Time is always flying up here at Ironwood and it’s amazing for us to think that June is now upon us. Our pastures are greening up and wildlife is abundant on our campus, including our freshly trout-stocked Admin Pond. Another critter, that we’re not so enthused about, is the dreaded Ironwood porcupine. Over the last several days, three of our staff dogs have taken it on the chin, due to unexpected contact with these frustrating characters. It’s challenging to maintain compassion for the Ironwood porcupine, when your dog walks in the door with a face full of barbed quills. Over the years, the porcupine population seems to be on the rise and we wonder why this is so?
A week ago, our golden retriever Derby, became the next victim and compared to others, she got off easy with about 25 quills to the side of her face. It happened at the end of a long day and the timing wasn’t ideal. My first reaction was to be angry…at the porcupine of course for victimizing Derby, but also at Derby, for being so naïve as to think that a porcupine could possibly be a good choice for a friend.
Derby was quiet through this thought process of mine, clearly in pain and likely just hoping that relief was heading her way.
Removing quills is a two-person job involving gloves and needle nose pliers. When you carefully separate the fur from the quill and then tighten the skin area around the entry point, the quills come out easiest. The twenty minutes that it took to remove the quills felt much longer and I can only imagine what the dog was thinking? She was patient (she had to be) as we held her down on the floor and after about the 10th quill, I noticed that she was tearing up while allowing this procedure to go on.
With all the quills removed, she quietly laid low for the rest of the evening, remaining humble and in closer contact than usual. Following me from room to room, then laying next to me on the floor by the bed. The next morning, we experienced the same gentle closeness. Was this humility we were seeing, or gratitude…or just basic “connection”? And why are these dreadful porcupines on this campus?
When I shared this story with some of your kids, later in the week, we supposed that the lesson learned was from Derby, more than the porcupine. Derby got herself into a lot of trouble and she didn’t want that to be the outcome. She was likely curious, wanting to play with a new friend who she thought was cool looking. Following this mistake in judgement, she returned home needing help and she received it from her family. The needed treatment was uncomfortable and painful and she allowed us to do what had to be done. What followed that trust, was a closer bond for everyone involved…she received our compassion and understanding and she became stronger by letting those with greater experience work with her, in this most vulnerable time in her life.
All of our residents are struggling in some way and it’s so easy to blame, make excuses, deflect and avoid the work that has to happen, next. Some residents take this path at times, as do some family members and stagnation is what often follows. Those who can genuinely transfer to positions of openness and trust, embracing feedback and direction, always grow in connection with those who are “at their service”. It’s in times of struggle (and even crisis) when we grow the most, relationally. And it’s often uncomfortable and perhaps more painful than a face full of quills.
As this week comes to a close, many of our residents are finding their way and the overall energy is positive. Family Weekend is close enough to provide inspiration to these hard-working young people and everyone I spoke to this week was looking forward to seeing family, later in June. We hope that everyone back home is doing ok and working on some things that will help to ensure family success “post-Ironwood”. Have a great weekendand we look forward to seeing you soon!