Ya know, I sort of have a problem with seeing everything through trauma and recovery-tinted glasses in my life. If you let my brain go wild, it’ll decide that EVERYTHING is related to trauma and early life events, somehow.
Meet a new person? Start sneakily asking questions about their childhood, family, and upbringing. Watch someone having a hard time? Consider what’s going on in their brain and body through physiological hypotheses and potential triggers. Learn a new concept in Behavioral Analysis? Daydream about the ways it applies to Complex Trauma symptoms and rehabilitation instead of listening to the rest of the lecture.
Well… you know, it actually extends farther than human models and behavioral principles. Honestly, there are many times when I can’t stop this brain from meandering into thoughts about animals and trauma.
First of all, animals have to go through their own big-T events, right? This is why some dogs are terrified of totally inert things, like vacuum cleaners? Or why they respond with aggression when they, say, see someone wearing a hat and sunglasses? There are events in their lives that stick with them and spark reflexive responses that might not be characteristic of their personalities or based in any reason. Seems like some doggie-trauma to me.
Secondly, evolutionarily, species have to be formed by these individual trauma events over generations. We know that information is passed onto offspring through genomic imprinting and methylation - this isn’t just a hypothesis anymore.
There are some cool studies in crows, in particular, where researchers observe longitudinal information transfer from one generation to the next when it comes to potential threats to their safety. (i.e. A dude, again wearing a hat for some reason, is seen holding a dead crow - the next generation of crows is afraid of this man without ever actually seeing him with the dead bird, themselves. Pretty sweet.)
But recently, I’ve also been thinking about Complex Trauma as it relates to a special buddy of mine… Probably because I spend too much time silently wandering around the yard doing physical therapy with him, and also because I consider him to be my child, like a bit of a nutjob… But regardless, Archie speaks to me when it comes to this Motherfucking Trauma life and recovery journey.
Today, I’m finally putting my Archie-obsessed thoughts onto paper. Forgive me, if they’re just evidence of my brain finally giving up on living in this plane of reality as I pace back and forth with a floppy dog every morning.
This is Archie... as a Metaphor.
First things first - what's "wrong" with him?
Alright, I hate when people ask this, but I understand that they don't mean it in the offensive way I take it.
What I WANT to say is, "Nothing, what's wrong with you?"
What I WILL say is, "He has a neurological disorder that affects his muscle movement, balance, and coordination."
Archie has Cerebellar Hypoplasia, which is a genetic disorder. i.e. He's not "broken." He was born this way. It's permanent, but it can improve. If you want more info - good news, I've written all about Archie's abilities and shortcomings in two prior posts.
Practically, just know that having CH means he moves through the world like a drunken sailor or a very clumsy toddler. Sometimes, his eyes move very rapidly back and forth, as even the ocular muscles are affected. When he's focused or excited about something, he has a minor "intention tremor" which just looks like an excited twitch, more than anything.
It's really not so bad, compared to how CH can present. Some dogs and cats have much more severe cases, in which they continually shake and tremble, experience seizures, and can't control their bowels.
Sooo, I'm grateful that Archie just looks like he's had about 14 beers on an empty stomach every day.
Like I said, animals with CH aren't doomed to be totally worthless potatoes on the floor. If you work with them, they can learn to compensate for their disorder. There are expensive things you can do, like hydrotherapy and acupuncture... buuuutttt at this point, we're limited to backyard practice and home trials in physical therapy. (You know, that contracted writer gig I have doesn't exactly stack my bank account.)
Even some of those more severe dogs I mentioned figure out how to walk, run, and play without any assistance, if they get the opportunity. It's just a matter of rehabilitation and practice.
This is why it's extra upsetting to bring up this initial point...
The right to “live”
Just to start this with the most dramatic point first… apparently, other people have previously regarded Archie as too invalid to live. When he was discovered in the basement of a hoarding situation at 6 weeks old, he was nearly shot in the backyard. Deemed “too broken to function.” At the last second, he was saved by the next door neighbors and found his way to an animal shelter.
