Friday, October 20, 2006


A message, without a name, tells me that I have disappointed them. That I would come home 'for a dog' when there were 'perhaps hundreds' of people with disabilities that could have been helped through the lecture that I cancelled was 'ridiculous'. I'm told that my committment to people with disabilities must 'not be very deep' if I could make a decision like that. The message ends telling me that 'you aren't who I thought you were'.

At first I was stung. Then angry. Then, I thought about what they had said. In truth Joe and I had talked about this. That people wouldn't take our trip home seriously because it was 'just a dog'. That people devalue, not only others who are different - but others who are four-legged. But in the end we decided that our decision was ours, and it was about our relationship with Eric, not our relationship with anyone else.

So we came home.

Sometimes I worry about people who are in human services. Sometimes, and this will seem odd, I see too much committment to people with disabilities - such that it seems, ummmm, unhealthy. I'll admit it. Yes, I care about people with disabilities, specifically and in general, but not all the time, every moment, with every breath. I have a life outside of what I do. I have things I do just for enjoyment and I even do things that have precious little meaning.

I love the Young and the Restless, Suduko, and murder mysteries. I go to movies with friends, drink green tea by the gallon and spend endless hours with the dogs. During none of those times do I even think, for a moment, about the work that I do or the calling I have.

Yet I have seen staff leave sick children in hospitals to take a person with a disability to a movie - just because they promised them. I'm sorry, I think this is wrong. I think it sends the person with a disability the wrong message and I think it damages the staff in the long run.

There was a study done with therapy dogs that live in group homes. They found that the dog had to be out of the home, completely, for one week in four. Without the break the dog would become overwhelmed by the needs of the home and would become aggressive. This study has implications. Yes I know that the study was 'only about dogs' but doesn't it suggest that the weight of needs can become burdomsome. That the muscles involved in caring can become tired from overuse.

At a retreat recently everyone was talking about giving 100 percent and I shocked the room by saying that I only gave 80 percent. That 20 percent was mine and that I was keeping it. Now I know we all define 100 percent differently but I wanted to make a point. As the oldest person in the room I wanted to get these young'uns to think about their lives and the balance that they need to find. They were a great group and I wanted them to be here in the field thirty years later, not burned out and bitter.

So, no I don't regret my decision to come home. And no I don't regret putting it here on my blog. I thank that person for their disagreement with me because it made me think. Though I would suggest that people with strong opinions should put their names to them - otherwise it reeks of cowardice.

For those who are wondering - Eric is sitting beside me here as I write on the computer. The medications seem to have been working but we talk to the vet today. It was a good day yesterday with Eric, and whatever happens I will cherish those 24 hours for the rest of my life.


Belinda said...

Your words are a gift to the field that serves people and I echo them heartily. We are do no one a service if we serve without nourishing our lives outside of the work we do. It's so easy to inadvertently get it wrong (I don't think anyone consciously sets out to do that)--when our work is a mission. I've seen it happen with people in ministry who neglected the family that was God's giftto them, for the sake of their ministry, believing that God called them to make that sacrifice. In the end that doesn't honour God or people.

We all want to be in whatever work is our passion and mission for the long haul and the only way to do that is to restore our souls away from work. Eric is a gift that helps you restore your soul. There will be opportunities to make it up to the people who are missing you today, but there was only one chance to be with Eric when he needed you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post Dave, you are more of the person than I thought you were (does that make sense)? I would come home for my dog too and definetely for my children. I have even on one occassion left work due to a sick child and was given a bit of grief as it was inconviencing my supervisor, my departing remark was "fire me" (no I wasn't fired). Yes things may come up in our personal lives that don't fit idealy with our work life but that is just the way it is. We have to put ourselves first, "ourselves" include those that we we love in our lives including the fur kids. Personal balance and self care is an area that I really struggle in but my work will NEVER be my first priority. I am deeply committed to the people that I provide service for but atleast try not to drown myself with that committment.

Noisyworld said...

I've just started reading your blog from the beginning and wanted to add to this great post the knowledge that a friend of mine has a "Guide Dog for the Blind" or "seeing eye" dog as they say in the States :)
She was having real difficulty getting the dog to follow her orders and couldn't work out why, then a friend offered to take it out for a long off leash walk/run and magically the dog was perfectly behaved and better than ever. Moral of the story: we all need a break sometimes :)