Today the attempt to rescue Annie was a burden. It sat heavy on me. Finally, this evening, I had enough information to understand that there was at least a fair chance that she’d be rescued by someone else. It will take several hours to write about all the conversations, written and spoken, which were conducted on the subject of Annie and the shelter where she is, and I won’t do it tonight. I’m too tired.
This week I’ve started to understand how rescuing dogs might lead to exhaustion; mental exhaustion, in this case, although I’m sure it might be physical, too.
So I’ll write about Annie tomorrow. Tonight I had notes to play, with the other two women who, with me, form a chamber music trio. We have a concert on Super Bowl Sunday (before the show, of course!), and we’ve made a program of musical rivalries, in honor of the game. It was a productive, pleasant rehearsal, and lifted some of the cloud left on me by the drama surrounding Annie. As I drove home, I thought about the emotionally difficult time I’ve been having lately, and the mental toll that this week’s rescue activities, and, probably, Grace’s illness, have taken.
But I realized, at the same time, that in actual fact I had very little to complain of. Grace is recovering, plain and simple. Annie has probable rescue, with adoption by my friend CE as an alternative plan, should rescue fall through. Clarisse made a new friend yesterday evening–she and Dog Goddess really hit it off, and Maureen has a lot of respect for DG. They’re getting together again this week. I didn’t have time to call TA and see how Petey is doing, but, since I heard nothing from TA, I’d bet that everything is not only fine, but peachy.
So all that was very good, I thought as I drove, and I should be grateful, not slightly bummed out. And then I thought of something I’d discovered yesterday, through an email.
I belong to a ladies’ musical club, and the husband of one of our members is dying, in his thirties or early forties, of inoperable cancer. His time is measured in months, although he qualified for a study on an experimental treatment, and so there’s reason for some optimism. Yesterday I found that he’s writing a blog here on wordpress, and I read it. I sat here at my computer and laughed and cried in about equal proportions, often at the same time. How brave he is, and how funny, and grateful, and loving, and wise. I’ve never met him, but I feel I know him. His words are coming straight from his heart. Maybe they always were, but maybe he had no reason to write them down, before. I feel honored to be reading them. The thoughts of a person who loves this world and is preparing to leave it are so important for us to know.
I cried as I drove, and felt the fragmented shards left in me by Annie’s frustrating situation shift, as if I were a kaleidoscope, and settle themselves back into a beautiful pattern. My focus came back, all at once, and I could throw off what was unimportant and celebrate what was. And the timing was perfect, because I was turning onto my street.
I’m always very happy to come home to the dogs and cats, but today was one of the best reunions I can remember. The cats are always pleased to see me, and they get me headed towards their food bowls. The dogs are much more demonstrative. When they come around me in a circle, each using a slightly different body language to communicate his or her joy at my arrival, I feel something I haven’t found the words for, yet. It’s a fairly new thing for me, you see, to have all these dogs. I didn’t realize, until I suddenly had nine (I’m leaving Grace out of the equation, because, by the time she joined us, I did realize), not only that I was capable of caring for multiple dogs, but that I was finally living as I’d always wanted to live.
With all the dogs around me, welcoming me home, or choosing from the dozen or so bed options and settling down in their various spots around our giant ‘den’, as they’ve just finished doing, I feel a sense of the deepest satisfaction I’ve ever known. Dogs don’t need to think about someone who is dying bravely to know that they have it good and should be grateful. Dogs make the best of everything. That, to me, is a very pure form of gratitude, and it satisfies my soul to its core.
I wrote a poem a few years ago, when I must have felt deeply sad, sad enough that I needed things to hold to, to stay afloat. I can’t remember exactly when I wrote it, but there’s a reference towards the beginning about someone dying, from having had to face too much death close around her. That strikes me as a maudlin idea now, way too self-obsessed. But I have lost some very important people to death, very unexpectedly, and I took it hard, and wrote the poem probably around that time.
And it did occur to me this morning, as I woke up weighed down by the thought of Annie in a gas chamber, that the dog rescue business does surround one with death, and it does get one down. I’ve seen many references on Facebook to the emotional pain of dog rescue, and I’m involved enough to be affected. It’s impossible to be active in it and not find yourself weeping regularly.
So, while I no longer have maudlin ideas that it might kill me to be surrounded by death, I know that it’s wise for me to kind of collect antidotes to that weighed-down feeling. And the best one, for me, is those dogs–smiling faces with bright eyes gathered around me, their fur, their kisses, their frolicking, and, of course, their deliciously-fragranced paw pads.
Here’s the poem in all its slightly sappy glory–I didn’t edit it, because there would be something dishonest about that. When I wrote it, that was me. And even now I have the exact same opinion about those paws! That hasn’t changed, and, I’ll bet, never will. I believe dog-paw love to be a truth universally acknowledged, as my favorite author put it, amongst serious dog lovers.
Let me smell a dog’s feet if I lie dying
Before my time, from a surfeit of death and a lack of courage.
Hold my head, and help me to bow down before a small warm bundle lying curled beside me, to breathe again the glorious richness of life,
of moist earth and crisp leaves and mown grass,
of flowing water and fresh snow and sparkling ice,
reduced like a delicious sauce and basted onto small strong pads which have never known faith falter as they take another step, and another, and another.
Let me smell, and it will call me back from that cold brink,
As surely as the voice of God.
In the midst of life we are in death, yes, without doubt, and an occasional reminder of the finite doesn’t come amiss.
But surely, says the fragrance of a dog’s feet, in the midst of life we are, simply and joyously and grandly, in life.