This is a hard truth I’ve struggled with a lot this week, and it’s a bit of a weird one for me. I don’t like the spotlight. I don’t revel in attention or bask in glory. I’m content, nay prefer, the quiet sidelines if I have to show up at all. My voice is soft and I’ve been told I mumble. I don’t command a presence and while I’m funny, no one’s handing me the mic at a party.
So it’s weird for me to think I want to save the world. I don’t ever picture myself in spandex and a cape with a carbon fiber mask. My personality does not scream superhero. And yet, I’m struggling with the realization that I can’t fix everything I set out to. I may not be a superhero, but it turns out I’m a fixer. Not in an Olivia Pope way, in the help-the-everyday-man way.
Enter “P”. He is a foster dog, the first foster dog we’ve ever taken in. We love pets, but we already have Starbuck and I’m not ready for a second full time responsibility. But we’ve tossed around the idea of fostering for a while and finally pulled the trigger about a week ago. And I met “P”. “P” is skinny. Not rescued-from-a-POW-camp skinny, but looks bulimic skinny for sure. When we went to pick him up, he was curled in a doggy ball in the corner of his crate, terrified of the thunder outside. He did not want to go home with us (or, really, to step outside into the storm). My heart immediately broke and I declared we had to take him.
“P” is sweet and loves attention. He likes to come up and shove his face in your crotch (in the cute way, not the restraining order way). He loves laying on his back and getting his belly rubbed. And he loves to run. My shins haven’t screamed so hard since I started my Biking the Trail challenge in January. I instantly fell in love, even though I knew we couldn’t keep him. Fine, we couldn’t be his forever family. But we would do everything we could to get him adopted by the best family ever, the family he deserves.
Only, it hasn’t turned out that way. “P” is a little aggressive. And Starbuck is terribly shy and submissive. They’ve rough housed and we’ve had to separate them once or twice, but last night “P” bit Starbuck. Not in a playful way, but in a territorial, alpha male way. And we had to make a decision that splintered my heart into pieces. We have to take “P” back to the shelter. As much as we want to help him, the small problems have escalated between him and Starbuck to the point where it’s a toxic environment for the two of them.
Right now, I’m sitting crosslegged on my futon, my Surface Book on my lap, my hubby – let’s just call him Corbin – killing noobs in Battlefield. Starbuck is in the other room, thankfully asleep on the bed. “P” lays next to me on the futon, finally calmed from his morning ruckus that shattered my exhausted and fragile nerves. The nails of his right paw press into my side while his eyes watch the TV, and I realize in a few hours I have to give him back. Be still, my heart, don’t break.
And so now I realize. I can’t save the world. Today, I feel like I can’t even save one dog. I worry and cry about him finding a family. I stress about what happens if he doesn’t. Guilt and anxiety plague me and I wish upon all the stars in our galaxy that we could find a way to make it work. That there was someway I could convince them to be friends instead of fighting and growling and barking and jumping and biting. But today I realize I can’t. I don’t have that power. I wish I did. I wish I had the biggest home and yard in the world, with all the time and the largest budget. I wish I could take all the “P”s and help them. To cure them of the bad habits they’ve picked up. To get them past their problems. To find them a home. To give them the life they deserve.
It will take a while to convince myself, but I think it’s okay that I can’t. I think what matters most is that we try. We can’t save every person or animal we come across. We don’t win every cause we believe in every time. But we can’t make a difference if we don’t open ourselves up to help. The other truth I’m struggling with is that sometimes you need to be a little selfish. If I don’t take care of myself, I can’t help others. After all, how am I to save someone else if I can’t save myself first? I’ve spread myself a bit too thin, I’m finally starting to realize, but it’s hard to let go. To give into that selfishness, just a little. To pull back from all the causes I care so much about. To spend a little time on me so I’m not a ball of tattered nerves when it’s time to help others. We have to give to others, but we also have to give to ourselves. It’s a balance I’m still working on.
My attention turns back to “P” now. The back of my throat starts to ache and my eyes water and sting. His left foot twitches while he sleeps. His front paws dance while he chases a squirrel in his dreams. I am reminded that he won’t be here when I go to sleep tonight. I won’t have the usual battle of wills to try to get him into his crate tonight. I won’t have to feel guilty about pulling him away from the foot of the bed when I really want to let him stay. I try to tell myself that it’s okay, in the end it’s for the best, but right now it’s hard to believe. Right now, I feel like a failure. A quitter. Like maybe we can still make it work. In my head, I know it’s not true and it wouldn’t be fair to him. In my heart, I want to hug and belly rub all the shitty past events in his life away.
Life and health are a balance. A tough one. The hardest one there is. And sometimes, life beats us down. It breaks our hearts. Right now, it’s hard to imagine trying to foster another dog. To open myself up to the potential of failing another pet in need of luck. I know I’ll change my mind. Eventually. We’ll open up our hearts – and our home – again. But first, I need a little time. To pray for a better life, for better luck, for “P”. To work on me. To gain a little superhero strength. To be better.
To save the world.