just ponderin'

… on t and marshal (part two)

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I’ve never written a ‘part two’ to anything before. How do you start this? I was just watching Gilmore Girls and the episode started with, “Previously on Gilmore Girls” and there were scene snippets so you had context for the upcoming episode. Yes. I totally like that. Here we go:

Previously on T and Marshal:

Facebook can be depressing.

Warning get a tissue.

Silly, goofy, smart, beautiful T.

Dangerous T.

Saying good-bye.

Freakin’ rainbow.

Fade to black and opening at the first paragraph of ‘… on T and Marshal (Part Two)’

The freakin’ rainbow followed me all the way home, which wasn’t too far because our vet’s office is just in the next town. But, in that fifteen-minute ride, I swung from ‘I can’t even breathe’ sadness to laughing out loud (more than once). The waves of pain were pummeling at times.

When I got into the garage at home, everything seemed super clear and almost surreal. I’d had that feeling before, when my mother and sister died. It’s this nearly indescribable feeling of noticing every single sound, color – every detail of life – while weirdly acknowledging that the rest of the human race is just going about their lives normally without any of these heightened senses, let alone profound sadness. I remember, really clearly, the smells in the garage, seeing a spider weaving a web on one of the windows, and the sharp thwack of the car door slamming. I also remember that I thought – and I recognized it as incredibly inappropriate at the time – “Huh. Grief and getting bitten by a radioactive spider have the same effect on a person.” Ya. Totally true. At that moment, I thought of Spiderman.

My family was great. They know I don’t want to hug or be touched when I hurt – either physically or emotionally. They wait until I want to talk, if I ever do (mostly I don’t and they are selfless enough not to need to fill the air with nervous banter).  Don’t get me wrong. I’m not stoic, or crabby or even all that solemn. I just process better on my own. And I’m very good at propping others up. So if one of the kids or John was having a moment, I was right there telling a story of one of T’s many hilarious antics, or habits, or obsessions. Sometimes I was reminding them that he had the best life, while he was here.

And it was that thought that got me – and still gets me. ‘While he was here’. I felt like I’d failed him, and felt cheated that I didn’t have him longer to give him more. More time, more snuggles, more joy. I struggled with the fact that there was no way to know if he felt cheated that he didn’t get to stay.

I know that these are human thoughts, but I’m a human. Maybe dogs do the same to us, project their own way of thinking onto everything they observe us doing. Maybe that’s why my dogs back up just a little when I spin around. They think I’m going to poop. Who knows. Not me.

I couldn’t sleep that first night, and ended up on an animal grief support site.  There was an entire thread of people who’d had to make the same choice for their pets. They had all worked so hard and were so sad. Though I didn’t post anything, I felt a little less alone. One post included the poem entitled The Gentle Ones. It was about a pup coming to the edge of a clearing after her death, still feeling her owners’ tears and feeling as if she’d let them down. A being comes to the pup and helps her realize that all her fear and issues are gone, and that she was the best dog she could be while she was with her owners on earth. The pup is shown a reflecting pond where she can go and send her love and appreciation back to her owners.

Now, I’m not super sappy, but that one got me. The story of a dog realizing that she was free of her demons, and no longer afraid, and that she didn’t need to say she was sorry to her owners? That slayed me. It’s not that I thought it really happens. But I wished it did. And in other posts people talked about signs from their dogs and I remember wishing I believed in signs. I remember, specifically wishing I believed the freakin’ rainbows were a sign. I signed off and went back to bed.

I was only a day or so later that the phone rang and my world shifted into a different gear again. My friend was in trouble. The details leading up to what was happening aren’t mine to share, but she was loosing her home.  She had clawed and scraped her way, after the horrible ending of her marriage, to the point where she thought she could keep the farm that she had bought, herself, and brought into the marriage.  The improvements they had made to the property during the marriage brought with them a mortgage that depended on his steady income. Her dream of breeding German Shepherd Dogs had come true, but  it was a side business, often not profitable. She had been working with the bank for months, and her last ditch attempt at staving off foreclosure had fallen through. The farm was going to auction. She had very little time. Her mother was planning to come up from Florida in the coming weeks to help, she was desperately trying to find a place to go with her animals – sheep and dogs now, as her horse had died the previous winter. She was wild with worry and needed help. John looked at me and said, ‘go’. And I went.

The next few days were a blur of shuttling between banks and stores and the farm, and then back home and up to help again the next day. There were calls to be made to lawyers, and the bank, and a friend who might have space for her. It was emotional and heartbreaking in a way completely different from T. There just wasn’t time to think about much else, which was good. My friend was frantic, and so many things were happening at once. We had a lead on a place for the sheep, and she had already placed a number of her adult dogs in the previous months. But she had a puppy from a recent breeding. A leftover. The person who had shown interest in him was waffling on whether he wanted to wait until Spring, so he didn’t have to potty train through the colder months.

