Blog: The new normal
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A new member joined my animal family on Saturday -- Butter.

I renamed him, even though I typically turn up my nose when people rename an adopted dog. It always smacks of human ego to me. The poor dog's going through a rehoming, it's not like he needs to adjust to a brand new name, too. But this time I cut myself some slack. Butter didn't know any name because I got him from the National Mill Dog Rescue.

He's a 10-year old American Eskimo. Buttery white, fluffy and delicious. Butter.

Puppy mill dogs live in horrible conditions. They're held in cages out in the elements with little to no human contact, and when it does come, it's rough and unkind.

Butter lived for 10 years somewhere in Arkansas, the NMDR folks told me, acting as a stud to produce the puppies often sold in pet stores. (I would be remiss if I didn't offer up my own plea here: Please don't buy a puppy from a pet store.)

He's never known what it means to be a dog. He missed out on socialization with his own kind and with the human kind, and it shows. He's scared. The whites of his eyes grow large when he's nervous or something weird just happened. And with a puppy mill dog, everything is weird because they haven't seen much in their lifetimes.

Oh, and my fluffy white guy is missing his front left leg. The NMDR folks weren't sure what happened to it, they said. Though the puppy mill people told them some story, it was probably just that -- a story. Apparently, they're not to be trusted (imagine that) and much of what they say are lies.

I brought my Butter home and he scampered as best he could on three legs around my backyard. He's hesitant to walk in and out of the house, and with three legs, going down stairs is a danger, though one he willingly chose when I turned my back for a second. I won't let that happen again.

He's not entirely sure what to do with the food in a bowl I give him, and the cat is a demon. Though in Butter's defense, Frank the cat certainly hasn't swung by with the welcome wagon.

But my new guy is sweet and submissive. He's good with my first dog, loves a gentle brushing of his gorgeous long white coat and seems to love a belly rub. It makes my heart happy when his little stump of a furry tail sometimes wags back and forth when I greet him in the morning or after coming home.

I'm back on housetraining duty, which I haven't done in 11 years since my first dog was a puppy, and I must carefully supervise any interactions with the cat. I'm also getting a little extra workout carrying him up and down the stairs to the backyard. 

My life is different now. This is my new normal and it takes some getting used to. Any change -- one you hoped for or not, or one you perceive as positive or negative -- is a stressor.

I keep reminding myself there must be time to allow things to settle. It's like you've stirred up a big ol' dust cloud, and now the grains must each, one by one, float softly down and realign. And you know they'll never land in the same pattern again.

I offer you patience and faith if you're going through your own period of adjusting to a new normal. Whether it be incorporating a new animal into your life, coming to terms with an injury or diagnosis or the end of a friendship or romance, just breathe, take good compassionate care of yourself (don't be afraid to say no. or yes) and let the dust cloud settle.

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