The Chaos Engine

The Chaos Engine

I like an orderly life. I like to make plans and have them occur as expected. Knowing the expectations and understanding “the rules” provides me with a sense of certainty and, by extension, some comfort. It’s a small joy when my coffee, newspaper, or pencil are right where I left them. And, truth be told, more than a little frustrating when they’re not.

And then there’s Dolly.







Dolly joined our household about two weeks ago. Dolly is loud, curious, and mischievous. My coffee never stood a chance. My newspaper is ruined, and I try not to think about what happened to that pencil. If I had to put every interruption into this reflection…

my (sit)

writing (put it down!)

wood (again?) wuud (really?) would (are you kidding me?)

look like this.

With her 60 pounds of instinct and impulsiveness, just keeping my feet under me is a success. In every waking moment Dolly is a vortex of chaos. Her life before joining mine is a mystery. She was abandoned, tagged with an expiration date, rescued, moved, then moved again, and moved one more time to a foster home before being adopted into my household. It’s no small leap to appreciate why she exists in a state of heightened anxiety.

But we don’t speak the same language. I can observe her acting out, being outrageous, and demolishing the norms of my household. I see all of these things and even understand them on an intellectual level. This full-blown explosion of my domestic tranquility feels like more than a “growing edge” for me; it feels more like a full-on challenge to my world. And yet, love is hard. Dolly is a part of my household, a member of my extended family who needs, deserves, and wants love. She may not understand that she is pushing the boundaries and breaking the very things that she needs, but she still has the need for stability and normalcy, and yes, love.

Dolly brings a test of commitment, resiliency, and effort with a near constant questioning of where do I correct and where do I accept? I accept that she does not experience the world in the way that I do. I can see that my world needs a bit more play in it. And, the household will not continue if we all just go about smashing things. So we work. Sometimes it’s a tug on the leash. Sometimes it’s a belly rub. There’s lots of treats offered in training. Occasionally there are loud words. And lots of ear woozies.

My pockets may smell of chicken and dried dog biscuits, my clothes may be covered in snot and spittle, but we are moving this tiny corner of the world forward. May it be so for all of us (well, with maybe a little less spittle).


  1. Anne-Margaret Olsson

    I LOVE it!! Thank you for sharing your story and thank you for welcoming Dolly into your home and heart.

  2. Diane E Page

    Thank You Sean; I can relate. I adopted a 2-3 year old Maltese with anxiety issues in late August.

    Appreciate the message and love that you are willing to do the difficult work entailed in adopting a “needy animal soul”.

  3. Kathy Harris

    Dolly is behaving much as the older children I adopted did when they came home to me. She must test everything and everyone and will until she can sense that she is a family member. Tolerance takes on new meaning for those adopting older children and animals. Stick with it, you will find a path to peace and love after considerable exhaustion. Wishing you patience and kindness.

  4. Gail Thompson

    You will learn to understand and maybe speak Dolly’s language. She may understand yours better too. This sounds like an international adoption of an older child. Wow, what a cool adventure. You won’t need a mid-life crisis. Thank you for sharing this beginning. I look forward to the next chapter.

  5. Mary Ellen Walsh

    What a sweet story. Dolly sounds like our son’s dog, Marley. Marley was literally scooped off a busy road when he was quite a bit younger. But Marley never grew up, and his name was quite apt. They stopped replacing the screens on their deck doors as he kept destroying them. Sadly, he had to be put down a couple of weeks ago. But I’m comforted in knowing that Marley had a much longer and happier life with Jeff and Sarah than he would have if he hadn’t been rescued. Thank you, Sean, for sharing.

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