The Dog in the Road

When I was growing up, our neighbors had an overweight dachshund named Lady. She was a classic “weiner” dog. My memory tells me she was about three feet long and had legs about 10 inches tall. When our neighbors would go on a vacation in the summer, their grass would grow tall and Lady’s belly would make a path through it, from the back door of the garage out to the street. Lady would take to laying in the middle of the street, causing quite a commotion for cars trying to get through the narrow road. At the time, we kids thought it was funny and thought the dog was just a dumb dog. But actually, she was pretty smart. She was upset and lonely and didn’t know what to do with herself. So she’d go lay in the middle of the street, where people would pet her and talk nice to her and try to get her to move out of the way. She was too heavy (and too cranky) for anyone to pick her up and move her, so we were all at her mercy.

In our house today, we have a black lab mix named Diva, who tops out at a whopping 110 pounds. She has “issues” and no one ever really tries to tell Diva what to do. Diva is fearful of thunder and firecrackers, and will hide out in my clothes closet for hours on end until she’s convinced it’s all clear. No amount of food or dog treats will get her to leave that closet. But drive a UPS truck down the street and you’d swear she’s a ferocious tiger who hasn’t eaten in a week. And no amount of food or treats will get her to walk away from the windows overlooking the street and that brown truck.

Diva loves to go for walks, but sometimes when we put on her leash and step out the front door, she’ll stop dead in her tracks, take a few good sniffs of the air, and turn and head back into the house. There is no cajoling her into a walk on those days, and not enough strength in my husband’s arms to drag the dog out of the house. She is dead weight. And she’s not moving until she decides to move. We wish we knew what she smells on the air that causes her to turn and go back in the house. We wish she could talk to us and tell us what’s on her mind. Anyone know a dog whisperer?

We’ve all known dogs such as Lady and Diva. We’ve all had experience with trying to move a dog—or horse, mule, cow, pig—that didn’t want to move. Sometimes it’s funny as can be. Other times, it’s so frustrating you just want to scream.

Lately, this analogy of a dog in the road has been on my mind a lot. In many ways, my youngest daughter has become a similar creature. No matter the many morsels of sweet temptations I present to her, or the countless threats and scoldings I issue forth, Brianna is stuck in the middle of the road, unable to move, unable to process any thoughts (that I know of), unable to hold her weight and tally forth. Not an inch. She just stagnates. And she seems to just love it. She’s not unhappy, although some days she gets in a mood and causes all kinds of drama asking what value there is in life. Much like Lady the dog who’d lay in the middle of the road waiting for people to pet her and tell her what a pretty dog she was, Brianna seems to need the attention once in a while and she’s learned drama is the quickest way to get it.

I’m grateful for having experienced fewer drama-filled episodes in the last six months. That tells me the parenting choices I’ve been making have delivered the correct message. Well, at least that’s what I want to believe anyway. I’m still looking for a “maturity pill” I can slip into Brianna’s food. And I’m still trying to get her to develop a “plan” for what her life looks like in the next month, three months, six months. But mostly, I’m absolutely frustrated by the fact that she is that one-hundred-pound, cranky dog laying in the middle of the road. No amount of treats or screams or large cars (or even brown trucks) can cause her to move. I’m open to new ideas. Again I ask, anyone know a dog whisperer?

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