In a rare, quiet moment, as we were taking a break at her kitchen table, my friend looked over at the puppy, in his crate, with his mother and aunts sprawled out nearby and said she was worried about the impact of all of this stressful activity on him.

In all the hubbub of the past few days, I had not even really noticed him. I got up and went over and bent down beside his crate and he came to the side and sniffed and licked my fingers through the wire. He was a cutie – not a surprise. When I got back to the table, I said I’d be happy to take him while she got things together (plus the waffling potential owner might make up his mind at any moment, and the puppy would go to a good home). I told her the kids were sad, and a puppy would be a great distraction. I also wasn’t sleeping well anyway, so nighttime trips outside weren’t a problem in keeping with his potty training. She said she couldn’t ask that, between T’s death and all I had been doing for her already. I told her that was silly, and that I was happy to do it. I was experienced and she would know that her puppy was fine.  It was the right thing to do. She said it would be for a night, maybe two, and I called John and he was fine with it (which is why he is nearly perfect).

He was a leftover puppy from the “M” litter, which meant he would get an M name, but he hadn’t gotten one yet because she couldn’t decide between Merlin and something else (I remember thinking Merlin was a very cool name).  I remember leaving that night, my friend leaning in the passenger side of my car and putting a big ziplock bag of the puppy’s kibble on my floor. She was snuggling with and cooing to the puppy and saying she’d see him soon. And we were off.

So here I am, driving down the country roads, with a German Shepherd puppy eyeing me from the passenger seat. It was no time before his paws were over the middle console and his puppy tongue was bathing my arm. I remember saying, “It’s okay, little man.” and, KAPOW, having a huge wave of guilt just smash into my gut. I called T my little man, and then my main man, and I had just used the same phrase on a temporary leftover puppy days after I held T for the last time. I could barely breathe. This was not my puppy.

And then the sky opened up.

And it started pouring. Just pouring. And it was that weird sun shower type rain where it’s really bright outside but rain is beating on your windshield. And it was surprising in its veracity and lasted about 30 seconds and then…

You’ve heard this before right. Uh huh.

The freakin’ rainbow appeared.  It was probably the exact, same, freakin’ one. And I didn’t even have time to curse it because my brain was busy thinking this was so weird, because I was just passing the turn for our vets office at that very moment, and on the day that T died the rain started just as I made the turn – right here – on the way home.

And then another rainbow appeared.

And those two freakin’ rainbows followed me and the temporary leftover puppy all the way home. Again.

When I got home, and got through introducing the puppy to the other dogs and to the kids and John, I sat down at the counter and told John that the weirdest thing had happened on the way home. And he stood there and listened and then said, “Wow. That’s kind of a sign.” And I rolled my eyes and said something about two freakin’ rainbows and we went on with our night.

Puppies have to go potty. A lot. And, since I had brought this puppy into the house, it was my duty to bring him out for his potty break.  We went out at 11:00, just before bed (I had eeked it out as long as possible before I became comatose) and then he whined at about 4:00 a.m., and I got up and opened the door to his crate, scooped him up and kept his back legs together (didn’t want any piddling down the stairs) as we headed to and out the door. Once he did his business, we went back inside. He into his crate, me into my bed.

An hour later I was still awake.

So I got up, got the puppy (who was happily sucking on his blanket), and we went downstairs. The outside world was in pre-dawn muted shades of grey and mushroom. The puppy was wandering around. Our entire downstairs is open, and I could see him wherever he was other than a small blind spot if he diverted into the front entryway and stayed in that tiny angle I couldn’t see, but he was just a corner away.

I went onto the grief support board. I checked in on the heartbreaking stories, perhaps subconsciously thinking misery loves company. More likely thinking I would allow myself to privately wallow for a day or two more. I found myself actually jealous of the stories people told of their pets coming to them in dreams, or a long lost toy showing up unexpectedly in the yard. I wasn’t really jealous of the happenings themselves. I was jealous that these people truly believed they were signs from their beloved pets. The signs made them feel better. And I wanted to feel better.

I remember thinking I wanted to believe that the rainbow – er – rainbows were signs. And then I realized that I couldn’t see the puppy.  And I thought I smelled something. Uh oh.

Sure enough, he had wandered into the entryway and left a nice, stinky pile for me. I scooped him up and we went to the closet where the ‘kit’ is kept – Nature’s Miracle, paper towels, plastic bags. We grabbed the kit and headed in to clean up.

As Mr. Curious wandered around me and I ushered him back, I was waiting for the Natures Miracle to sit for a minute. And I remember thinking, again, how much I wished I believed in those freakin’ rainbows. I finished up, put the paper towels into the plastic bag, and headed back into the kitchen.

