Saturday, July 02, 2011

It wasn't about the dog park, it's about autism

One of the advantages of having a blog (not to include the adoration, popularity and buckets of money being thrown my way) is that I have a forum where I get the last word. Sometimes, that's helpful. So I can tell you about my run in with the crazy woman at the dog park last night and that might be healing.

Last night was just like any other summer night. The days are so hot that we wait to take the dog to the park until evening. That works well, most of the time. Poppy was her usual boisterous self, bouncing from one dog to the next, having a grand old time. There is a smallish Austrailian Sheperd that is pretty obnoxious. It flits back and forth, trying to herd the dogs, barking in their faces. I have seen it there for the last week or so. It likes to bark at Poppy. She pretty much takes it stride, the way she takes it all in stride. She is big, bouncy, but harmless. She is big, and black, and that seems to put people on edge who aren't familiar with Newfoundlands. Read: just about most people. There is even a name for it among newfy owners: Big Black Dog Syndrome.

Poppy figures that since this dog is yapping in her face, she must want to play, so they were chasing and bouncing, so far nothing out of the ordinary. The little dog was on its back and Poppy was standing over it, the way dogs do. This crazy nut job went over and started kicking my dog! You need to understand, I am rarely more than six feet away at any given time, and usually even closer than that. I am the original "helicopter parent" when it comes to my dog. At any point, if she starts getting too rambunctious, or if the other dog looks like he isn't having fun, I pull her out of the fray, and we take a break. I am a responsible owner. I read books, I educate myself. I have learned dog body language and figured out what to watch for. My dog is not aggressive. And even in play, I would never allow my dog to go too far with another dog. So when this, for want of a better word, bitch, started kicking my dog I lost it.

I would never hit anyone. But I started yelling at her. She tried to say my dog was "biting" hers. Her dog was driving the play! Some other guy (I cannot call him a man) who was so good at watching his dog that I never even knew which dog was his (that's sarcasm) said it was my fault and I needed to get my dog under control. Know this: Poppy is at the dog park five or six times a week. She does not have a control problem. I can pull her out when the play gets to be too much. She takes a time out. After she was attacked by another dog (and I was bitten) I worked really hard on this. His accusations were completely unfounded.

One of the most frustrating things that I find about myself is that if I am in the right and I feel persecuted, I cannot have an argument when it gets heated. I lose all eloquence and cannot form a coherent thought. Basically, I sound like an idiot. This time, not only did that happen, I was going to cry. Time to get the hell out of there. My brain short-circuited. As I was leaving, I uttered words to make a sailor blush. I am not proud of my behavior, and I am furious at myself for acting that way. Fight or Flight kicked in and I lost it.

Once I got to the car, I burst into tears, and promptly had a panic attack. I couldn't breathe and I felt like my heart was in shards. I continued to cry after we got home, locked myself in my room, and just couldn't function. What the hell is the matter with me? I just don't know. But after sleeping on it, I think I know a bit more of what set me off.

I have a stressful life. It isn't anyone's fault; it's just the way the cards were dealt. Most of the time, it's ok. Last night, it just hit the fan. I was devastated that someone was rejecting my dog. While you may want to laugh at that, consider this: it was just one more special-needs "kid" in my family who was snubbed. In other words, it was a trigger for me.

For the last seventeen or so years, I have watched one or another of my children struggle to make friends, be accepted, be loved. I have stood by while being silently judged, "WHY can't you stop that child from tantruming/having trouble with social stimuli/being rigid?" I have endured the cold shoulder from parents who have decided that my child isn't worthy of their child's time because she is "different." I have watched my son embarrass himself in front of others and be completely oblivious of their reaction. I have seen my daughter be left out of social events because she doesn't like the same things as her peers, and watched her cry over her lack of acceptance. So, no, I will not apologize for losing it at the dog park when people who had no idea about actual dogs judged my dog as beneath theirs. I will not.

I realize how ridiculous this sounds. She's a dog. I get it. For me, it was about more than the dog. I had a reason to be angry over my dog's treatment, but the anger I really felt was misplaced. It was grief.

Over the years, I have had to come to terms with the fact that I did not give birth to cheerleaders. There is no Big Man On Campus in my home. Indeed, there is no campus. None of my children will get the lead in the school play, though they might be in the chorus. I did not give birth to "popular" kids. The phone doesn't ring for play dates much. I am actually ok with this. What I am not ok with is how others see them. They are smart, generally well-mannered (if you don't count the twelve year old and his twelve-year old boy behavior) and loving children. They deserve better. They deserve friends who like them for who they are. And they deserve grown ups, who should know better, that give them a chance and don't automatically write them off as playmate for their kids because they are "different." I am fucking tired of this. That's right, I just used "fucking" on my blog, for the first time, ever. I am done.

So. You are on notice. If you snub my child, I will call you on it. I will try to do it kindly, but I will do it. In an era when we are trying to pay attention to others' rights and difficulties, I will call you on bad behavior, leaving out my children simply because they have autism. I am done being nice. Now I am fighting back.

7 sent chocolate:

Mamacita (Mamacita) said...

I hope you can feel this hug from across the miles. . . .

And may I recommend a novel: "Ingathering," by Zenna Henderson. It's all about being different.

Anonymous said...

You were restrained. If someone kicked my dog I'd kick them. In fact when I was fifteen I broke a thug's arm that was kicking my dog at the local park.

Imagine what I would do if it were either of my kids?

And yes, I do not ever tolerate people judging my child and will call them be it in a supermarket, at school or elsewhere.

Probably why the name suits so much, eh?


PS If you change your comment box to popup the blogger issues of signing in, etc, cease. Cheers.

Nancy said...

Way to go mama. The kids and Poppy are lucky to have you.

I do the same thing when I get caught off guard by my anger. I go from a well-educated professional woman to a incoherently babbling idiot with the logic of a Chihuahua on crack.

Blessed Rain said...


As the mother of "normal" children I can honestly say I value their Autistic friends for showing me that young children with mild parent influence do have kind hearts and can be AWESOME friends with an Autistic child.

While you may see bad kids being mean - I see bad parenting behind the "bad" kids.

Kids on a whole when very little have more acceptance then anyone else in the whole world!

I also agree I don't care how crazy you come off - defend your babies! (dog included)

OakMonster said...

Dessert is sooo on my tomorrow night. :)


Accidental Expert said...

I did something very similar a couple of weeks back. I totally snapped and went off on someone, later to realize it had to do with all the stress of many similar issues with my kids. BTW...if the dog owners can't handle a little puppy play, they should skip the dog park next time.

Laurel said...

I just read this, and almost cried. I totally understand reaching the end of your rope, and something that's just the last straw triggers your own personal meltdown. I've been there, many times. It isn't pretty, but it's real. Thankfully, I have family and friends that can handle me being real.

And, I totally understand the 12 year old boy thing. They are wired for gross/inappropriate/out of left field behavior - multiply that times Aspergers in our son's case, and life can get pretty surreal.

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