Sunday, May 9, 2010

On this Mother's Day, family is at the forefront of my mind. I'm reflecting on the good, the bad and the ugly of family life and I came up with a truly amazing realization. A common thread of all families is that they are each unique. That's one of those thoughts that seems almost to contradict itself. Like the freedom to criticize the government is a byproduct of freedom of speech itself. But I digress. Each family must be different in that their members are individuals. The melding of these individuals creates a pack that works together (mostly) for survival.

Dogs do this exceptionally well. They are accepting of each member and each individual's strengths and weaknesses determine their role. I watch Nyxie and Arwen work out their daily dramas with finesse. Gracefully, they find solutions without sacrificing self and pack. It's really quite amazing to watch this dance.

Resource acquisition is a big divider among dogs. Food, toys, beds, us. These are their potential fight triggers. Who gets to eat first, which toys each has to chew on at any given time, who gets to lay next to Dad. What I've found is that they are able to take turns with theses things and what might be a source of contention one day is not on the next. These simple, primitive creatures have worked out one of our biggest struggles: When to struggle and when to compromise.

My stepdaughter came to us shell shocked and had to learn to adapt to her new home. She did this carefully, as a new shelter adoptee would into a new family. As she becomes more familiar, she is expressing herself more confidently and showing us her individual persona more honestly. Of course, the pack of Matt and me has functioned beautifully for almost 10 years without human newcomers. We've brought in dogs with ease, a ferret, but a human requires more patience. A developing, hurt human even more so.

I've recently had an epiphany of sorts. If our pack is to be successful, we must learn how to integrate this new pup with grace, like the girls handle each other. Learning which battles to engage and which to let pass. See the lucky thing about our pack is that every member was chosen. By one or both or all, we were each chosen. The dogs didn't have that luxury with one another. We can do better.

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