He Needed Us

He Needed Us

It’s been about two and a half months since we said goodbye to our beloved dog, Mason. I think of him every day, several times a day. Each day that’s passed has also brought a bit more stability. I can think of him and smile more now than I could two months ago when thoughts of him brought tears. I can think of him and smile more now than I could two weeks ago when thoughts of him brought tears. I once read a piece about grief and how it comes in like waves and time doesn’t lessen the sadness but the time in between the waves extends so you can recover, gain your bearings and steady the ship before the next wave. I see this process but more…I feel this process and while the moments of sadness are big and overwhelming, I know they will pass. 

Eventually when I come across something forgotten, like the bottle of asprin tucked away in the cupboard with his name on it and “AM” and “PM” marked on the top, I won’t be brought to tears. But for nor now, I replaced that bottle where I found it. When I come across it in a month or two, maybe I’ll just smile.

It’s been about two and a half months (minus one day) since we welcomed a new dog into our lives. His name is Costa, like Costa Rica. We knew very little about him when we got him. We knew his age as being somewhere between two and four and we knew he had some chow-chow in him and maybe some German Shepherd. We knew he wouldn’t do well with cats, and that he loved people and another dog he had come to know. We also knew he came from down south and that he had been placed in a home and was returned after some period of time because he had too much energy.

He’s a cute pup. He’s a handful. After some digging and inquiries, we have learned a bit more about him. His age, thought to be between two and four, was actually fourteen months. We also learned that prior to coming to New England he was in South Carolina and had a relatively tumultuous history down there. Without going into details, I’ll just say that we are home number five. He is a handsome dog, with a cute face. He’s pretty small and wildly intelligent. He’s also a bit wild. With four homes prior to us in less than a year, we can’t imagine he’s had much stability or consistency in training. He’s also a challenging dog. He’s very alert and focused on anything and everything that moves outside. This could be a bird, a squirrel, a leaf, or a blade of grass. In the beginning, this meant basically anything but us.   

He’s a tough dog and needs a lot of consistency and work. I’m fairly certain we’re the right home for him. We’re used to being tuned in to a pet. We’re used to putting their needs first when it’s necessary. We’re used to doing the work to make sure they’re happy, and healthy, and comfortable. For these reasons, while we have brief moments, this pups needs aren’t overwhelming. We’re lucky to have such a great network of resources and understanding friends to help guide us. We’re lucky to have dog-people friends with babies, and dog-people friends with patient dogs who are willing to walk with us or visit us or provide baby-smelling clothing to stash around our house.

We’ve learned a lot in the last two and a half months (minus one day). The transition to a young energetic dog has not gone unnoticed. The sweet and steady cadence of a fifteen year old dog is one of my favorite things. Mason needed us. Costa needs us and I think on some level, we needed him too.

Welcome home little guy. We’ve got you.

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Fog

Fog

I usually pride myself on knowing my path, knowing where I’m going and having an impeccable and uncanny sense of direction. I can navigate cities, and mountains, and routes with minimal input from a map or gps unit.

Right now though, I feel like a fog settled in. A thick, heavy fog that makes seeing my own hand extended out in front of my face difficult. I knew enough to sit down and not push through because doing so would likely result in venturing in the wrong directions or getting lost. So, I’m sitting in this fog and the fog feels an awful lot like sadness. It’s heavy and makes breathing difficult.

It’s been a month since we said goodbye to Mason. I try not to get hung up on dates but I didn’t get the job I interviewed for. I found out yesterday. It felt like a gut punch. Then I thought about continuing my employment with Markem which made me anxious, because I’m really unhappy there. I was able to justify staying without benefits, without a raise, without job security, as a temp because I could go home for Mason. Being here reminds me of him, every day, and how he’s gone. So, finding out I didn’t get the job I interviewed for seems to have plunged a hole in the hull and I’m taking on water, which feels a lot like sadness, which feels a lot like grief, which is the very thing I was afraid of feeling because I was afraid it’d be like the last time I lost a pet, or a family member…I’m afraid the ship will sink.

But the fog is so thick that I can’t even find the bucket to bail with.

I found this song last night and it made me cry…Maybe I just need to cry. Maybe that’s how I bail out the boat.

