It’s not every day a pit bull says hello to your ass. With its teeth.
And thank God for that.
But one day, years ago, I had one of those days.
I was still employed as a social worker, and part of my job involved visiting the homes of my clients. Given that my clients were teenagers, the visits usually consisted of taking them out of their homes and exposing them to a variety of wholesome activities – ice skating, art projects, working with animals.
One day, I went to visit the home of one of my younger clients. It was a first visit, which meant I would be gathering information about my client and his family and getting them to sign some forms.
I rang the doorbell, was invited into the house, and we had a perfectly pleasant visit.
Everything was going fine.
There was no reason to think I was in any kind of danger whatsoever.
Some of the neighborhoods I visited for my job were on the “rough” side. My clients would talk about having a hard time sleeping because of all the gun-fire going off at night. One of my fellow social workers had been punched in the face because she had unwittingly stepped into the middle of a family feud.
But this visit did not appear to involve anything dicey.
That is, until I stepped outside the door to leave.
All of sudden, I was greeted by the family pit bull.
And by “greeted,” I mean that the dog was barking uncontrollably with a wild look in her eye.
What was the dog trying to say to me?
I like those jeans you’re wearing. They’re nifty.
Get the %*&# off my property, you *&#%-ing *&%#-er!!!
Yes. Probably something more like that.
After about a minute of crazy barking and wild-eyed-leering – on the dog’s part, not mine – my young client came outside to try and steer the dog away from me.
C’mon Jazzy, he said. Let’s go inside.
That’s right, the dog’s name was Jazzy.
It sounds so benign, doesn’t it? Like the name of a suburban aerobics instructor.
But no. This Jazzy wasn’t dying to get my quads in tip-top shape. This Jazzy was dying to school me on the utter loathsomeness of my presence.
I understood what Jazzy was trying to say to me, I just wasn’t sure what to do with it. Jazzy was clearly ignoring my client’s pleas to join him inside, so I attempted to inch my way off the property.
This would have worked, except for one thing.
Jazzy decided this would be a good time to circle behind me and bite me in the ass.
Actually, it wasn’t my ass exactly. It was my upper thigh, right below my ass. I’m thin, so my ass probably wouldn’t have provided her with enough traction. Or maybe she was more into thighs than asses.
Either way, she got me. And boy, did it hurt.
Seconds after the bite, I reached around to feel my hindquarters. The top of my thigh was already completely swollen, like someone had stuffed a cantaloupe down my pants.
I felt dizzy and a little weak.
The family gathered around me. They were extremely apologetic. This had never happened before, they said. They felt horrible, they said.
Jazzy, on the other hand, looked extremely pleased. She came, she saw, she bit. A good day’s work, in a dog’s life.
My client’s mother offered to drive me to the hospital. Being the Lone Ranger that I am, I said I would drive myself.
And I did. Looking back on it, I realize I was in shock, and it was due to this fact that I managed to get myself to the hospital in one piece.
I can barely remember what happened once I got there. I just remember the doctor told me I should take a few days off work. So I did. Once I returned to my job, I was only cleared to work part-time.
And so I found myself in an unexpectedly sweet spot.
After several years of enduring a full-time, high-pressured job, I was suddenly a part-time employee. I had space in my days. I felt relaxed and unhurried.
I had been handed an alternate existence, one that suited me much better than the one I had been living.
As I glided through my days, I made a vow.
I want to live like this, I said.
The other factor involved in this equation was the content of my work days. Overall, I liked my job, but I didn’t love it. My little respite allowed me to acknowledge this fact, and to vow not only to have more space in my days, but to trade quantity for quality.
I wasn’t willing to put up with good enough anymore. I wanted a life of freedom and joy and fulfillment. And thanks to a pitbull named Jazzy, I had a sneak preview of this life.
After a few weeks, my leg was healed and I went back to work full-time. But I never forgot what my pitbull-induced exile taught me. And I never forgot my vows.
Now, thirteen years later, I’m living the life I imagined in my Jazzy-inspired vacation. I have space in my days and I’m doing what I love.
You could say that having a pitbull’s teeth meet your upper thigh is a bad thing, and I suppose I could have gotten the message in some other way, but I didn’t.
So I made the most of the situation.
Sometimes life brings us unexpected surprises. Sometimes they’re fun. Sometimes they’re less than fun.
But that’s not what matters. What matters is how we respond.
So the next time life bites you in the ass – or the upper thigh – just remember: Take a moment to slow down. To be still. Allow life to show you what’s yours to do. What’s yours to love.
It’s never too late to start living the life of your dreams.
Who have been the Jazzy’s in your life? What did you learn from them?