The driveway where we most often see the "hairy dachshunds"
About the same time that we adopted Smokey, new neighbors moved into the house across the street. The grandmother of the family had two small dogs: long-haired dachshunds. When they first arrived in the neighborhood, she used to take her dogs out in the yard without putting them on leashes. Several times while Smokey was a puppy, those two hairy dachshunds (as we liked to call them) came rushing across the street to bark at him in his own yard.
Smokey has never forgiven them—or any of the humans who live there. Anytime one of those neighbors steps out of the house or drives up in a car, he erupts into a storm of angry barking and launches himself at the front door. He is friends with the woman who lives next door to them and the people who live on either side of us, but he cannot stand the family with the hairy dachshunds. We're trying to break him of the habit, but he's an emotional dog and it's hard to counteract his impulse to vent his indignation. As a result, several times a day, our home is disturbed with loud, furious barking followed by a reprimand from either Michael or me. Slowly, he is learning that it's ok to growl expressively but not to bark.
Grudges are like that. They not only keep the person holding the grudge in a state of agitation, but they can disturb other people too. My mother is a master at holding grudges. When I was growing up, she used to repeat to me the litany of all the things my paternal grandmother and my father had done to hurt her. As a child, I hated listening to her tales of resentment, and I swore to myself that I was not going hold grudges the way she does.
I haven't always succeeded at keeping that vow. Recently, I was caught up short by the realization that I was holding a petty grudge that was hurting someone I love. For my 40th birthday, Michael gave me a fabulous gift. He took me and nine of my friends to a French bistro for dinner. It was a restaurant that we had been to several times and enjoyed, so we made reservations to have my party there. Needless to say, it was an expensive evening.
The food was good, and my friends and I enjoyed ourselves. However, one thing marred the evening. The owner of the restaurant makes it a habit to stop by every table to check if the customers are satisfied. Although we saw him making the rounds that night, he never spoke to us. Not only that, but when Michael made the reservation, the restaurant accepted it but did so grudgingly. They made it plain that they weren't thrilled about having a large table tied up for a whole evening.
I was offended. None of my guests had ever been to that restaurant before, and several did go back afterwards. One couple even became repeat customers. I thought it was short-sighted of the restaurant to think only of their profit for that one evening, and I was hurt to be ignored by the host on my special occasion. We have never been back to the restaurant since that night.
The other evening we were watching a TV show in which ordinary people recommend their favorite local restaurants. One woman praised the bistro where we'd had my party, and she said one of the best things about it was how attentive the host was. Hearing that, I laughed scornfully and launched into my well-worn speech proclaiming how annoyed I was about what had happened ten years before! When I finished, Michael said quietly that he was sorry that the party had been a failure and that he felt really bad about it.
That made me realize instantly how damaging my grudge was. In reality, I very much enjoyed the party except for that one small bit of neglect. Usually when I remember the evening, the slight is not the first thing to spring to mind. However, because I had brought up my annoyance several times over the years, I had given Michael the impression that the whole event had been ruined for me.
I quickly assured him that I did have happy memories of the party and I apologized for letting my anger fester.
Grudges really don't accomplish much in terms of changing the person you're angry with. They just keep you in turmoil and they poison the atmosphere for the people around you. It's a lesson that both Smokey and I need to remember.
Smokey often feels sorry for himself after we yell at him for barking.