Since then, I know of at least an additional veterinarian who shares the same opinion. Before adopting Archie, I asked the shelter if it would be possible for him to receive one additional checkup to address a concerning potential seizure behavior I’d observed.
Their response? “No, our vet actually wanted to put him down as soon as they saw him, they aren’t going to give you any new information.”
Oh, okay. Good vet you’ve got there.
To be fair, I would never push for a suffering animal to be kept artificially alive. If they can’t have a real quality of life or experience any joy in being on this planet - yeah, it’s best for their pain to end. Buttt… that isn’t Archie. He’s by far the happiest little Fucker I’ve ever had in my life. This dude falls down, slams his face into shit, and wears a smile the entire time. Nothing stops him from trying to live like a normal dog. He looks full of life and excitement all the time.
But from the outside, from judging eyes who are quick to draw conclusions based on their prior understanding of what “normal and functional” looks like - fuckit, let’s put him in the ground. He doesn’t move like other animals. He doesn’t respond like other animals. He doesn’t adapt as quickly as other animals. He doesn’t need to be here.
This is a dark correlation, but, yeah, it does remind me of the external and internal judgements that I’ve felt about myself and my mental health.
No, I’m not always the chillest, most “normal,” easiest person to be around. It can be hard to watch me stumble and fall. I don’t always choose the path to least resistance. I have a more difficult time with some tasks and situations than others.
And, at times, I’ve definitely felt as though I didn’t deserve to be here, largely because of my relative shortcomings. Look at this pathetic animal trying so hard just to survive. Everything is such a challenge. It’s difficult to look at and impossible to help. Wouldn’t it just be easier if I… didn’t try anymore?
As far as I know, nobody has actually tried to exterminate me. But I’ve definitely had influences in my life who wanted me to believe that it was worth just accepting a subpar existence instead of investigating and correcting it. And, in a way, this is the same as giving up on life. Amiright?
Learning to do things others just “can”
I think one of the hardest things for Arch-aroo is watching his fellow broken dog, Samson, go happily trotting off into the sunset while he has to struggle in a wheelchair or loll around on the ground.
He sees Samson - a massive, blind, yellow lab - navigate the house and yard with ease. Sure, he has some bumps and crashes now and then, but for the most part, Samson appears totally functional and free to move through this obstacle course without trouble. Including the slippery, slidery wood floors that send Archie straight on his nose.
Am I anthropomorphizing with this belief that Archie is affected by Samson’s enviable mobility? Totally. But do I see myself in his eagerly incapable puppy eyes? Yes I do.
For my entire life, I’ve wondered how my peers can just… do things.
How do they make friends? How do they keep connections alive? How do they get new jobs? How do they feel comfortable at their old ones? How do they go to new places alone? How do they make big life changes? How do they interact with strangers? How do they establish healthy exercise habits and eating routines? How do they live balanced lives? How do they stand up for themselves? How do they sleep at night? How do they look on the bright side? How do they focus in a public place? How do they filter out that sound without blowing their lid? How do they walk out the door quickly every morning? How do they do it without having a panic attack?
Other humans have been a complete mystery to me, because I don’t feel inherently equipped to do a single fucking thing that this species seems to be otherwise inherently programmed to accomplish. Everything feels hard for me at times. Everything seems foreign. Everything is a learned, forced, challenging skill to tediously tuck under my belt. And once it’s there… uh… I’m quick to misplace it.
I’ve always been comparing myself to others and wishing I could be like them. Thank god, my arms and legs work just fine - the mechanical equipment operates functionally, unlike RG - but the computer that runs the whole thing? It has some programming flaws.
Similar to the way this little dude lies on the grass in his outdoor playpen, staring longingly at Samson as he parades around the yard with blissful ignorance of his anatomical superiority… my peers are totally unaware of how I’ve watched them over the years, berating myself for being so dysfunctional and difficult in comparison to their graceful motions on the planet.
