Friday, December 28, 2012

My greatest teachers - a look back

Dogs have always been a part of my life, even though I didn't always fully recognize the fact. We had multiple dogs when I was a child - always "outside" dogs, once inherited with a house we bought or often brought home by my younger brother. If the weather was particularly cold, we would bring them inside but they were rarely comfortable there, standing by the door, anxious to return to their own part of our universe. Most of these dogs were terrier-mixes of some sort, although there was a blond cocker. Trixie, Taffy (the cocker), Missy, Shorty - they were just always there. Even in the years since I left home there has always been a dog at my parents' home. I learned well.

And so dogs became a part of my life as an adult and still I didn't realize the connection. Even so, their lessons were constant and lasting.

Mattie Rae. My Airedale. She came to us as a 14 month old youngster, having spent most of her days crated. She was sensitive and a quick learner. She was also stoic and a good teacher. Once, when the children had pushed a "final" button, Mattie calmly stepped between them and me. She never moved, she never flinched. But she calmly looked at me and stood her ground when I would have erupted, as if to remind me to take the time and space to calm myself. Mattie never thought of herself; she always tried to make life simpler. Even when she went to the Rainbow Bridge, 13+ years old and battling lymphoma, she waited until she was at the vet's office and then passed on during the night. I will never forgive myself for not being with her, although I know in my heart it was to save me the anguish of seeing her slip away. Her gift, however, was to visit me in my sleep that morning, to run the fields of my mind as I took a walk, and to send a beautiful red dragonfly so I would know that while change is inevitable, re-birth and growth are always available to us. She was indeed the greatest of terriers.

Blue Monster Max. My first Welsh and my personal introduction to puppy mills. Max was born on January 1, 1992 and lived up to his name admirably! My son was born in December of the same year and so felt a special tie to Max. It was in trying to give Max a better quality of life, health-wise, that I first discovered alternative/natural healing, bodywork, and all the associated paths I have traveled in the years since. Without Max, well, the path would certainly have been different.

Hollis Haven's Brodrick (Brody). I will never forget traveling with my son to Pine Bluff (AR) for a dog show on a cold February weekend. He had been devastated at losing Max, his first such loss. A dear friend arranged for us to bring home an 8-month old Welsh Terrier, although my son didn't realize that is why we were making the trip. On Saturday morning she plopped Brody on a grooming table and, with a crowd of people around, ask my son if he wanted to take him home. The look on his face makes me cry even now, more than ten years later! Brody became my sidekick, however, although he loved both the children. Without him, I am not sure I would have survived the divorce years. In hindsight, I wonder how much of his health mirrored my own. I wonder if he took on some of the challenges that would have done me in completely. I do know we lost him far too soon, only six months after his ninth birthday. His small body simply could not take any more health setbacks. And the lessons I learned from Max - to well and truly ask and trust my dog and to never allow your own guilt and wants to overshadow their suffering and wellbeing - meant I had to stop fighting and allow him to go.

Sully is the rescue I mentioned in yesterday's post. Sully reminded me that every dog cannot be saved, by sheer force of will or otherwise. As I was thinking through this writing I remembered all the times he asserted his authority, sitting next to my face on my bed. Sully had a lot of good in him, but the demons were stronger.

Sailaways Blue Norther (Carson). The light of my life. Brody's health concerns and illnesses were hard on all of us. When a friend called me to offer one of a two-girl litter - Kit and Carson. Carson, she said, was the gentlest of the "evil twins," and she knew we needed a respite from having had two high-maintenance Welsh Terriers in our home over the years. Carson is sheer joy and happiness, constant motion (she loves to spin like a top - always in a counterclockwise direction!). She is a destructo-dog, chewing up anything and everything with a speed nearly impossible to comprehend. She rarely stops until she is exhausted - and it takes a lot to exhaust her. She tries (not always patiently) to remind me daily to slow down and appreciate the here and now.

Marley arrived in the weeks after Carson came to live with us. As I mentioned yesterday, he stole our hearts and always has a place in our home. There have been so many rescues over the years who also had lessons and wisdom to offer. I was rarely listening, particularly in the early days. But I think back on them now and realize each of them had a gift they left with me, and they were willing to entrust that gift to me until I was willing or able to open and learn from it. I give them my heartfelt thanks now and every day.

This year, during the cold dark days between Christmas and the New Year, I have chosen to reflect and remember all the dogs whose paw prints have left their marks, to thank them for their gifts and to incorporate their teachings into my plans for the future.

Carson gives love freely and often. I am thankful
to be a frequent recipient!

A rare still moment - but she always makes us laugh.

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