One of the most fascinating aspects of humans being is the fact that we dance in not just one, but a garden of emotions and perceptions in each and every situation we encounter.
And this was what I was thinking when I sat down the other day to write about, you know, the skunk thing.
That particular happening – Blaze and Marshal being sprayed – was a riot. I was a riot, exclaiming and running and measuring and pouring and scrubbing and steaming alongside the dogs in the dark of a chilly autumn night in Maine.
The dogs were comical too, looking all forlorn, stinking and shaking off all over me and the roses which, in the cold, were simply trying to get ready for their winter hibernations.
And when I sat down to write about the skunking, I was still feeling the humor from the night before. It was really pretty funny… authentically and honestly very, very funny to me. And you got a true story, and hopefully laughed as you came along for the wild and odorous ride.
But there was also this other thing.
Something happened in the midst of the cleaning and the scrubbing and the grimacing and the occasional cursing.
There was this moment, this glimmer in time, as I was carefully cleaning around Blaze’s eyes… cooing to her that she was such a good and brave girl to sit so still, allowing me to help her even though it all seemed so far beneath her dignity.
Something opened up inside. A something in my heart… that had been a little bit closed, a little bit locked… for a little bit of years.
I first, and maybe last, wrote about my dog ‘T’ more than three years ago.
And I am surprised to realize, as we creep up on November, that this means T died almost four years ago… my beautiful and loyal, smart and silly, loving and dangerous boy.
Back in the first post I’d written about him, I wrote the following about the decision to put him down after working so hard together with people – veterinarians, his breeder, trainers… people who wanted him to succeed, us to succeed, nearly as much (but not possibly as much) as I did:
I was alone in my decision. I was alone when we went to see our vet. I was alone as I held him and he slipped away, looking to me as if he had a question. It didn’t matter how many people were actually there at any of those moments, or who told me I did the right thing, and that something awful was going to happen if I didn’t let him go (make him go). I was alone.
I loved that dog more than I had ever loved a dog. I was spiritually tethered to him. If you knew me you would know that is a very weird thing for me to say. But it’s the best description of how I felt. It had never happened before. Maybe it will never happen again. I am so grateful for his having been here, with me. I never once wished I had chosen the other puppy.
I still cannot read those words, or think of those final moments with him, without tearing up. It is still hard for me to talk about him beyond the occasional silly story. Facebook’s random memory generator sometimes seems to be missing an empathy chip.
On the one hand it’s simple. I loved him and he is gone.
On the other, it’s more complicated.
I couldn’t save him.
T’s death was different from those of the dogs, and cats, before him whom I have cradled as they slipped into the Next.
Old age has held my hand in some cases, cancer others, a stroke once.
Each defining, exacting. Giving me no choice but to hand over the leash, acquiesce to a power greater than me.
But T was young, healthy in body if not in mind.
My beautiful, beautiful ‘little man’.
And, no, if I had it to do all over again – because how could I not ask myself that question a million times, and then a million more – I would not make a different decision. I don’t say that righteously, not at all. I say it knowing I could not put another human being – my own family, or a stranger… or a child… in harm’s way, and I could not cage him for life. His spirit needed more, of that I was certain. And I had the expertise, knowledge, and love and support of good humans to guide me. I know that too.
His death kicked my ass, even as it broke my heart.
And in the days and weeks and months and now years that have followed I realize now that, though I have new and other dogs in my life – ones who live with me and others I just know and love, I have kept a distance.
I am not one who hurries to ‘put the past in the past’, or who avoids revisiting or re-examining past tough stuff. That type of thinking, and being, would not work for me, being someone who believes with all my heart that we are a product of all we have experienced and been. The past is necessarily and inextricably linked to each of our presents, and it has a fierce oppositional reflex. Try to push it and it pushes back, just as hard. Best invite it to dance instead, dancing being a far more beautiful thing than fighting.
What I realized, as I was carefully working with Blaze the other night, after the skunk had done what skunks do, was that I was caring… just a little bit more.
Worrying… just a little bit more.
I could feel my heart opening up to loving her… just a little bit more, even as Marshal danced around, spinning tales of the epic skunk battle with his silly ShepHerd body language.
Blaze is not my soul dog, her heart and soul pledged to another – and his to her. And Marshal is John’s, all in (and it is a wonder to see, even as I laugh at them).
But that’s not the point.
Some tough stuff in life takes longer to process than others. And the emotions and reactions that we long to experience again after a loss are not at our beck and call. Even when they are just about a dog.
They will arrive again in their own time, at their own pace.
We can be ready.
Open to recognizing them when they do return.
When our hearts open up, on their own, just a little bit.
And the light shines in.
And the colors come back.
Thanks for readin’.
As always, come on over to Just Ponderin’s Facebook page to comment <3