June 17, 2011

Man Up!

I am delicate. I know, I know. Everyone thinks I’m a crazy boy. I’ve even been called Dennis the Menace and while it’s true that I have my quirks (okay more than most), I have done all I can to overcome some of my more annoying habits.

But today, while doing my very best to be present for my osteopathy (it’s like chiropractic work only more gentle and yet, for me, more effective), the vet technician comes in to draw my blood. “What?” I protested. “I thought these sessions were all about helping me relax, that I was here to un-kink my stressed body, to release the anxiety from my kidneys, to unwind my seriously wound up personality and now you’re coming in here with that huge needle to draw my blood?”

Wanna know how the vet responded? The vet that I have finally learned to trust after all these sessions? The vet that has held me in her strong and knowing hands and made me feel better? The vet who has asked me to trust her repeatedly and I, in my quivering uncertainty, have avoided doing, but have finally done? She said, and I quote, “Oh, man up, Rubin!”

These were difficult words to hear especially because the vet tech had a HUGE needle in her hands and an empty vile that needed filling with MY BLOOD. By simply walking into the vet office week after week to allow a stranger to adjust my spine and manipulate my neck and, on occasion, poke me with acupuncture needles I was being an incredibly brave boy. And now, after all the fears I’ve had to overcome, she has the audacity to tell me to man up?

Rubin wait…

Gretchen, I don’t think you’re going to be able to talk me down from this one.

Oh buddy, Dr. Geisler has helped you tremendously. You’ve been able to walk into that office because she’s cared for you in a very gentle and loving way. She’s given you that bravery.

She has?

Think about it for a moment, little man. Before we started massaging you and swimming you and taking you in for acupuncture and osteopathy, you were a nervous wreck.

I was?

Yes, you were and while you aren’t completely “cured” of that nervousness yet, you’ve come a long, long way.

I have?

You have and frankly, we all just want to see you feel really good about yourself. That’s why the doctor said, “Man Up!” She was just trying to help you find that inner bravery we’ve all been working on for so many months.

Well, okay, but it felt kind of like an insult.

That’s your sensitive nature. You have to realize that we’d never put you in an unsafe situation. That we’d never ask you to do something we didn’t think you could do. I know it’s scary to get your blood drawn, but you did such a great job. You didn’t even flinch! Even I flinch when they draw my blood!


Yep, it hurts, but you did great today. It was just all the silliness before the shot.

What silliness?

You seriously don’t remember?

Are you talking about how I quivered?

That and how you hid behind my legs and how you burrowed into me to try and get away from the tech who was simply trying to do her job.

I did all that? It’s kind of a blur.

I can imagine that it was. That’s what happens when you go straight to that place of fear — you forget where you are and what’s really happening.

Why do I do that?

Well, look at your friends. How do they handle unique and odd and sometimes scary situations?

Let me think…well Monty, he just flips his head and says, “Huh? What’s going on?”

Yep, he’s always curious, isn’t he. He fights his fear by being gregarious and outgoing, by greeting everyone with a smile…

And a sniff…don’t forget, he likes to sniff everyone’s head.

Maybe that’s how he makes sense of it all. One sniff and he can relax.

Roux just goes into a play bow.

That’s true. For her, everything is an opportunity to play.

Do you think if they were to come in with a big scary needle, she’d bow down and invite them to play?

Yes, I actually think she would.

She sees every event as a happy one.

That’s a good outlook, don’t you think?

I guess if I could be like any of the dogs we walk, I wouldn’t mind being more like Woobie.

Why’s that?

She’s kind, calm, and contemplative. But when it’s time to “man up” she does it.

You mean like at the lake the other day when you wouldn’t go in and get your toy because you thought the water was too cold?

Yep. You asked her to go get my toy and she just walked right in, swam way out there, and brought it back. That’s the kind of calm bravery I’d like to have.

And then there’s Olive who is as steady as a rock – obsidian to be exact.

Remember, Olive is a retired service dog so she was given all sorts of new and scary situations to navigate from a very young age.

I bet she would have put that needle into her own arm, that’s how calm and brave she is!

Yes, I can see her doing just that.

And she stays so calm. It’s amazing.

Well, she knows how to play, too. She chased after Roux the other day!

But some of your other friends are nervous, too. Think of Rosie, for instance.

I know she’s nervous, but she’s also really strong. I mean, she’s been through a lot in her life, and even though she acts afraid, when you show her that it’s okay and that she’s safe, she overcomes her fears quickly.

You know she’s swimming at the pool with me now?

I know. She told me that it was really scary at first, but now she’s swimming better and she absolutely LOVES the massage. I, on the other hand, like to swim all the time!

Yes, you do, and you do a good job relaxing during the massage, too.

And Rosie’s getting more comfortable with the water everywhere, I see.

Yep, I took them to the lake the other day and Rosie fell in because she didn’t judge the steps very well.

And it looks like she went in for a treat!

Yes, and Tyson, he went in…almost…after your toy. Only then he didn’t and I had to swim in after it.

…hey, stop laughing.

I love it when we can make you do stuff like that.

Tyson, Rosie’s brother, is kind of jittery, too.

Yes, but don’t you think he’s good at projecting bravery?

He is, but I think that’s because he’s such a strong and muscular fella.

Strong, but very gentle. And sensitive just like you, but he’s able to stay relatively calm even in the face of his fears.

That, I suppose, is something I need to learn how to do.

Precisely! That’s what Dr. G is trying to help you with — staying calm in the face of things you fear.

But that was a big needle!

How do you think Duke would have handled it?

Duke is an interesting guy, isn’t he?

He is interesting. He’s nervous like you, but unlike you he seems to move slower when he’s anxious — more cautiously — while you move at the speed of light.

When we walked him this week, it was interesting to watch him on the grate at the park…you know, the scary one with nothing underneath it.

He was nervous about the grate at the park, alright, but he just slowly checked it out.

Whereas I was, “Take the damn picture, Gretchen, and get me off this thing!”

Yes, you could learn some patience when you’re anxious.

So, when Dr. G told me to “man up” she was asking me to be patient?

And to relax and to trust her and to realize that we were all in that room to take care of you…

Do I owe her an apology?

What for?

Well, I kind of cursed at her and at the vet tech. Did you hear me?

Yes, I heard you.

It just slipped out.

I know. Maybe you can send them a card apologizing.

That’s a good idea. Should I send them some tennis balls?

Tennis balls?

That always makes me feel better when I have a tennis ball in my mouth.

Humans don’t really carry around tennis balls. Maybe I could bake something and we could drop it off next week.

Okay. You know humans better than I do so if that’s what you think they’ll like, then I think it sounds like a good plan.

Way to man up, Rubin!

I did? How?

Owning up to your mistakes is very courageous. And making amends is a great step towards being a very brave boy!

How many steps are there until I’m there?

You are one silly boy.

Have a good weekend everyone!


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