Things No One Tells You When You Get A Dog

Bob Pen Abbey 7-23-13

I’m once again up way too early to do anything but write.

Sadly this time it was not instigated by a dog who needed to be let outside, but a dog I must let go.

Sometimes death comes excruciatingly slow and other times painfully swift.  In the case of our gentle lab Abbey, it was some surreal mixture of both.

Abbey was my sister’s dog originally, a Christmas gift for her girls a dozen years ago, who were just babes themselves.  Abbey spent her early years in New Hampshire, Missouri, and North Carolina before coming home to live with me and my dog Malcolm in Illinois and finally Iowa.

I think everyone in my family would claim her at theirs since she spent some time with all of us when one of us had to travel without her.  She found comfort in laying at my dad’s feet, riding in my mom’s car, being reunited with her girls when they came to visit, playing dress up with my youngest niece and helping my brother convince my cat loving sister-in-law that dogs can indeed make incredible companions.

She also had a way with the boys and spent her last couple of hours surrounded by her favorite fellas – Jake, Scooter, Rosco, Gavin, and her all time favorite, Bob.  She was an equal opportunity lover and rallied at the opportunity to take one last walk by the river with her pack, herding us all and making sure no one was left behind.

The decision to end a pet’s life is wracked with doubt.  I’ve had to make that decision twice in the last two years. When they are suffering through their worst moments, I am convinced it is the most humane thing to do. It becomes the most agonizing thing to do when the appointed time draws near.

I can barely breathe through it, stay in the moment, and not distract myself from the onslaught of memories mixed with fear of a future without my canine companion.  A part of me dies with my dog.

Fortunately my vet makes house calls and has allowed both Malcolm and Abbey to pass in the peace of familiar surroundings with their favorite toys, treats, and companions right next to them.  And incredibly lucky for me, I have Bob,  who bears this burden with me and lets me cling to him even as his heart breaks.

To deal with the aching absence of Abbey, I alternate between listening to gut wrenching songs about grief to reading poetry about passing to drinking rain forest tea to collapsing on the couch.  Eventually I reach for my pen and journal, open up a vein and let the following bleed out.

Things No One Tells You When You Get A Dog

No one ever tells you when you get a dog

that they will heal your heart every time it breaks

only to shatter it beyond recognition when they leave.

They forget to mention

you will continue to offer table scraps to the ghost of a good dog

and listen intensely for the pattering of paws across the kitchen floor

or wait for the delirious wagging of a tail to welcome you home.

You never suspect you will miss the insistence on a Busy Bone from the kitchen

once you’ve settled snugly into the couch.

You can’t fathom wishing you would wake

once more to the movement of dreaming feet, muffled barks,

and snores that rival your husband’s.

No one tells you that coming across a favorite toy, food dish, eye drops, ear wipes,

multiple dog beds and blankets will remind you that your life was blessed by a dog.

No one wants to spoil the ending at the beginning.

No one wants to tell you the grief will go as deep as the love

and come in waves at odd moments long after your dog is gone.

They will only ask you when you’re going to get another

and you will say never…

Until one day you remember that dog is just god spelled backward

and the closest thing to heaven on earth.

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Could You Be Part of a 4am Conspiracy?

Digitally generated roman numeral clock

It’s 4am on a Saturday. I think about the TED talk by poet Rives detailing his theory about four in the morning and all the references to it in films, songs, and other works of art. Clearly this is the bewitching hour, the time when downloads from the divine are most likely to occur, the time we walk between the worlds of waking and dreaming.

If I’m lucky, I’m sleeping at 4am. Not because I’m opposed to the particular gifts that 4am bestows, but because I desperately need the sleep.

So much depends on a good night’s sleep. From my attitude to the way my body metabolizes nutrients and burns calories to the way my brain processes thoughts to the amount of energy at my disposal, sleep is a biggie in my book.

The unbearable lightness of being a light sleeper is that anything and everything can jolt me out of dreamland and into full on monkey mind chatter that requires more than a few brain bananas to pacify.

If my noise cancelling headphones are near my bed and miraculously attached to my iPod which is geared up to my sleep paraliminal meditation and happens to be next to my Rescue Sleep Bach Flower Remedy, I have a chance of falling back to sleep.

Otherwise, the best thing to do is get up and blog.

I think about my friend Gillian from the UK who I met in Los Angeles in January. She is back in Los Angeles this weekend and most likely awake at 4am due to serious jet lag mixed with excitement and information overload from three days of brainstorming with her Mastermind group.

I am filled with excitement as well. I’m teaching the material I’m learning in my coaching program and meeting incredible people along the way. From the participants to the guest speakers, people are opening their hearts and minds to me. Consequently, I’m brimming with purpose and consumed with creating meaningful change and immense value.

I’m also apprehensive. My dog Abbey, the instigator of this 4am wake up call, has grown old and uncomfortable almost overnight.  Suddenly she has something going on with her eyes that is serious enough to warrant an 8am vet visit. My heart is heavy with sadness for this sweet dog who waits on the step for me every night and wags her tail profusely as soon as I return from work. Her unconditional love, loyalty, and companionship have healed my heart more times than I can count. Now I need to do whatever I can to help her heal and bring her ease and comfort.

This morning that meant letting her out to sit under a tree and sniff the air. When I went out to retrieve my retriever, the grass and trees glistened like an enchanted forest. No wonder she wanted out.  She wanted to play her part in the 4am conspiracy.

She’s now sleeping blissfully, having accomplished her mission of getting me up and at the keyboard. She knows a writer needs solitude and silence, the precise conditions present at 4am.