When I’ve previously mentioned any of this to other folks - asking how they motivate themselves to go to the fucking gym, how they can be unaffected by drama at work, how they keep their diets from fluctuating between feast and famine - they react with confusion and casually state that they just… do.
Just like Samson doesn’t think about his legs carrying him one step after another, or ponders the best way to drink water, or worries about losing his balance and falling on his face... just like Archie can’t begin to pretend that he feels the same; we’re not wired for the same activities with the same degree of ease and fluidity as other members of the species.
Unlike Archie, I’ve fucking hated myself for it, but that’s a different story.
Thrashing from the outside
One of the things that’s both funniest and saddest about watching this wheeliepup navigate the world is the way he’s so convinced that he’s doing the right thing while everything is so clearly going so wrong from the outside.
When he decides he’s standing up out of nowhere, with none of the circumstances necessary for success, it’s a total shitshow. His body sways dramatically from side to side, his head doesn’t appear to be attached to the ship, let alone steering the thing, and his legs go thrashing wildly in all directions. He falls, he flops, he scrambles.
He does ahelluvalot more damage to himself in his increasingly wild attempts to keep moving forward than if he just chilled the fuck out. Annnd none of it seems to phase him or cause him to pause for a single second to reassess what could be adjusted for a more efficient plight.
Don’t even get me started on the times when he’s in his popup crib, flying back and forth like a drunken sailor in the middle of a hurricane with a clueless grin on his face, tongue lolling out as he nearly flips the entire boat over.
We watch, we cringe, we try to stop his momentous journey before he actually hurts himself. But, in the end, he’s totally unaware of another way of living and relatively unbothered by the painful and exhausting ordeal.
Reminds me of life in my 20’s.
From the outside, I’m sure it was clear to my older, wiser associates that, uh, I wasn’t making the best moves. I think there were points when my dysfunction shone through the painted-on facade that I tried to craft each day before leaving the house. As I’ve said before, I put a lot of effort into covering my sleeplessness, tears, substance abuse, and dietary destruction at the worst points in my life.
Buuut clearly I didn’t do myself any favors by making the best decisions - I was always half-running, half-falling in a new direction, hoping someone would magically reach out to save me from myself.
Like Archie, I was pretty set on just throwing myself around my environment, crashing wildly into every potential obstacle, and continually scrambling to try to make up for my miscalculations. I never stopped to consider, “Hey, maybe you should see someone for this insane mental strife that you deal with each day so you can approach life from a centered, balanced, coordinated place instead of tripping and falling all over your mental illness for the next 10 years.”
Like Archie, I continued to destroy myself, one misguided effort at a time. Like Archie, it was probably difficult to watch, when you certainly couldn’t reason with me that I just needed to calm down and reassess my approach. To be fair, like Archie, I didn’t really know any other way of life.
Falling on my head? Normal. That’s all I’d ever seen or done, myself. Stumbling through life without a plan? Is there any other way?
In my head, I was doing juuuuust fine. I mean, not fine, I was usually miserable, but I thought I had my “shit together.” I didn’t need any help. What could anyone offer me, anyways? They didn’t know what it was like to be trapped in this chaotic, anxiety-ridden, terrified brain. Despite all my flailing, I always managed to get where I was trying to go, eventually. What else can you ask for?
Well… there probably could have been a more effective, efficient, safe way of doing it. But, hell, I got into Trauma Therapy and got my thrashing to subside eventually. Hopefully Archie will, too.
Going through the motions
Similar to Archie’s wild flopping (I also call him Sargent Scrambles, if anyone wanted to know), there are some misalignments in his head between the “correct” motions and actually doing what’s best for him.
When I say that he suffers from a muscle coordination and movement disorder, make no mistake that the dog knows the basics of how to walk. His legs move the right way when he’s held up in his wheelchair or being supported by my now-super-strong arms as he walks in his harness. He’s got the left-right-left marching down pat.
