Labels Can Be Dangerous

This morning was much more eventful than I had anticipated.  Despite my mile-long list of things to do, I decided to sleep in a little in an effort to gain enough strength and energy to tackle the busy day.  Upon rising, one of the first things I did was to open the back door so Tippy could get out and take care of her morning business.  We do have a doggie door, but Tippy, in her old age, is a bit stiff in the mornings and struggles to get through the doggie door.

Anyway, as I opened the door this morning, I was greeted by an energetic, bouncing puppy, who immediately bounded into my kitchen and jumped in circles around me.  One problem--this wasn't my puppy!  Tippy was on her way out the door, and Mitchell was making his way from the bedroom.  I anticipated a horror show once Mitchell noticed the intruder.  After all, he's very protective of me, especially around other dogs.  Fortunately, he recognized the dog, as did I, and gave it very little notice (after a thorough sniffing, of course).  It was Abby, the sweet pup that lived in the yard behind ours.  Upon inspection of the fence that separates our two yards, I discovered that Abby has been very busy.  There was not one but three different holes under the fence.  Mystery solved!

After settling my dogs, I put a leash on Abby's collar and walked around the block to return her to her owner, whom I actually met on the road just outside his house.  He had noticed her missing and had gone out in search of her.  He told me that he enjoyed having Abby, but that he was trying to give her away because he just couldn't control her rambunctious nature and the results of such nature (i.e. running away, digging holes, etc.).  "The problem is," he told me, "that nobody wants her because she's part pit bull.  Once they hear that, they don't want anything to do with her."  As a dog lover, this absolutely broke my heart.  What a horrible thing--to know that no one wants you.  I can think of nothing more sad.

The real shame is that, while Abby is a puppy full of energy, she is the sweetest little thing.  She is friendly with both people and other animals.  With the proper training and attention, I believe she has the ability to become a wonderful guard dog and a faithful friend.  But no one is willing to give her a chance because she is wearing a label that gives people pause--"pit bull."  One glance at that label, and people make their decision.  Without even having met this playful pup, others judge her by her breed and slap another label on her--"unwanted."

As I walked home this morning and thought about the poor unwanted creature and the dastardly effects of labels, I realized that I am often prone to do the same thing.  Sometimes it's with people, but mostly it's with situations in my life.  Impossible.  Hopeless.  Stressful.  Unworthy of my time or attention.  Labels of all shapes and sizes, but mostly negative in nature.  As I thought more on this, I realized that I did it just this morning.  I took one look at my "to-do" list and labeled the day as both stressful and impossible.  In my mind, there was no way to accomplish all that needed to be done today, and I was positive I was going to stress myself out trying to get it all done.  Then, when sweet, little Abby added to the day's confusion, I immediately labeled her intrusion as a distraction and time drain.  By the time I had reached my home again, however, I realized that perhaps I had been too quick to slap a label on that situation.  That "distraction" had taught me a valuable lesson and caused me to refocus my thoughts and attitude concerning the remainder of the day.  The "distraction" turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Be careful with labels.  Whether it's in regards to people or situations (or dogs, for that matter), labels can be very dangerous.  But if you feel you must label things, then I urge you to use this "one size fits all" label:  "Handle With Care," or better yet, "Handle With Prayer."