Who’s on first…
These are the first words I speak each day,
“Thank you for being my light, my beacon, and my truth. Thank you for guiding me, teaching me, reminding me, and forgiving me.” It may sound as though I’m praying to a god with those words, but I’m not. I continue, “Thank you for being my best friend. Thank you for letting me be your human, and your steward. May the lord bless you and keep you this day my Baby Boy.” These words are spoken to my dog, Stroodle.
I have been Stroodle’s human, and his steward for nearly 7 years. In truth, I didn’t want Stroodle at the time he arrived in my life. I was caught up in a very selfish lifestyle. I lived in condo with no yard. I worked long days. When I wasn’t working I was working out. I didn’t want to be bothered. Besides, I already had Pumpkin, a low maintenance Shi Tzu/Pug mix. Blind in her only eye, and nearly deaf, Pumpkin was the Helen Keller of dogs. However, my daughter and her mother thought I could provide a good home to Stroodle, and his presence might do both Pumpkin and I some good.
Stroodle had likely been abused as a puppy. He was just under a year old when he arrived. His left rear hip was damaged, and despite two surgeries after I got him, he still uses that leg for balance only. After I took him in I immediately hired a couple of neighborhood girls to walk Pumpkin and Stroodle each afternoon while I was working. At night the three of us would sit on the living room sofa, and watch ESPN until bedtime.
I have belonged to a household with at least one dog since the day of my birth. I am a dog person. I come from a long line of dog persons. In truth, I was always a minor contributor with the upkeep of the dogs I had growing up. Most of their care came from my older brother, and my parents. I loved, and appreciated dogs, but I could rarely be found with a brush in my hand. I had better things to do. Misty, a male collie who was named by my brother after Dairy Queen’s Mr. Misty drink, accompanied my family throughout most of my childhood. He probably deserved a better home, but he was loved and appreciated, if not well groomed.
One day when I was 16, I walked into the house and gave Misty a hug. I was surprised when underneath his un-brushed fur, his stomach was the size of a basketball. I had discovered a tumor that he had likely been carrying for a while. I was the only one home. It was snowing, and my car wouldn’t start. I began walking Misty through the snow about a mile to the local veterinary clinic. When Misty could no longer walk, I picked him up and carried him in spurts.
Eventually we arrived, I checked him in, and I guess without giving it too much thought, I left him there in trusted hands and contacted my mother and father to let them know what happened. The following day Misty passed. I believe he was 13. Though I was sad when told of his passing, in hindsight I can say I was more neglectful of Misty, than I was an advocate for him through the course of his life. What did I know…? I was just a kid.
As I have gotten older, perhaps due to the influence imbalanced human relationships have had on my life, I have come to realize that despite my life long appreciation of animals, I’m only now learning to appreciate the value of animals in the human experience. Some values which are often associated with our pets:
– Unconditional love
– Living in the moment
Some values which may go less noticed:
Back to Stroodle…
I had always depended on Pumpkin and Stroodle to be there for each other. I was simply providing them a safe home, some love, some kibble, and lap time at the end of my workday. Some time back Pumpkin passed away, and Stroodle was alone. This, this is when I discovered what it truly means to be a dog person. After Pumpkin’s passing I made a promise to Stroodle that I would be the best human he could hope to have. I made it a priority to be his steward, and his advocate, not his owner.
Each morning I hold him because I believe no dog should go a day without a human touch. They deserve to feel love through hands of another being. Many times throughout the day though, it’s more selfish than that. I hold him because I’m the one who needs to feel love through the touch of another being. As the chaotic world around me unfolds through my 17” computer screen; babies dying, shootings in schools, wars and politics rage on, my dog never questions my need to touch him. He simply provides me with comfort – willingly.
A house is not a home…
I believe children should be exposed to pets at an early age. My daughter was born into a house with two dogs, and we added as she got older. By the time she was 13, the dogs she knew as a child had passed. Though there is certainly sadness, and heartache that comes from the loss of a pet, there is also a perspective, and context which can be applied to life.
If we are fortunate enough to love an animal, and be a steward for him, we are blessed in many ways. Not the least of which is learning a superior context we can apply to apply to the duration of a life. When we are born our parents are already older. We never really know them in their youth. If we are fortunate enough to have children, we know them in their youth, and perhaps even into middle age. However, most never see their children live deep into old age. Having a pet gives us a different perspective on this. Horse, dog, hedgehog, or cat, we often get our pets at an early age, and are often able to see them live a complete life.
When I stop to consider this, it reminds me that we have so much to learn about the seasons of life from our pets. The fragility of spring. The restlessness of summer. The calm of autumn. The perspective of winter. Watching these seasons unfold through the animals I have loved, helps me better understand my life, and the lives of others. Be well… rc
The only truth I will ever know, is looking into the eyes of a dog.
Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there is this from Wooden Shjips. Enjoy…