The real problem is, he doesn’t have the balance or coordination to functionally get anywhere on his own. He hasn’t quite figured out how to make those doggy legs work for him. He’s reached a point where the most basic movements are there, like he’s modelled himself 90% to match the successful beings around him, but something is missing that stops him from truly succeeding.
And, again, as a result, he falls on his fucking face all the time. He slams into obstacles. He’s not best friends with gravity.
So. One of the things that I realized was causing me SO MUCH mental anguish, existential angst, and life disillusion in my mid- to late-20’s when my CPTSD erupted, was the culturally-imparted notion that, “this is it.” I had “done it.” I had gone through the motions. I had done what was expected of me, at least, to a basic degree.
I had gotten good grades in high school, I had been admitted to a respected university, I had earned highest honors in higher education, I had worked my ass off to support myself, I had gotten a good job straight out of college… and now… what? That’s… it… right? Duties done. Now, focus on settling down and just repeat the same day over and over again for the rest of your life. Good job - according to society, you win.
But none of this ever really worked for me. I followed the models that I was presented with, I perfected the basic motions to achieve what I was told, but I still wasn’t really doing it. Not with any balance, coordination, or control over myself, anyways.
Sure, I had an impressive-sounding job. I had a closely knit group of friends. I was financially stable. I was young and attractive, smart, and sometimes entertaining to be around. Technically, things moved in the right direction. But there were more subtle problems that stopped me from really taking off running.
Like, dealing with unfathomable depression that lasted for months or years at a time. Feeling anxious, stressed, and out of control every moment of every day. Struggling with the idea of waking up for another morning of the same old marching ruthlessly towards the end of the line.
The motions were there. The basic knowledge of how to do things properly existed. I knew how to mimic them, at least. Be a good worker bee and keep yourself looking passable from the outside. But there wasn’t that final, missing piece that would actually allow me to carry myself long term.
For Archie, the final piece that’s missing is literal balance. For me, it’s been life-balance. Settling up my mental health problems so I can see straight. Establishing routines that worked for me. Finally identifying a path that I was passionate about and brought excitement to my life… instead of just following in the footsteps of the walking dead that had come before me.
Support can be a hindrance
When I got Archie, he truly was worse for wear than he is now, two months later. I know, it sounds like some patting-on-the-back self-delusions that I’m spinning, but it’s really true. He came from a series of foster homes and failed adopters, and generally, hadn’t been well equipped for a long term existence with anyone.
He arrived with a wheelchair, some play-pen panels, and some fluffy floor coverings to break his falls. Don’t get me wrong, all of these things have been instrumental in Archie’s day to day life. Buuuut they’ve also created some unfortunate habits that have been difficult to deprogram in the spaz-legged puppy.
The biggest hindrance of them all has definitely been his over-reliance on his wheelchair and the harness that strapped him into it.
Of course, he should be able to scoot around. To live the life of a dog, taking walks and snuffing all the sniffs. But, unfortunately, he was strapped into this wheelchair basically 24/7 for the first 6 months of his life… which gave him some unrealistic views about how - again, his worst enemy - gravity, works.
By living in his harness which is tethered to the wheelchair setup, he never had to really worry about making his front end stay up on his own. He was able to drop his entire weight into the harness, and it always caught him. He could lazily stop using his front legs and just hang there, safe and sound, any time he wanted to.
As a result? Like I said, he has no comprehension of gravity or the consequences of just letting himself go limp. He didn’t build up muscle in his front end to support his body. His legs never developed to straighten like a normal dog’s, so he walked on his wrists with horrible-looking bent appendages.
This effort to keep him safe and give him some sort of life was well-intended and kind-hearted. But, in the long run, all the support gave him unrealistic expectations and dysfunctional habits. Reliance on someone and something at all times. It actually set him back a great deal… and I have to wonder how much better off he would be now, if he had been forced to learn to use his legs when he was much smaller, lighter, and closer to the ground instead of doing it as a full-grown dog.
Anyways, in my own life, I wonder how many times people have enabled me to do the same. How many friends and romantic partners - even my mom, at times when she was paying attention - actually enabled me to be a pathetic, codependent, broken creature. How many societal constructs contributed, too.