And stopped dead in my tracks.

There were rainbows. Everywhere.

They were little. About one inch from end to end and they were splashed on the refrigerator, and on the counter and on the walls. Hundreds of them. And with my jaw hanging, I walked into the wide opening between the kitchen and dining room. They were on my feet, and my arms and my shoulders. And I gasped. And spun slowly around with my arms held out beside me, covered in rainbows. No one would ever believe this. And it took me a few more seconds to gather myself and go to where my phone was, next to the computer, and then I turned around to take a picture.

And they were gone.

All of them.

And I stood, dumbstruck, in my kitchen with the puppy sitting in front of me, looking up at my face, his little tongue hanging out of his mouth.

I looked from the entryway to the dining room to the counter behind me. I had never seen that before. The sun must have risen just far enough, while I was in the entryway, to shine through the glass of our dining room chandelier. The glass acted as prisms. The rainbows were spectral light. That was all.

It was science.

But it hung with me, and wouldn’t let me hit the mental ‘clear’ button.

Those ‘rainbows’ were there for no more than the time it took me to leave the kitchen, go into the foyer and clean up. And if I hadn’t come back in at that exact moment, I would have missed them.

But I was in the foyer facing the dining room. I would have seen them as they appeared on the walls and the floor. I was looking right into the kitchen from where I was waiting for the Nature’s Miracle to do its work. And I was thinking of rainbows.

And wishing.

By the time John got up and we got coffee, and I told him, I had demoted it from freaky weird to just a very cool story. I remember having the feeling that, I mean, if one more thing happened that might mean something.

And that afternoon, John was opening the refrigerator, and he called me and pointed to the open door. There were four little rainbows on the corner of the refrigerator. He waved his hand through them, and they glided onto his palm, and he looked at me with his eyebrows raised.

I started to think that, even if I believed in signs, it was too early for me. I didn’t want another dog. My main man deserved more time – more of my time – to miss him first. Out of respect.

Later on, my friend called and asked if she could take me up on one more night’s lodging for the puppy. I said of course (I’d figured it might be a week or two, actually, so another night was nothing). She asked after him and I just said he was doing great. And he was. As I was talking to her and looking at him, he was hanging off of Fred’s ear. And we went through another night of potty outings and I got up at the same time the next morning and, as the sun rose, I had my camera in my hands.

Nothing.

Not one rainbow.

Absolutely nothing.

I told John when he woke up and we were, again, sipping coffee at the counter. My explanation is that the Earth and sun are forever in a different position relative to each other. It must have been just right the day before. He looked at me like I was a lunatic. Not the first time.

Later on, I was wiping down the counter after lunch and heard commotion in the dogs’ eating area. We have a little “bump out” in a hallway where they eat. There are cabinets and lockers for the kids, and each corner holds a $5 lobster pot picked up from Homegoods. They have domed lids which, when flipped over, make great raised dog bowls. The dogs’ water bowl is in the area too, and nothing else (as we are used to water bowl disasters). I figured the puppy had flipped a lid off of one of the pots or was playing in the water. And when I walked over, he was actually at Fred’s bowl, all by himself, playing with something on the floor.  I remember thinking that it had to be a toy he brought in with him, because I had fed the dogs earlier and there was nothing amiss then. And when I called him a silly boy, he raised his head and walked over.

And in his proud little mouth, was T’s puppy collar.

That collar hadn’t been seen since T was 6 months old. He had grown out of it about two weeks after we got him and, that holiday season, I had looked everywhere for it because I wanted to hang it and Blaze’s puppy collars on our Christmas tree. And there it was. I was watching it head down the hallway into the kitchen, being carried in the mouth of a puppy I did not want. But who was staying.

Because he was supposed to.

We had the naming discussions the next morning with some pretty excited kids. It had to begin with ‘M’. My daughter made it clear – through her texts from college in Kentucky – that she favored Marshall (based on her “How I Met Your Mother” obsession). We toyed with Mingus in light of my oldest son’s jazz studies at his own college. My youngest boy nixed Mingus, but wanted something ‘tougher’ than Marshal. So we finally settled on Marshal Dillon Dingle.

Marshal Dillon Dingle the Temporary Then Permanent Leftover Puppy.

Most of the time I call him Mooshie.

Epilogue

The mini rainbows never appeared again the way they did that morning when hundreds of them were splashed across the floors and walls. But for about three weeks after that we would see a single rainbow, or maybe a group of two or three, here or there. They weren’t predictable, and appeared at different times of day, in different places. And when I saw them, I would say out loud, “Hi, T. I miss you, my main man. Thanks.”

Thanks for readin’.

Elena Peters

midlife blogger & pinterest master

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