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Heartbreak

Not too long ago, a friend urged me to consider that maybe it’s when our hearts are broken that an opportunity for the light to get in presents itself.  This same friend, in discussing fears and anxieties around death and loss, asked me if my heart had been broken or if it had been mended.  I don’t remember the full context of these questions or discussions though I’m fairly certain they were related to our aging family dog, Mason.

I found this some time ago.  I’ll have to look up the source and update this post accordingly to give credit where it is due.  I did not write it but it resonates with me.  Especially now, a little over one week after bringing Mason to the vet for the last time, and coming home without him.

“Heartbreak is unpreventable; the natural outcome of caring for people and things over which we have no control…

Heartbreak begins the moment we are asked to let go but cannot, in other words, it colors and inhabits and magnifies each and every day; heartbreak is not a visitation, but a path that human beings follow through even the most average life.  Heartbreak is an indication of our sincerity: in a love relationship, in a life’s work, in trying to learn a musical instrument, in the attempt to shape a better more generous self.  Heartbreak is the beautifully helpless side of love and affection and is an essence and emblem of care…Heartbreak has its own way of inhabiting time and its own beautiful and trying patience in coming and going.

Heartbreak is how we mature; yet we use the word heartbreak as if it only occurs when things have gone wrong: an unrequited love, a shattered dream…But heartbreak may be the very essence of being human, of being on the journey from here to there, and of coming to care deeply for what we find along the way.

There is almost no path a human being can follow that does not lead to heartbreak.

Realizing its inescapable nature, we can see heartbreak not as the end of the road or the cessation of hope but as the close embrace of the essence of what we have wanted or are about to lose.

Heartbreak asks us not to look for an alternative path, because there is no alternative path.  It is an introduction to what we love and have loved, an inescapable and often beautiful question, something and someone that has been with us all along, asking us to be ready for the ultimate letting go.”

Fracking

Fracking
In the shower this morning,

after a long night of restless sleep,

after not being able to fall asleep,

after spending time with good friends (old and new) and eating good food,

after watching a movie amongst good people,

after shaking and trembling after a rough therapy session

I thought of fracking.

And how I generally don’t think fracking is a good thing.

I am searching for something that is completely unrelated

To something I once sought after many years ago.

But they share a vein under the surface.

It doesn’t seem right, or fair that this should be happening.

I can’t stop my current search,

This is not an option.

But I gave up on the original search many years ago.

This should not be coming up.

These are unintended consequences

of fracking

in an emotional sense.

Tectonic shifts that threaten

The foundation built of

A lifetime of dreams.

Sinkholes and explosions 

Undermine ones existence.

If the reasons you have worked hard

Stop holding their value

What then do you work hard for?

(2011)

To The Well

When I was a kid, much younger and far less rational than I am now, I stole a box of cookies from our kitchen and snuck out the back door with it. I remember carrying them in such a way so as to shield the box with my body so anyone looking at me from the house wouldn’t see what I was up to.

At some point, about halfway up our hilly backyard, I thought that throwing the empty cardboard box into the sheep pen was my best chance to cover my tracks.  I mean, they eat everything, don’t they?  I decided that was my best option.  They’d consume the evidence and I’d be absolved from any guilt or punishment.  I ended up getting caught.  To this day it is a story I am told and there are giggles all around.  Sheep don’t eat everything afterall.

I realized this past weekend that we all have done things like this.  Maybe not quite like this though I’m sure some have tried, and some have likely had better luck with using goats or pigs or a raging river that would consume the things they didn’t want to be seen.

I imagine an abandoned well sometimes.  I think this is the place I’ve gone to hide things.  Things I didn’t feel I could share, things I didn’t think would be understood, or believed.  I threw these things to the bottom of this well, out of sight, out of reach and hopefully out of mind if I was lucky.  I always thought I had been descreet, not letting on that I had these things I felt ashamed of.  But sometimes people see you visit the well, and sometimes they don’t see you visit the well but maybe they know the familiar look of returning from the well where dark things were discarded.

And sometimes, though seldom, you can have a conversation with someone about something you threw down there or about something they threw down there.  You can stand alongside someone, and maybe without details, share a moment of togetherness, of connection, of not being alone.  Because, whatever their dark thing was and whatever yours might have been, you both felt you needed to discard it, where you’d hope no one would see it or find it.

I was thinking today about how beautiful it would be, if those of us who have visited a place such as this to tuck away some dark hidden secret, could stand together.  Be together.  See that we are not alone.  See that there is nothing to be ashamed of.  To celebrate the strength, the beauty, the courage, and the resolve that getting to this moment required of us.

