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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I Asked For It

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I’d been struggling with the fact that I no longer felt at home in the Catholic Church since June. I finally told my spiritual director three weeks ago. While a bit shocked, Deacon Ron had known something was up all along. After seven years, he knows me well enough to know when I’m holding on to something. He pointed out in July that I was seriously pissed off at God, and I was…well am…, but while I’d admit to that, I wouldn’t entertain a discussion of the reasons why. I tend to do that. Until I can find the words I need to express it clearly enough to understand it myself, I keep it locked down tight.

So for six months I’ve held one of the only people that I really trust at a ‘safe’ distance and prayed for clarity. By now I should know enough to be careful what I pray for. I suppose I suffered a momentary lapse of reason but I begged for clarity. Know what that got me? Questions. Lots of ’em. And dreams. Weird, frightening, cryptic, and ├╝ber vivid dreams that haunted me for days, even weeks later.

Over the last few months, I wrote down the dreams in my journals. They made no sense. None. Then I had one so haunting and disturbing, it makes still makes me shiver even two months later as I sit in the sunlit kitchen. It scared me enough to tell it to a friend of mine. She told me that deep down I knew what it meant and I just wasn’t ready to face it.

In the dream, I was in the shadows across from a church door. A man came to the door and finding it locked, he began to beat on the door until his hands were bloodied and broken. He had his head against the door, crying as he pounded away in vain. I could smell the blood from where I was but could only watch, trapped and terrified in the shadows. I woke up still trying to scream and unable to.

This week I had another one just as vivid but instead of waking up terrified, I was surprisingly calm. Surprising because for the first time, I actually died in my dream. After months of dreams, most which had me in mortal danger, I finally actually died. So much for that myth we were told as kids that if you die in dream, you die in real life.

In this dream, I was in an office surrounded by a dozen men. One had taken charge of the office and he was cold and demeaning towards me. Then another man came. He tall and very authoritative. The others jumped to do what he said. So I went to Authority, telling him how I’d been treated. The anger was plain on his face. He sat me down across from the cold, demeaning one who had been in charge. Authority had chrism oil which he used to anoint my lips and the man’s ears. But the man stood up in a huff and walked away, refusing to acknowledge me. As he left office, the other men followed. Authority told me to go after them. They all out went out along a cliff to the shore, climbing far out on the boulders. The biggest waves I had ever seen were crashing near them. Some tried to surf but most just watched. I had hung back since I wasn’t really welcome anyway. Suddenly a huge wave swept in and I turned to face it just as it reached me. I was swept up and up. The wave curled over me. I knew I would either be smashed on the rocks below me or drown. I tried to hold my breath but I couldn’t. As the wave started to close over me, I just let go, surrendered and prayed ‘God help me’. It wasn’t a desperate kind of thing. It was like I already knew He was there. The wave closed over, I was under the water then all went black. I passed through the black and was back in the office. No one else was there but there was a note there for me. It was from Authority. It read simply: Finally. Always.

I knew what it meant. Finally, you surrendered. Always, I’ll help you.

I woke up and I could still smell the chrism. I had to touch my face to know it wasn’t there.

Surrender?
No.
No.
No.
Can’t.
Not no way.
Not no how.

But I did. In my dream. Maybe that’s the step I needed to be able to do it in my waking hours?

And that locked door? Can I walk out of the shadows and unlock it?

Not yet. There’s still something between me and the door.

Could it be that the clarity I’d been praying for could be found in the cryptic? A week ago I would’ve said, ‘No’ but now I can’t say that. Not after that last dream. I usually joke with Deacon Ron that it would take a three-foot flashing neon sign from God to be clear enough to satisfy me. Apparently, tidal wave trumps neon.