At some point today, after my words have found their way into the blogosphere and Abbey’s eyes have been examined and soothed, perhaps I’ll curl up next to her and nap. Until then, I have to assume sleeping in on Saturday or Sunday is a covert  attempt to conceal the 4am conspiracy theory.

What about you? Is there a time when you are perpetually perplexed, vexed, or called to create? Are there certain times during the day or night that compel you to act?  Share in the comments below.

This Thing Called Love

Two hearts on the branch of a tree, retro look

Valentine’s Day defines February in much the same way Christmas defines December.  Whether you’ve jumped on the love bandwagon or not, you’re bombarded with images of a world ruled by romance and populated by passionate partners.

It’s not that I’m against love.  Oh no.  I’m all for it.  I believe love is a many splendored thing and, like Burt Bacharach, what the world needs now is love, sweet love.

It’s just that the idea of love that’s been sold to us needs a little revision.  From fairy tales to scary tales (“reality” tv like “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette”) to promises of soulmates and twin flames, how can the real possibly compete with the ideal?

For me it’s the imperfections that endear another to me.  I’ve had my share of “perfection.”  It’s intimidating, exhausting, and self-indulgent, not to mention impossible to maintain.

What I absolutely adore in others are the things that make them unique.  Things like sneaking private code words into a public presentation.  Or consoling an elder by singing show tunes, mesmerizing a history class by reciting the Gettysburg address in its entirety, knowing how to solve story problems or anything to do with algebra, naming the constellations with confidence, caring deeply for the environment, or always making time to give a dog a bone.

I also adore this uniqueness in inanimate objects.  Last night I fell in love with the sunset.  Not just because it lit up the sky with shades of red, orange, and magenta, but also because it created a kaleidoscope of colors reflecting off the clouds in the opposite direction.

Up until then I was feeling tired, cranky, and creatively challenged.  Once I stopped and marveled at the sunset, I felt energized, inspired, and deeply loved.

The thing about love is that we so often limit it.  There is no lack of love. There is only a lack of awareness of it in its many forms.

It is freely offered to us in a smile from the toll booth attendant, a bird landing on our windowsill, a door held open by a stranger, a warm breeze blowing at our back, a cat napping next to us, a toddler being tickled, or a song sung soulfully by a street musician.

Yet we don’t expect love from life in general.  We expect it from those we love.  And we usually expect it on our terms.

The heart is synonymous with love.  It’s no coincidence that both “hear” and “art” are contained within the word heart.  There is an art to love that requires us to hear, open, allow, touch, feel, see, taste, experience without fear.

We’ve all had our share of heartaches, heartbreaks, and heart “attacks.” No one willing signs up for these.  Yet in my experience, the greater heartbreak is not to love at all.

Though you may choose to celebrate Groundhog Day, Presidents’ Day, your birthday, anniversary, or the new moon with more exuberance than Valentine’s Day, if you allow love to sneak up on you in small, unsuspecting ways, you might just find it every day.

I would love for you to share your perspective on love in the comments below.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

“If the only prayer you ever say is thank you, it will suffice.”  – Meister Eckhart

It’s here once again.  My favorite holiday of the year.  A day dedicated to giving thanks and appreciating all that is good and plenty and ours to experience.

It’s been an amazing year.  As often as possible I’ve attempted to blog about it because for me, an experience isn’t assimilated until it’s articulated.  Once I committed to learn, grow, and connect in a very public way, each risk I took  opened the door to the next big thing.  Often times opportunities overlapped, making life that much more interesting.

My writing life has been full of plot twists, unruly characters, unexpected drama, comic relief, tragedy, mistaken identities, and happily ever afters interrupted by reality scripts.  Had I been given a choice of superpowers, I may have picked a talent that would more clearly catapult me to super stardom or super service. But for argument’s sake, I’m going to assume I did have a choice and my soul choose writing.  Consequently I will wield my words accordingly.

It’s interesting that the thing others find extraordinary about us is often the thing we consider the most ordinary.  We mistakenly believe if we can do something, so can everyone else.  It’s almost preposterous to think people will pay us to do what we do naturally.

But it happens every day.  Yesterday, for example, I consulted an expert in web design for speakers, writers, and coaches. In about twenty minutes I discovered I could take my business to a place I’ve not been able to get it to in twenty years.  Yes, it will require a considerable investment of time, effort, focus, and vision as well as cash.  But I am thrilled to know there are people out there who are extremely good at the things I am not.  Aligning myself with them,  frees me up to focus on what I do best while they do what they do best.

I also had a chance to catch up with friends who have believed in my dreams long before there was evidence they would come true.  Talking with them was so nourishing because they have been there, listened to, and participated in every iteration of my evolution and still support the ongoing unfolding with unbridled enthusiasm.

So yes, I love it that there is a day devoted to giving thanks.  Because in my world, despite a few failures and downright disasters, so much to be grateful for remains.  Here are a few things on my gratitude list.  I’m grateful for you, for a couple of days off work from a good job, for time to walk the dogs, connect with family and friends, eat good food, watch movies, stay home while other people shop, play cards or board games, spend time in nature, and write until my heart’s content.

What about you?  What are you thankful for this year?  Share if you dare in the comments below.

PS – I know the holidays can be rough for those of you who have suffered a loss or multiple losses or are struggling with financial, health, or relationship challenges. In these instances it may feel impossible to feel grateful.  Yet I do believe the saying, “There is always something to be grateful for.”  It may be hard to believe this when you’re feeling incredibly low, but I’ve found that identifying even the simplest thing to be grateful for helps the healing begin.