I got a dog named Betty.
Betty is a 110 pound rottweiler.
Betty doesn’t bite all the time.
She bites when something happens.
She’s a dog so she’s unable to communicate what those things are in advance.
She doesn’t like when people approach her while she’s in front of me.
She doesn’t like when people touch her face.
She doesn’t like when people grab her feet.
She doesn’t like people who are aggressive.
She doesn’t like being abandoned.
She doesn’t like the rain.
She doesn’t like strangers who are running or walking fast toward her.
She doesn’t like the way I pet her sometimes because I have lots of energy and like having a dog that I can handle a little bit.
Betty doesn’t like to be handled.
Betty bites me.
Betty has bitten me at least five times since I have owned her.
I haven’t always had to go to the emergency room.
I have a web of scars from defensive wounds on my right arm.
She once bit a friend of mine in the face.
My friend’s eye was ok but she needed nineteen stitches.
Betty doesn’t always bite when she gets triggered, but she’s always scary.
I decided to get her behavior training and to always keep a muzzle on her while outside.
That she was no touch when inside.
But I wasn’t always good at enforcing those boundaries,
In the same way that I’m bad at enforcing my own.
And people would learn to be afraid of her.
And I would see the fear when Betty was being friendly.
And they would be unable to turn it off.
The fear of the reaction.
The fear happens for me now more and more.
She wants petting and I can give it to her up until a point.
When Rottweilers get fully relaxed, they start to “purr,”
And when Betty starts to purr, it sounds a lot like the way she growls.
It’s off by a hair of a note, and I’ve made mistakes determining which was which before.
Because Betty loves petting.
She’ll burrow into you to remind you that she’s close and ready to be pet
The way that any dog does.
But when I start petting her, I have to be careful to touch her only in specific places.
I have to watch her mouth to make sure she’s having fun and not warning me to stop.
I have to be ready to snatch my hand away quickly in case fun turns to danger.
And I stop every time she starts to purr.
Because I just don’t want to risk that the sound that is her deep at peace
Is secretly a threat that I’m not keyed into.
But she’s laying on my body, all 110 pounds of her,
And her face is in my face, telling me that she’ll be a good girl if I keep petting.
And me frozen, crying.
Trying to tell her to get off of me but unable to push her without fear of being bitten.
Crying and asking for her to move.
We are in an untenable relationship.
And at the same time, I am her human.
I can’t imagine giving her up.
Turning her over for adoption.
She was my companion through the pandemic.
And as much as her reactions are so strong that they prevent me from having relationships in particular ways, they kept me protected or did at least when I felt very scared to walk the world.
And so she kept me safe.
And so I keep her safe.
Me unable to touch her.
Her unable to comfort me.
I have trauma.
I am a 300+ pound human.
I don’t bite all the time.
I bite when something happens.
I don’t always know the ways that things will affect me and so I’m not always able to communicate what those things are in advance.
I don’t like being touched without permission.
I don’t like being yelled at.
I don’t like being lied to or feeling like someone is manipulating me.
I don’t like being slapped.
I don’t like having to claim the space to exist.
I don’t like being abandoned.
I don’t like forgetting things.
I don’t like boys trying to restrain or injure me.
I have memories for all of these things, and still it can be hard to hold on to them all at once.
Instead, they tend to come back one at a time, suddenly and unbidden, told in riddles.
Some of them have had to be deciphered over many years.
Because each was a trauma that made me feel a different way.
Each was a trauma that needed a different tool or skill to handle.
Each was a story that my body held onto, stories that it tried to tell me again and again.
I can vacillate from passive to aggressive depending on where my triggers are getting hit,
What soft underbelly of mine is being touched in the wrong way.
I have been violent.
I have been loud.
I have been hurtful.
I have runaway again and again.
And sometimes I freeze.
And I forget how to ask the person to back up or to give me space.
Because as much as I need space in those moments,
I need comfort.
I fawn, not wanting comfort to leave once I've found something soft and warm to hold onto.
My life has been one where I scare off the people that want to give me comfort.
That my purr and my growl often sound the same.
Whether I’ve bitten them, or gotten too excited that someone chose to pet me,
Eventually I stop getting the affection that I so desperately crave, because I have forgotten how to ask for it.
Because I am bad at boundaries.
At knowing what they are supposed to be.
At enforcing them when my energy and attention is low.
At feeling self-worth for holding my boundaries.
Because the personal attention I am used to feels so different.
I feel valuable when my boundaries are ignored.
When my value is usurped by my usefulness.
I have gotten better at finding people to play with that treat me nicely.
But it hasn’t always been that way.
From my earliest relationships, I have been handled poorly.
I don’t like being handled.
I don’t want an owner and I feel like a pitiable stray.
I hope one day, I can see myself for the strong, independent human that I have helped raise.
That I can accept how much I have healed and deserve love and compassion.
How worthy I am of those things simply for existing in the world.
That someone won’t have to stay with me out of pity or misplaced loyalty or continuing patterns of abuse.
That I won’t have to continue to have to pity myself or have misplaced loyalty in the egos that have kept me safe or continue patterns of abuse, either internally or externally.
That I don't have to stay with those versions of me, either.
I will find the way to heal because I must.
Because I hurt and continue to hurt others.
And I don’t want to hurt others anymore.
And I don’t want to hurt myself anymore.
And I don’t want to hurt anymore.
I want to love.
I want to live.
I want to breathe.
I want to cry.
I want to laugh.
I want to be free.
I want to be with you.
And I don’t want you to be afraid.
I don’t want to be afraid of me, either.
I will find the way.