And what if, one by one, we drew these dark things out of this place, out of our hearts and our guts and our repressed memories, into the light, and held one another in those painful moments with nothing but love, and empathy, and compassion?  How might our lives be different if we held one another up and built one another up instead of tearing eachother down?

When someone share’s something of themselves with you, what is the first thing you reach for?

💙

Recede

Recede

Definition of recede 

receded, receding

  1. intransitive verb
  2. to move back or away :  withdraw <a receding hairline>b :  to slant backward

  3. to grow less or smaller :  diminish, decrease <a receding deficit>

It’s been a while since I last posted.  I’ve been meaning to but things have been busy.  It’s for that very reason that I probably should have sat down and spent some time here but I couldn’t bring myself to show up.

I’m sharing something I wrote a while ago.  I’ll have more to say on this at a later point but for now, I’m sharing this again.  Please know that nothing has happened, This Dog is hanging in there and doing fairly well.  

This Dog

My mornings begin in much the same way, every day.  I wake up usually by alarm during the week and by morning light on weekends.  I lay in bed for a few minutes considering the day and which morning routine I’ll be following.  Then I turn and I watch his chest, waiting for the rise and fall that’s confirmation that he is still breathing.  Still alive.  Still with us.

My evenings end with the routine of pajamas and brushing my teeth but only after helping him up the stairs, filling his water dish and making sure he has a toy on his bed with him.

He turns 14 this year, this dog.  I got him in 2002 when I quit college for the last time after losing both my grandmother and my dog Bailey within a six-month time frame.  I got him when I was so lost and so sad.  He has been with me through many things.  Every transition, every relationship, every move, every failure and every success.  He has been my rock and the one constant I’ve entrusted with my whole heart.

As he’s aged, helping him up the stairs seems natural to me.  Like there is no other option than helping him fulfill his desires and goals.  When he stands at the foot of the stairs wagging his tail, I can only assume he wants to come to bed when we are going to bed.  I will spot him most nights.  On occasion, rarely though more lately than before, I will scoop all 75 pounds of him up into my arms and carry him up the stairs.  It is that important to him, to me, to us.  There is no other way.

There is no other way to love than the way I love this dog.  I cannot imagine loving anything more than this.  It’s terrifying really.  Losing my grandmother nearly destroyed me.  Losing Bailey kind of set the stage for the downward spiral I was to experience when my gram passed away.  I have been through hard times since then.  Really hard times.  Through all of them, I had this dog to care for.  This was enough to get me through.

He turns 14 this year.  Some time ago it dawned on me that there was more time behind him than there was in front of him.  This was an estimate knowing the average lifespan of a canine.  I want him to defy all odds and all statistical probabilities.  I want him to live forever.  I know he won’t and it makes me hate how deeply I have grown to care.  I do not hate him; I hate the vulnerability that this love presents in my life.  I hate thinking about the morning when I look and his chest does not rise and fall.  I hate thinking that I want that moment to come naturally and free from suffering.  I hate knowing that I will, with his cues and my interpretation, someday have to make a decision that will end both his suffering and his life.

My partner tells me not to think about these things now and to enjoy the time I have with him while I have it.  Thinking about these things doesn’t take away from the time I have with him.  He’s sleeping right now, snoring even.  Thinking about these things keeps them close and reminds me how precious and short life is.  If I didn’t reflect on how much I care and consider the possibilities, I could lose out on something.  If I denied that he was aging, he could be gone someday and I would not be prepared for it.  At least this way I am aware of the possibility.  At least this way, it won’t be a surprise or a shock.  It’s still going to hurt like hell…I have no delusions about the loss and grief I will experience but I can’t pretend those are optional visits on this journey.  It comes with the territory of sharing your life with pets.  They don’t live as long as humans do.

With all of this being said, his senior years have been some of the greatest and sweetest of his life.  I’ve never had a dog live into old age so it’s all new to me but it’s so tender, so sincere, and so patient that it’s hard to not love this time more than the others.  It’s all very real.  His needs and his limitations define our response.  Saturdays seem to be his favorite days because it means a car ride to the dump where he gets a cookie and then usually a walk downtown.

Maybe passing through this phase of his life reminds me of my time spent with my gram during her later years.  Maybe that’s why it’s so natural, so easy and so important.  Why my love is so intense.

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