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Can an old dog learn new tricks?

July 31, 2011

When the question is approached literally, I am a firm believer. I have been working in animal shelters for about five years now and have personally seen very old dogs suddenly dumped by their owners (some just depressed because of the situation, some beaten, some blind, deaf or worse). Over and over again these forgotten animals are placed into new homes in which they thrive even more so than in the original. Yet most adopters think they must “mold” their dog from the time of puppyhood. I have noticed the Pit Bull’s particular ability to overcome abuse and neglect  (research some of the Michael Vick’s cases, who are now rehabilitated). In my opinion the Pit Bull mix is the most forgiving “breed”; willing to forgive, even if they never forget. The most loyal of dogs, they will do whatever their owner tells them (eventually) and this is why they are chosen by crappy owners to do crappy things. So, all in all, as we approach this question, the answer always depends on the person.

After being with my girlfriend for two years it was time to introduce her to my grandparents. I was not only terrified, but did a great job in convincing her she should be. “Just ignore my grandfather. He’s a racist, a homophobe and will say horrible things to you. We are used to it, it’s no big deal”. I have a big Irish/Italian family and they would all be in attendance for my official coming out. I love my father’s family and was surrounded by them growing up. That being said, it was mostly my mother’s side that instilled in me the power of tolerance, acceptance and a love for activism. I was excited about seeing the family, as they migrated to North Carolina five years ago (I am a coastal snob). Yet the little voice inside of me  kept repeating “they are not going to look at you as their first grandchild anymore… they will not accept this, as they don’t accept others… and they are going to hate you”.

Older than ever, my grandparents welcomed Agnes and I with open arms. They were so excited to see me, and accepted her almost immediately; they were interested in our lives, in who she was, and who I had become. I had underestimated them due to my previous experiences. I do that all the time, in every aspect of my life. As I continue to grow up I urge myself to overestimate people, or at least just estimate them. Younger generations can actually change the outlook of those older. I never thought I’d see the day my father raised a bi-racial baby, but my brother brought his child home two years ago and my parents now raise a two year old girl named Blanca Skye. Maybe in the future my grandfather will defend same sex couples during a senior center gathering, because somebody he loved forced him to see the light. Hiding who we are out of fear is never the answer… because if we present ourselves to those who loves us, they might actually change their minds (because minds work at any age).

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 1, 2011 7:48 am

    It seems that if we give them a chance, people can surprise us. Glad it was a good experience for you.

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