rejected. I have no idea how many people are willing to take on two 120 pound dogs that shed like a three-month-old Christmas tree dropping needles, but apparently there are enough that she didn’t even want to hear my story.
I went to a breeder and I bought a golden retriever puppy and neither of us could be happier. He farts while I write and I fart while he plays. It’s symbiotic. Sometimes I wonder if he wants a playmate, though. He’s really energetic and I’m, well, I’m not.
So, I responded to an ad for a golden retriever rescue. A four-year-old female who looked like a lot of fun and would make a good sister for Thor. Her name is the same as Girl Child’s and I believed it was kismet. I dashed off an e-mail joking that if I could convince my Spousal Unit that Thor needs a playmate, I’d like to see if she would work in our home.
I received a terse reply announcing , “We would not place one of our dogs into a home where someone had to be ‘convinced’ to have a dog.” She advised me to wait until Spousal Unit “may be enthusiastically involved with adopting a new dog.” Has she met my husband? He isn’t enthusiastically involved with anything that doesn’t revolve around bourbon and a mandolin. If I waited until he was enthusiastically involved, we would still be living in an apartment, driving a 1986 Volvo, and childless.
The reason our marriage works so well is because Spousal Unit tempers his impulsive wife. If he didn’t balk, mutter and groan at everything, we’d have Daisy AND a 1970s Airstream, three more horses, five classic cars for Man Child, probably sitting on blocks in the driveway, a beach house and debt.
We make decisions based on his balk-o-meter. “Spousal Unit, I really like this house that’s on the market.”
“Oh I dunno. The one we’re in is working pretty well, even though we have to go downstairs to take a shower and Girl Child’s closet is so packed, when we open the door, it’s like clowns pouring out of a VW Beetle.”
The balk-o-meter needle swings to the right, then slowly flows back to the left with only a little resistance. We buy the house.
I tell Spousal Unit I want to buy back Girl Child’s first pony, because pony isn’t going to be treated well if she keeps getting sold. Balk-o-meter shoots to the right and stays there until pony gets off the trailer, blanket is removed and her ribs show. Balk-o-meter moves back toward center. We keep the pony. I tell him there is an Airstream trailer on eBay. Balk-o-meter needle swings around in circles. Somebody else gets to have that cool little gem.
Somebody else will also get the four-year-old golden retriever from South America. Not because Spousal Unit’s balk-o-meter went off, but because yet another rescue deemed me unfit. It’s almost as funny as the time I did not make that junior high basketball team. My best friend at the time and I looked at one another as the names were rattled off and ours wasn’t among them. We were the only ones sitting there who hadn’t been given some type of position, whether it was water girl, or team manager. We laughed. We had to.
I also have to laugh today as a certain big, hairy beast leans against me. He’s gone long enough without my attention and it’s time to play. NOW. He doesn’t need a playmate. He has me. He will never reject me, that’s for sure.
I know I will have many more rejections as I trudge through the overgrown path called life. I will write things that will be rejected; I will want things that will be rejected; I will do things that will be rejected. However, there are two givens for which I will never face rejection again. I will never be rejected by another basketball coach and I will never be rejected by another dog rescue network. ‘Cause I ain’t tryin’ out for neither one.