Farewell Old Girl

For over eleven years, my Dandie Dinmont Terrier, Dusty, has been at my side – or sitting on my foot as I write – but this morning I came down the stairs and no one was waiting for me. I went to run errands and came home to empty silence. The welcoming bark is no longer a part of coming home.

After a year of declining health, Dusty suddenly went downhill in less than 36 hours. She was too sick to be given a grand last meal or a nice long ride in the car. All I could do was sit by her in the very early hours of yesterday morning and talk to her. She let me know it was time. She was ready to go home. I woke up my boys so they could come down to say goodbye. Forever devoted to her ‘puppies’, after they bent down to kiss her, she bravely forced herself to her feet, shook herself and trotted to the back door to go outside in the yard one last time. She walked down into the yard, then looked for me to come get her. She had walked her last steps.

My boys decided to come with me to the emergency vet, all of us knowing that it was Dusty’s last ride. We reached the decision to let her go as a family and stayed with Dusty until she was peacefully snoring from the sedatives. We went home with an empty collar and her paw print set in clay. We’ve been looking at old pictures, laughing and crying over a dog that was so different from any I’d ever know.

She brought unquestioning, unconditional love into our home. When life got really rough, her floppy ears heard many whispered fears and confessions and her fur absorbed many tears. For this human, she was the right dog at the right time and we had some long talks about faith, trust, steps and staircases. Her alpha dog, terrier badass personality never changed but as her health failed, she reluctantly learned to trust our help and finally surrendered to being held and carried when she was weak and in pain.

We humans aren’t real good at accepting what we can’t see so God sent us dogs. Dogs are a sort of sneaky gift, almost a Trojan horse, full of other gifts like love, trust, forgiveness, and acceptance. Their big eyes and playful antics mask the many lessons we learn from them over the years when we thought we were just playing fetch. They never see our faults. They only see the goodness in us, even on our worst days. Their only mission here is to show us what unconditional love looks and feels like.

Well done Old Girl. Well done.

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Unglitzing New Year’s

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New Year’s Eve came around last night. Again. I have a serious love/hate thing going with New Year’s. I ricochet between, ‘Now what?’ [excited that good and new things are headed my way] and ‘Now what?!’ [fed up and overwhelmed already, what further crap could be coming]

I know the latter is not exactly inspiring, is it? But it’s honest.

I had planned to be celebrating with friends but my body had other plans. Between the cold, the coming snow, the stress of the busy season at work and my insane willfulness to just keep going full tilt during Christmas, the RA finally caught up and flattened me. I came home from work at 2:30 in the afternoon. I had to double up on the pain pills. Instead of heading out, I collapsed on the couch with my woobie blanket, feeling exhausted and rather betrayed. I spent the evening migrating between reading Rumi’s poetry and scrolling through Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr all while wearing compression gloves to help ease the pain in my hands. I’ve found that I read with different eyes on my down days. And from what I read on social media last night, I’m not the only out there who feels this kind of ‘oh crap now what’ trepidation as we head into 2014. But we gloss over it. We dress it up, take it out, buy it a few drinks and hope it will either change into blindingly brilliant optimism by the time the ball drops or at the very least, stop reminding us of all the things that could go catastrophically wrong in the coming year. Nobody that I’ve seen goes out on New Year’s Eve saying, ‘This year was tough and I’m afraid 2014 will just be more of the same.’ Not because we don’t feel it, but because it’s not acceptable to say it. New Year’s Eve is always the night of the happy, happy, joy, joy song and dance, insincere promises and staged optimism.

But the party is over now. The ball has dropped. Auld Lang Syne has been sung. The sun has risen on a new day, a new year. So the question still remains: Now what? The inflection and tone and the unspoken words carried behind it are up to you. As for me, it will be another quiet down day. But I managed to drag my sorry self down to the beach this morning and kneel in the sand with the sun of the new year on my face. When I stripped away all the glitzy, glossy, staged woohoo optimism, shoved away all the fears that are nagging at me, and took the time to really know the ground beneath me, I was left with one simple thing:

There are 365 dawns in a year. How many do I choose to ignore because I decide, for whatever reason, that I don’t like the way my day is headed even before it starts? I throw away a gift before it’s even unwrapped.

I could make a resolution to change but to be perfectly blunt, I suck at keeping resolutions. They’re too big for me to handle. I’ll stick to unwrapping today. I can thank God for the beauty I saw this morning…

… And for making sure no one saw me trying to stand back up after kneeling on frozen sand in 17 degree weather with knees that aren’t working right. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t graceful. But it was grace-filled and that feels like almost too much for me to accept.