There is an adage about the trail of “garbage” flowing from highest to lowest point. I will spare you the particular vernacular, good Christian woman that I am, but suffice it to say that there is a certain curse word involved. I’m pretty sure it originated on “The Sopranos.”
From Noah (though he is beloved) flows much garbage. I’m realizing this to a greater daily extent now that we have a puppy. Our older family dog, Jackson is too tired to fight Noah’s molestations; his tail-pulling, his attempts to ride him (Jackson’s 40 pounds and a mere 18 inches high). God bless Jackson’s tan little heart. We’ve been spared many a trip to the emergency room by simple virtue of his advancing age and disinterest in fighting back. Similarly, our massive guinea pig is subjected to finger pokes through his habitat, while Noah grunts and yells at him. I often open Noah’s door to find the guinea pig high above his head like the cub Simba in the “Lion King.”
The fish escapes everything, what with that glass cube of a tank she lives in. Noah doesn’t like slime. Plus, the hole in the top is too small for Noah to get his hand through.
Zelda, however? Well. She gives Noah the what-for. She is prone to bursts of puppy energy, nippy behavior, tugs-of-war, and barking fits. Unfortunately, all this feeds Noah’s aggression. Noah’s heart is pure, his spirit is merciful. But his lack of empathy extends to both his siblings AND his dogs. I’ve seen Noah wrap his hands around Zelda’s throat and shove her to the ground with all the force he can muster. I’ve seen him kick her and pull her ears. Thank God for another wonderful companion because Zelda thinks it’s all a game. Despite these beat-downs, she continues to lick her gratitude and love all over the face of anyone who pets her. And my pleas to Noah that “It hurts her!” and “How would you feel if YOU were kicked?” are useless. I get the “I’m just playing, mom!” or “I wouldn’t like it if someone kicked me.” These are the practiced answers that temporarily satisfy me. Then, when my back is turned he’s right back at it again.
Of the group of children in the neighborhood, Noah is the eldest. He’s daily reminded to set a good example. And it starts with the “least of these” (Matthew 25:40) – the animals we’re blessed by God to be loved by. So my heart burns with the anxiety that the pets we love – they who don’t understand Asperger’s or the fact that Noah loves them despite their mistreatment – might be better suited to another house. I worry that as the years wane, Zelda will become aggressive toward others because of what she was dealt at a young age.
Though these worries result in only hypothetical action. We are animal “lifers.” Didn’t give up dogs after having kids, didn’t flush the Betta down the toilet though she looked more algae than animal. Didn’t even give away the guinea pig after Noah’s room started to smell like a petstore in the Florida everglades. Our family has committed to loving these animals for as long as we are blessed to have them, as we are commanded to. “The righteous care for the needs of their animals” (Proverbs 12:10). We strive for righteousness in the care of all those entrusted to us. So Noah will go on being reminded to be gentle, kind, and mindful. Even if he doesn’t understand how. And maybe we can redirect the flow.