Although I would like to think I can learn to communicate more effectively with my animals, I certainly don't profess to have any special abilities in that regard. So when one of my dogs talks to me, I would be stupid not to sit up and take notice.
I believe that our dogs come into our lives for a certain reason. I know there have certainly been lessons I've learned, roads I've taken, sorrows and joys I could not have experienced without my own dogs and the rescue Airedales and Welsh who have graced my life.
It was a rare evening at home. My daughter was working; my son had returned to college. The big dog was in the bedroom. The foster boy was taking his turn in the yard. So it was just Carson and me, curled up on the sofa. Well, "curled" might be overstating it: Carson was sprawled on her back, legs straight up in the air, chin tucked under my arm, nudging me to keep the doggie massage going. No real conversation, the tv was on low, we were just relaxing and enjoying one another.
"It's time to slow down." The words came to me, but not like a thought or one of those "aha" moments. It was a bright voice, a young voice, not a voice I recognized as floating around in my head under normal circumstances.
"Yeah, I know," I thought, not really connecting with the moment.
"It's time to slow down," came again, as black eyes drilled into mine and my wiggly puppy lay perfectly still in my arms. I felt my stomach clench and my heart squeeze. "It's time. It's been too long."
At that, the tears rolled down my face, dripping onto a ball of black and tan fur. Carson pawed at the drops as they fell, snuggling in closer, still and content to be in my arms instead of running in her counterclockwise circles.
"I don't know how," I wanted to say. "You don't understand. I have to work more than one job. I have bills to pay, college tuition, house repairs, dog food! And I have to go back to school, refine my studies, put myself in the place to get a better-paying job at some point in the future."
She continued to stare at me. Never blinking. Never wavering.
And I knew then something I had forgotten in the chaos that has characterized the past eight years of my life: it goes on. Life doesn't stop. People don't grow younger or stay still. Children and dogs don't always wait for us to keep up. I have missed moments and opportunities to live and to love, moments that can never be re-lived or re-captured. And even though this year finds me returning to school for another grad degree, and even though it will take time and effort, and even though I must add that to my TTouch training and my full-time job and my part-time job(s), and rescue work, and my youngest child's senior year next year, I will slow down. I will relish. I will cherish. I will live. And I will take the time to appreciate the 18 pounds of flesh and fur who reminded me of the importance - and the impermanence - of time.