Wednesday, December 30, 2009

For the love of dog

I tell my dogs all the time they’re lucky they’re cute. They’re lucky they have wiggling furry bodies, soft ears and pouting mouths. Lucky they have liquid brown eyes, brows that furrow and big floppy feet. If it weren’t for these things, I would have told them to hit the road long ago; especially Murdoch.

As much as they have brought to my life, they have also demanded a great deal.

When it was just Bear, it all seemed so easy. Then Quincy came and went and left the cats behind, which complicated things immensely. Max showed up next, a swaggering old dog who stunk like a junk yard after spending most of his life living outdoors and was slowly losing his ability to walk, necessitating extra care that eventually led to us buying him a wheelchair. Then there was Murdoch, the dog nobody wanted - for good reason.

We all kind of limped along together and jostled ourselves into a sort of family, complete with sibling rivalries, temper tantrums and teenage angst.

Most days my patience is on the verge of plummeting to a grisly death.

It all starts innocently enough. Kisses are planted on the tops of furry heads, ears are scratched, cheeks pinched. Then the day begins to derail. While I’m walking him, Murdoch lunges at a car, dragging me behind at the end of his leash. A dark, menacing bark emerges from somewhere deep in his chest and his muscles turn to steel, he becomes rigid and immovable. Or he dashes off to the neighbour’s house, but not before stopping at the end of the driveway to turn and thumb his nose at me, while I wave a stick in the air in a futile attempt to lure him back to the house. Or he catches a whiff of something interesting and is off like a shot into the woods, his name leaping from my mouth louder and louder, which he deflects by cleverly weaving around trees.

I eventually retrieve him and return to the house to find Max has had an accident, sat in it and smeared it across the floor. Guilt-ridden for not getting him out sooner, I lift him up by the harness he wears and begin the awkward dance with his wheelchair that involves leaning over at a strange angle to steady the two-wheeled contraption while holding the handles on Max’s harness to keep him standing and snap the clips into place on the metal frame. It is made all the more difficult while wrestling with Max, who eagerly tries to walk towards the door, and at the same time keeping an eye on the mess on the floor with the view to avoid it at all costs.

In cleaning up the mess I need to go to the kitchen where I find Bear has ripped into the garbage and strewn trash all over the floor, angry to have been left behind. I trip over Chestnut, who has thrown himself in front of me because he thinks he’s starving to death, while yelling at Cleo for scratching her claws on the wooden spindles of the banister that overlooks the entryway.

Sometimes these things happen separately, a lot of the time they happen all at once.

Yes, there are moments when I feel like I could pack a bag for each of the animals, shuffle them out the front door and send them on their way. Just a moment here or there. It always passes.

It’s that tug inside that constantly reminds me I no longer live for just myself. My dogs require me to be present when I would prefer to be miles away, physically and mentally. They require love when all I want to do is curl up in a ball of frustration or anger and pull the grey clouds close around me and shut out the world. They require that I go outside with them and really be a part of the day.

They remind me how much I love to walk in the rain or run through deep, fluffy snow before collapsing in a heap. They remind me how beautiful a forest is, how serene it can be one minute and the adventures that can be found there the next. They remind me how much fun it is to play your favourite game, how satisfying it is to be outdoors everyday, how grounding a walk in the woods can be and how wonderful it is to share all these things.

So, yes, they are lucky they’re cute, but I guess I’m lucky too.

1 comment:

  1. Heather, the largess of your heart and the boundless stretch of your patience are most remarkable. These tumbling, demanding animals are indeed heavy weight fighters, but somehow you not only survive all the daily management crises but also you uncover, through these pets, some of life's more important lessons: the physical, romping joy to be found in nature; the soul-saving meditative response elicited by a quiet stand of trees; the simple but deep satisfaction of play; a heart transformed in the act of caring for one's fellow creatures. Yes, lucky you, they are helping to create you. A pleasure to read.
    Postscriptum: I'm off to dance in nature steep and snowy [skiing in Whistler for 3 weeks]. I'll catchy up to your literate reflections when I return. Continued success in your writing.