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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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.

Who’s Your Daddy

Yes, I realize Father’s Day was last Sunday, but my dad’s birthday was yesterday and I figured after all he’s done for me, he deserved a day and a blog post all to himself.

Having a birthday on the summer solstice is quite convenient for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s easy to remember because the beginning of summer is usually something people celebrate more than the beginning of winter, at least in Iowa.  

Second, it’s more likely Dad will be able to spend the day doing the kind of things he enjoys doing, like fishing, watching the Cubs play baseball, or having a patio party with friends and family.

And third, it’s the driving force coercing me out of the comfort of my bed and into my writing room to post this while the day and my dad are fresh in my mind.  I swear I’m channeling the collective energy of all the midnight revelers dancing in the moonlight as they usher in the summer.

Whatever the case, it’s well past my bedtime.  However, the words will not wait so I will release them and maybe we’ll all sleep better for it.

I would like to get something clear from the get-go.  I’ve never been Daddy’s GirlDaddy’s Little Princess, or even the first name that came to mind when he addressed me.  Being the youngest, he often remembered my name only after reciting my sister and brother’s names first.  

Granted, I often got him so flustered or irritated thataddressing me in an ever increasing crescendo of Kellie-Kendall- PENNY was the most effective way to let us all know I was in trouble.  

While we each had our ways of  sending this gentle giant over the edge, I was particularly good at it.  Especially during church, I am told.

As anyone with siblings can attest, it’s not necessarily the one who started it who suffers the consequences.  It’s the one who gets caught.  Since there were three of us, it was usually two against one, and I was often the sacrificial lamb or black sheep.

I’m not saying my dad didn’t have reason to suspect me.  I did my very best to challenge him throughout my childhood.  Not intentionally, mind you.  I was just incredibly independent.  “Because I’m your dad and I said so,” might have worked on the other two, but it seldom worked on me.  

Even though I was the last on the family food chain, I was the first to try things that I considered to be brilliant, bold, and daring.  My dad didn’t see it that way .

Once in a fit of frustration he said in a loud voice, “You are the most independent woman I’ve ever met!”  To this day I consider it a compliment, although when I’m walking three dogs and Scooter exhibits his independent nature and leaves the pack to discover disgusting things to proudly bring back to us, I begin to see my dad’s point.

This is the thing with dads and parents in general.  They are wiser than we ever give them credit for and right more often than we care to admit.

Even though we live our whole lives in anticipation of their approval or in reaction to their rules, there is no denying the indelible influence they have on who we become, how we behave, even how we look.

I’ll never forget one particularly bad blind date that ended in a drive by drop-off .  The guy had never met me but had met my dad.  The first words out of his mouth were, “You look just like your dad.” 

My dad is approximately  6’3″, 280 lbs, and balding.  Although my dad is handsome to me, no woman with any sense of sexiness left after succumbing to the humiliation of a blind date is going to want to be compared to those height, weight, and hair restrictions.

I knew at that point, the rest of the night was pointless.  Seriously, men who might be reading this:  Unless your date’s dad has just been named Sexiest Man Alive, avoid that line.  And the drive by drop off.  Walk your date to the door at least.

Okay, so before you begin to think daddy issues are responsible for me not getting engaged until now, let me reassure you it’s more the independence thing. When the independence thing had run its course and I moved back to the Midwest, I became fiercely protective of my parents.   

Midlife has a way of softening judgments and expectations not only of ourselves but especially our elders.  When options begin to contract instead of expand, and there are more exits than entrances, there is a certain amount of grace we learn to extend to others.  For me, this began at home.

After years of being the yin to my dad’s yang, the “heck, yes!” to his “heavens, no!“, the left to his right, the open to his closed, I find myself appreciating the middle space we can meet in now.

I used to believe my dad would never understand me, let alone admit he had something to do with creating me.  But my mom told me how once he was busily bragging me up to strangers, telling them his daughter had written a book.  Up to that point, I wasn’t sure he knew what a big deal getting a book published was to me.

Then there was the day I decided to temporarily set my writing dream aside to take the respectable job I have now.  On our way to Maquoketa to look for a house my dad said, “This is going to be really hard for you, isn’t it?

My free spirit heart melted as I realized I had been living the dream for all of us.  My dad had his share of dreams he had to give up in order to be responsible, respectable, and do the right thing for his family.  Now he was witnessing me make the same choice.

The happy ending to this story is I’m now writing again while holding down a job and enjoying a family of my own with friends and animals that supply me with blogging material on a regular basis.  

I suppose if Bob would suggest I remind him of my dad, I’d take no offense to that.  After all, my dad is kind, intelligent, generous, and lovable.  And he can say his daughter dedicated this blog post to him, even though I suspect he may not know what a blog is.

What about you?  Who’s your daddy?  Share if you dare in the comments below.