Sunday, January 20, 2013

From the hearts of dogs.

My most recent piece for the always lovely and inspiring Rebelle Society.

I love my dogs.

There is something about our animals that mends our spirits in ways we often cannot fully grasp, and dogs are certainly no exception. Unconditional love is what most would call it, and we know this because a dog’s love exists without the chains of unspoken criticism and quiet judgment.
But there is something else that I believe they are here to teach us, something deeper and more profound. Sometimes these realizations can be slippery and fleeting, mostly due to the tornado of demands that life spins our way.
However, if we can just hold on to these lessons, I think we will find them timeless and life altering.
  “Dogs are not our whole life but they make our lives whole.” ~ Roger Caras
I share my life with two wonderfully energetic, highly responsive dogs. They are effortless communicators, always effective and honest. They usually respond immediately to my gestures and tone of voice, knowing exactly what I want from them.
As all dogs instinctively do with their owners, they literally know me by heart, meaning they can feel my emotions intuitively, and a dog’s very nature is to operate from heart to heart.
They don’t know anything different, and every day when I bear witness to the bond these incredible animals are able to hold with us, I stand amazed, never taking their steadfastness and loyalty for granted.
Each morning, when I wake, I’m usually filled with anticipation and ready to jump-start the day.
Lately, I’ve been working hard at mastering a system in which I focus and prioritize, learning where best to put my time and energy that particular day, as I find it’s important to keep life in a healthy balance, and this balance seems to grow more important with each passing year.
But, a few mornings ago, I was tired. So tired. The kind of tired that demands every ounce of strength to merely crawl out of bed, start the teapot, and stretch your aching body. I felt a certain heaviness as though I was walking through fog as went through the usual weekday motions.
At times, we can be homesick for a place we aren’t sure of, or feel broken for reasons we can’t quite pinpoint. I was both of those and more so, I naturally blamed winter, based on my ongoing conviction that our bodies simply were not meant to withstand this type of weather for so impossibly long, and were, therefore either meant to live in warm places or hibernate.
Whatever it was, my usual system of operating simply wasn’t enough, and I was holding on to the promise of spring in the distant future. 

Enters Teddy, my rescue dog.
Having just turned one, has far more energy that his sister Rosie. In the mornings, he’s fairly predictable due to the promise of food awaiting. He’ll run outside, zoom at full tilt ‘round the snow-soaked yard, then bolt back into the house, ready for warmth again.
This was not that day. Hearing my familiar tone, Rosie burst back into the house, but Teddy stubbornly remained off to the side of the yard just beyond his favorite, large tree.
“Teddy, come inside!” I called, simultaneously burning my tongue on the still steaming tea, and glancing at the next few emails that’d suddenly appeared on the screen of the phone that my hand was now clenching. I looked again; he still wasn’t coming.
Frustrated and anxious to begin working, I retreated back into the kitchen, grabbed my coat, told Rosie to wait with a look, then headed out into the dark morning to retrieve Teddy, tensing from the sharp cold air, and wondering why I now live in a place where January feels so long and grey, and you can hardly tell day from night.
As I drew closer, Teddy briefly raised his soulful brown eyes with a brief wag of his tail in acknowledgement.
Then, he casually picked up a broken stick, lowered his lean body to the wet ground, and half-heartedly began to chew. It was as though he was purposely delaying having to go back inside the house by pretending he was involved in something that he actually wasn’t that interested in.
For a brief second I thought I should swoop pick him up and carry all 35 lbs of him in, but instead, I knelt down beside him, quietly devising a different plan to lure him back in.
But the longer I sat with him, the longer I unknowingly began to listen.
Then, somewhere between our breaths, I noticed the silence. It was a sweeping silence… The kind of silence that draws you in the way a painfully beautiful piece of music would, when, for a short time, the world seems to halt on its axis, and time crawls to a standstill. There was no wind, no rustle of leaves, and no echo of cars in the distance. It was just the silent dance of a winter sunrise, lighting rooftops and bare branches with warm golden light, as day began to break.
In that moment it occurred to me, I was feeling a pull of something larger than myself. It was a place of rest, refuge, and acceptance; and exactly what I’d hungered for lately, each time I’d feel the nagging uncertainty of what exactly made me ache.
A dog can bring this important type of peace the way another person may not be able to. It’s this very connection that rebuilds your broken parts, allows you to be moved, and renders you breathless with its beauty.
“There are moments of such pure, sublime, unparalleled perfection that will force you to close your eyes the best you can. Life is a series of these moments. Everything else is just waiting for them.” ~ Iain Thomas
Our lives will yield to the routines we inevitably cling on to with dependence, yet we must allow ourselves to be pulled past those boundaries we ourselves have built, or we’ll forget what is actually real.
Animals are unconditional love, not only because of their endless acceptance of our whole selves, but also because they allow us to recognize these moments that show us what is real.
We  humans see moments, and for that reason the moment always escapes us. A dog sees the moment but cannot see through it, and for that reason, time escapes him.

On that cold January morning, right there in the yard, I realized that I felt whole.
Teddy taught me to be in the moment, because within that unpredictably perfect moment, all I had, as well as just being myself… was enough.