Rat Terrier Teachings

Topics: creativityInspirationUncategorizedwordsWriting

I’ve finally revised my About Page. It took most of the week to get the written ‘selfie’ into shape, so I’m cross posting it here. I don’t remember the rat’s name. I wish I did.

I saw the rat terrier sometime after I’d been chased by the pig. Or maybe it was before. It was, after all, over 15 years ago and I don’t have a memory that sticks moments to a bulletin board.

But one day around 1994 when I was cleaning the dog kennels at the Whatcom County Humane Society, a dog the size of a ferret sat shivering in isolation without much hair to protect her from the cold concrete. She’d bitten someone. That’s what landed dogs in those back kennels away from the public and the adoptable dogs.

The isolation kennels had a guillotine structure between them, allowing cleaners to put food on one side, open the guillotine and then the dog moved to the other side. Most dogs went willingly. This rat terrier did not, so I had to try to get her to move over. I knew she was ‘in’ for biting but thought something less than 5 pounds wouldn’t be hard to manage and swung open the door.

She slipped out the chain link kennel between my legs before I could bend down far enough to stop her. Then she bolted down the back side of the kennels and turned the average bored barking of the dogs into the frenzy of dogs barking at other dogs – especially loud since she dared to run past their cage door fences.

Shutting the noise out of my mind, I walked the concrete floor in my rubber boots trying to scoop her up. The terrier shivered and, when I finally got her in a corner, she bared her teeth. I was still green enough to think I could pick her up because she would sense that I only wanted to help her. True to all the doggy signals she sent, she bit down hard on my hand the moment I picked her up.

My hand throbbed and, after managing to get her in her kennel,  I shook it, feeling shock more than pain.

My life comes at me sometimes like that rat terrier – it feels like a series of small things that bite hard and teach me lessons I need to learn.

My life is also learning languages and then trying to teach them to others, beating my head against a wall when we can’t communicate and then feeling the joyful zing of sudden understanding.

My life is running because it brings me intense joy and then stopping because I’ve overdone it and got tendinitis in my hip, regrouping and building myself back up again.

My life is wrapping bits of yarn together by clicking needles together. And then pulling that yarn right back out because I have not yet figured out how to carry the colors across a row. The third or fourth time I start to make a square for the blanket that I can begin to love.

And for this blog, my life is throwing things on the page and screen in a first draft, knowing they absolutely stink, reworking them beyond the point where I want to give up more than I want another cup of Earl Grey tea and then reaching a sparkling moment where I think, “You know, I actually LIKE this post. Who wouldda thought?”

Strangely enough, the feeling is like that rat terrier’s bite. Sudden and unexpected, almost like a sharp pain. If I remember right, that scared dog made it home again, like I do every time a piece comes together.

About the author: Karrie Zylstra Myton is a blogger, essayist, and aspiring author who writes for the wild joy it brings on the best days and the hard lessons she learns about life on the worst. After crafting stories in the ridiculously early morning hours, she chases her two sons, cuddles with cats, and laughs with her husband about how crazy life can get in middle age.

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