I got the following letter yesterday, on the heels of my latest column being published in our diocesan newspaper. This week and last week were a two-part series about the dog:
I simply cannot understand why you think your failure as a dog owner is newsworthy. Why broadcast to every reader your shortcomings in understanding the risks and responsibilities associated with having a dog; your failure to make the dog a “family” responsibility; your inability to cope with one of God’s helpless creatures who was totally dependent upon you for survival; your unwillingness to love unconditionally; and your self-serving attitude to absolve your guilt? Really, your credibility took a sharp dive! Thank goodness the dog has found a loving forever home. Unfortunately, too many don’t. You certainly didn’t help their cause. Suggest you stick to more church-relevant topics and less personal adventures in life, especially when it makes you look so…well, bad.
I responded to the reader that I appreciated what she had to say but, well, honesty and full-disclosure is sometimes part of the deal:
Thanks so much for taking the time to write. I always enjoy hearing from a reader — even in a heated situation such as this.Why take the time to air my failings? Well, as a dog lover I’m sure you will appreciate that I’m trying to help another family avoid making the same mistake. I made a big mistake — I was very short-sighted and naive, didn’t think through what it takes to have a dog and give that wonderful creature the attention he deserves. How horrible for this to happen to another family. How sad! We were lucky because a family right across the street – a family with other dogs and older children — was able to take our wonderful Enzo and give him the attention he deserves. I’m sure other families wouldn’t be so lucky to have someone right there, ready to take on this huge responsibility.I write about my victories and I also write about my failures. This is how I am honest with my readership. This is part of what I feel like I’m called to do, to encourage others, and specifically other moms. If I can help even one young mother in a similar situation as mine, someone who is considering getting a dog because she thinks it would be great (but who has no clue what exactly this will entail) then I am happy to air my shortcomings and failures. And I don’t really see this as a failure. I didn’t give the dog to the pound — no grave ill came his way. This was a life lesson and as a family life columnist, this is what I share with my readership.I am so sorry my column this week rubbed you the wrong way. But I do appreciate your feedback.Best,Rachel
And that explains to you, dear readers, why I write some of the things I do. Because it’s just the kind of writing I feel called to. Maybe it’s my journalism background (just the facts, ma’am), maybe I’m using this space as free therapy (my goodness I feel better when I get these words out of my brain). But ultimately, I write from a place of wanting to encourage — of wanting people (women in particular) to know they are not alone. I have an amazing support network, people I trust and can really share my heart with. And in the midst of these conversations with friends, we get to sharing about our highs and lows, and I always walk away feeling encouraged and cared for. For me, when I know the things I’m struggling with are not crazy or weird, it helps me and encourages me.
Right around the same time I got that first letter, I received another, more encouraging letter:
I didn’t see a place to comment on your Enzo posts, but I wanted to tell you I love to hear stories like this because to me it is inspiring when people give up and do what they need to do for themselves and their families!
I understand why you felt the need to defend yourself, but I was kinda laughing because the whole time I was reading about what you did I was thinking she ROCKS! She didn’t buckle down and make her life harder – she just gave up! Cool! Ha ha – I think sometimes as moms (sometimes I’m saying) it’s best just to be weak in the things that don’t really matter as much. It sounds like Enzo has a great home. Your kids can have dogs as adults! Good luck to them.
So that’s where I’m coming from with all this. And I do find it funny that this dog issue ended up being such a hot-button topic when I so often deliberately avoid issues that I know will stir the pot. There is so much going on in the world, in politics and the church and society in general, that I think about and never ever ever write about because that’s not the kind of writing I do.
But talk about a dog and suddenly you find yourself at the center of the debate. It’s a very interesting place to be.