For instance, when I was having a horrible, depressive spell… I generally had friends who were happy to help me ignore my problems with what seemed like supportive help, but was really emotional and substance-abusing reliance. When I had unrealistic expectations of myself and other people, they were around to validate that my ideals were on-par. When I was clearly making mistakes born of mental illness, I had social influences around to tell me that it was totally normal.
I had support at certain points in my life as things were falling apart, when, honestly, I would probably have been better off dealing with the gravity of them on my own. Learning how my own two feet could support me. Coming to terms with the fact that something was really wrong, and I needed to deal with it instead of hanging uselessly in the constructs that effectively removed all my personal responsibility.
I mean, it all happened eventually, anyways. When I wound up in Atlanta - single, friendless, hundreds of miles away from everyone, and financially fucked… I finally had my time of reckoning. No one to call when I was having a shitty day to offload my feelings onto. No cash stockpile to purchase temporary bandages, in the form of clothing, food, or booze. No validation from my non-existent social network that it was totally normal to feel like an explosive device every day.
And so, I had to learn about how the principles of the world in this meat husk of a human body really worked. For the first time, I, alone, had to be accountable for my feelings. I had to learn to self-sooth. I had to figure out what emotions really were. I had to come up with methods to feed myself healthily, take care of my body, and sleep at night. Previously, none of this was necessary. Other people enabled me to avoid building the muscles that I needed to really walk on my own.
Had any of this happened sooner, I probably would have been better off. Learning basic emotional regulatory skills as a 28-29 year old was not easy. It was a rude awakening every time my knees buckled, my face slammed into the ground, and I had to push myself back up again.
Just like Sargent Scrambles.
Closely linked to the problems with being unrealistically supported, comes the next Archie conundrum. His insistence that he can’t do things.
When he was a puppy, Archie was catered to hand and foot. He scooted around in his wheelchair and he was treated like a king.
When Archie refused to eat like a dog would, Archie was fed handful by handful on the floor. When Archie needed a drink of water, Archie was delivered a hand-held bowl. When Archie hit a tiny bump in his wheelchair, Archie cried until someone pulled him over it. When Archie rode in the car, someone sat in back to hold him.
Annnnd so, Archie never learned to do a fucking thing for himself.
No kidding, I can leave his food and water 6 inches away from his face and he won’t take the initiative to scoot his fucking ass to the life-sustaining substances. Is it because he’s incapable? Fuck no, this dog can MOVE his ass when it suits him. Is it because he’s not hungry or thirsty? No, this can go on alllll day. He can be whining for them the entire time. And he still won’t just stretch his nose or paw the distance between him and the necessary resource to get it hisdamnself.
Archie preferentially peeps, as I call it, over doing anything else. He stares at you with those adorable, excited eyes, and demands that you drop everything you’re doing to deliver him everything he needs. He would probably starve to death if I didn’t give in and push his food (or coach his body) in the right direction.
Outside, if he gets frustrated because his chair is caught on a small obstacle, will he continue to work on the problem to negotiate the cart in the right direction? Hell nah. He’ll promptly abandon the idea, hold perfectly still, and cry. I can walk away, go inside, try to prompt him to keep trying… but he doesn’t give a fuuuuck. He will just stand and wait for the sweet relief of death in his garden-hose determined prison because he doesn’t try hard enough to scoot one wheel in front of the other.
Why is he such a useless, ineffective soul? Because he literally doesn’t realize that he has to do it himself or that he’s capable of doing it himself. Better to just lay pathetically on the floor or hang in his wheelchair, give up, and wait for some magical beast to save his ass.
Can you relate? I can. Here’s the worst Complex Trauma hallmark again - learned helplessness.
In my life, I’ve definitely had periods where I stood, staring at a tiny obstacle crying. I’ve told myself that trying was futile. I’ve convinced myself that I was an invalid, incapable of doing what I needed to do. And it’s happened an embarrassing number of times - though, when it’s actually occurring, I never feel like that’s reality, of course.
