Preconceived Ideas

For reasons I don’t fully understand, earlier this fall I became obsessed with The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, by Stephen Covey. I read it numerous times, taking different lessons from it.

What do you see? An old woman? A young woman? Both?

In one segment, Covey writes about how sharing a simplified drawing of a woman for just a few seconds, alters the way people respond when presented with the full image, to the point that they are unable to see anything but what they had been preconditioned to perceive.

It turns out, Pettigrew and I have been unwittingly participating in a similar experiment: discovering the difference the presence or absence of a bandage around his paw makes in people’s perceptions.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that Pettigrew is a rescue dog and that when he joined our family, he was about two-and-a-half years old and sported a pronounced limp. To see an earlier post on this click here Is Your Dog Limping? Or, What Pettigrew Taught Me About Physical Impairments People would comment on his unusual gait on our long walks, but eventually we all learned to live with the commentary.

As a fourteen-year-old elder statesman, Pettigrew’s hobble is more pronounced. He also has a variety of bumps and one very ill-placed one bleeds on our walks, turning his white paws a bright red.

This is a dremel. Looks scary to me!

I spoke to the vet about it. She seemed unconcerned. She trimmed a claw that was in the way. Suggested I buy a dremmel, which is some kind of drill, for trimming claws. We thought about it, Pettigrew and I, and decided to skip.

Drivers stop in the middle of the street, cars stacked up behind and honking, to tell me my dog is limping and bleeding. Other walkers invariably point out his injury, yelling from across the street to share the news or accosting us as they pass with looks of horror and distress on their faces.

Members of my family have developed a variety of witty rejoinders to these people, including, “shhh, don’t talk about it. He doesn’t know.”

After our efforts in his youth to promote healing by putting socks and special dog booties on his paw, a trauma neither Pettigrew nor I want to revisit, I felt resigned to enduring the comments, stares, and the feeling that I was letting Pettigrew down, abusing the trust he had placed in us to take care of him body and soul.

But then a friend suggested I put a sock on his paw. While I wasn’t going that route again, it did make me question whether there was something, anything I could do.

My eyes fell on the self-adhering bandage wrap I had bought when my husband broke his toe. To learn more about this exciting chapter in our lives, read In My Own Voice #39: I’ve Got My Eyes on You. I now wrap a short strip over the bump on Pettigrew’s front leg and presto, no more blood on the walks. The stares have turned to looks of compassion; the comments are ones of concern. Instead of being branded an Unfeeling, Oblivious dog walker, I am the Caring Person worthy of Sympathy.

When I first wrapped Pettigrew’s paw, my hope was the protection would promote healing, allow the inflammation to subside, and the bump to recede. I’m not sure any of that has happened. But, will I continue to wrap his paw before we head outside? Absolutely. That one strip of bandage has transformed the way people perceive us.

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