I don’t make the conscious decision to be a sad, self-damning creature anymore than Archie does. But based on my history, there are things I’ve learned I can and can’t do. Issues I can’t resolve. Areas of life where I’ve sincerely hustled in the past, only to be disappointed and disempowered. Ways that I haven’t built up the self-confidence and fortitude to try things on my own.
Have there been times that I’ve basically pulled an Archie with my food? Yep. “Leave me here to die, I can’t gather the energy to go to the kitchen, let alone get to the grocery store.” Have I forfeited my life to terrible workplaces and relationships? Totally. I rarely feel like I have control over those areas. Have I let my life devolve into the stinking shit pit that results from agoraphobia, untreated depression, and utterly wild anxiety? Yeah, and I genuinely didn’t try to find psychological support for years because I “couldn’t.”
With decades of Trauma comes decades of feeling hopeless and helpless. Getting trapped in bad places. Struggling for a while… until the effort is just too great to muster, year after year.
And so, like Archie, we don’t try. We probably never learned how to try in a lot of important realms of life. Your family saying “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” is as effective as me telling my puppy to get a job already.
Like Archie, we have to be shown that it’s possible. Or, finally reach the point when we’re actually about to perish because our lack of effort has driven us to the brink of wasting away.
Again, these lessons would have been much easier to learn earlier in my life than my late 20’s. YOU ARE CAPABLE, YOU JUST HAVE TO TRY DESPITE THE DISCOMFORT, NO ONE IS GOING TO COME TAKE CARE OF YOU. But hey, at least I can manage to get to the grocery store now. I won’t just lay in the yard and wait for hypothermia to take me anymore.
Hopefully, Archie will learn one day, too.
Another fun fact about Archie is he has some sort of secondary neurological wiring issue, which I fondly call “Wormtime.”
What is Wormtime? It’s a strange behavior pattern when Archie first shakes his head, like a normal dog would to get excess water out of their coat… and then his entire body stiffens for a few seconds as he launches himself forward.
Functionally, it results in him either: 1) boi-oi-oinging in his wheelchair with all four legs off the ground, stiff as arrows, like a reverse superman pose or 2) flying forward onto the ground, straight on his face, as his legs become unusable and he grinds his head into the grass.
After a few seconds his muscles relax, and Archie proceeds with a stupid fucking grin like nothing just happened. It doesn’t phase him at all. He doesn’t even seem to mind the part where he eats shit and writhes around on the ground involuntarily like a caterpillar... And that’s a good thing, because it happens roughly 100 times a day. Usually, at inopportune moments when I’m trying to teach him something or work on physical therapy. “Annnnd there he goes, it’s wormtime,” I say, as my shoulders are ripped out of their sockets.
What on earth does this one have to do with Traumatized Motherfuckers? Well, I think we’ve probably all experienced Freeze States before.
You know, that awesome experience when you’re overstimulated by triggers and fear responses, so your body just… stops everything. Hold the phone, there’s no point in moving right now. Don’t send any energy to the language center of your brain. Shuttle all your resources to the core of your body, so you’re essentially immobilized. Let’s stare at a wall for a while.
If you haven’t learned about Freeze States yet… there’s an episode for that.
Essentially, we go into a Freeze State as a final option in the Fight/Flight/Fawn/Freeze survival pattern when our brains have determined that the obstacle before us is too serious for any action to actually help. You’re walking in the woods, you see a grizzly, your brain knows you don’t have a chance if you attempt to slap him, skip away, or compliment his shiny coat; you freeze.
For me, this has happened many times in work, social, and domestic situations. If there’s a person-to-person conflict, my brain tends to hit the emergency switch and all systems power down. Just the right sort of stimulation short-circuits the whole computer, and I’m left, well… unable to move my body or mouth, that’s for sure.
As a functional survival mechanism, this Freeze would last a few seconds; just long enough for the interpreted danger to pass. In our dysfunctionally powerful survival brains as Trauma survivors, though, this Freeze State can be triggered inappropriately and last much longer than necessary. As such, it can become dysfunctional in the context of my aforementioned triggers - conflict in work and social situations.
Nothing like getting into a minor disagreement with a coworker and finding yourself just blanking out, unable to express your reasoning for a simple choice. Or, my favorite, having a social situation suddenly seem hostile and being unable to defend or explain yourself. In a more dramatic situation, finding your arms and legs immobile as your significant other starts to become physically intimidating or belligerent.
As I watch Archie boi-oi-oing in his wheelchair at the worst possible times (i.e. on a downward incline, as gravity takes him away), I am reminded of this Freeze State overlap. His brain is doing something similar, shuttling energy away from his muscle control center in a moment of overstimulation, just like mine does.
When the moment passes, it’s time to carry on like nothing ever happened. Let’s just forget about that weird time when my brain broke and I ate shit while everyone watched with confused, bated breath, unsure what to do. It happens sometimes… and more often than I’d really like.
Alright, Fuckers… you know I wouldn’t wrap this up without touching on a Traumatized Motherfucker’s key characteristic.
Going back to what I said in the first place - about people asserting that Archie should be put out of his misery because he’s too broken to live easily like a dog. Yeah, it’s true, he has a lot of extra challenges and incapabilities compared to your average whatever-doodle down the street (ps - fuck those dogs), but do you think Archie sees it that way?
Based on that tongue-lolling, clueless smile he’s always wearing with a twinkle in his eye as he finishes plowing into a wall, the floor, or myself... I would vehemently guess that he does not consider himself handicapped.
When you meet Archie, you meet the happiest fucking dog on the planet. This dog is unaffected by the several homes he’s lived in, the limited options for how he navigates the world, or the constant face-smashing he endures. Just jangle your car keys and watch that Fucker go running and BOUNDING through the yard in his cart with such enthusiasm that his legs fly in every direction. Ask him if he’s ready for playpen time and get out of the way as he cartoonishly sprints with a shit-eating grin.
Look at this dog and tell me that he’s not deserving of a life? That his experience is too difficult for him to endure it?
Nothing gets this resilient puppy down. Even when it so literally does.
There’s no doubt, Archie had a rough start. He’s been through a lot already, and every day is a question of what’s going to happen next. But every day he also demonstrates a degree of improvement in one area or another.
Where he used to hang, completely reliantly, on his wheelchair and harness, he now prances around the yard without any front-support in his chair. As he previously couldn’t even sit down without rapidly swaying and falling over like an extremely drunk sailor. Where he used to stand up and maybe get 2-5 steps before wiping out hard, he now can span a solid 20-30 feet on a good run.
Fucking look at this animal and tell me he doesn’t deserve a chance. That he can’t learn to live like every other dog. That his circumstances have defined his entire life. Tell me this dog is damaged, defeated, or doomed.
I’ll show you one real Motherfucker who staunchly disagrees, even as his body goes stiff and he rolls away down a decline. It might take a few minutes, but with a little encouragement, he’ll turn around and scramble back up eventually.
And that, my frans, is my final Archie metaphor.
Alright, that went better than expected. Maybe my 5am Archie exercise thoughts aren’t so delirious, after all.
I truly feel like he’s a gift on this stupid planet - here to teach a lot of people a lot of things. Even on the days when he’s being a pathetic turd and peeping over food 3 inches away from his face, I feel so lucky to be able to see it all unfold first hand.
There are times when I’m exasperated with him. When I don’t think I’m doing anything right. When I fear that he’s going to really hurt himself if I let him struggle on his own.
And then there are the reminders every few hours, when I see him fall flat on his funny, shark mouthed face, and get right the fuck back up… and I know he’s going to be just fine. He just needs the support to learn a few new skills, to stop living in the cage created by things he hasn’t experienced yet, and to perfect the finer areas of finding balance.
But, fuck, don’t we all.