When I started the puppy to dog life with Luci, I was really preempting death. I notice a gimpy gait, a struggle to stand and thought that Fly’s days were numbered. I could not deal with her death. Could not. So I brought in more life that needed to be tamed.
Here I am 545 days later with three dogs.
I have a husband which is a lot like saying I have a dog.
You know immediately what I mean. The anticipation of needs, the shopping for food and the training are regular, on-going, perpetual processes that threaten to consume one’s identity and definitely consume one’s day.
I have the three dogs, who can not leave the house without sitting and waiting to be called “Outside.” My husband may not leave the dinner table until he has divulged his thinking AND emotions on said thinking. I would like to brag for a moment: I have been successful in achieving high probability of conformity. In other words, they all sometimes do what I want. The dogs frequently sit at the door before I ask and my husband frequently talks before even trying to leave the table.
I am not contemplating a close to this training, however. There are always new tricks to link to the learned tricks. The dogs are figuring out how to go to “Places” before they sit, so I gain a bit of space to open the door and have a guest come in. The husband is learning how to articulate deep-seated intuitions, which are impacting his ability to sustain joy in his work.
I have to say that mastering the frustration of teaching the new skill and channeling that energy has been easier with the dogs than my husband. The problem is so much easier for me to identify and dissect, whereas the problem for my husband is still deeply embedded in HIM. All I can do is encourage him to learn how to link intuition to thought to emotion to talking to listening to creating to ASKING FOR HELP. After a year and a half of prompting, questioning and listening, I think we have hit on the problem. The problem is too big to be solved by only him, himself, and he.
My next trick for the dogs is to wave hi/bye before leaving the sit.
The next trick for my husband is to accept all that story he has found in himself, and allow other people help him write a new chapter.
I am renaming my dogs.
Hereafter Fly will be called Hookah, Luci will take the name Shisha and Cappy will be known as Nargileh. This way I can gather my pack and embrace the latest social networking craze: Hookah Cafes. Straight from the Middle East….Check it out! There is one near you, unless you live in North Dakota or Northeastern Pennsylvania, which is why I am having to improvise.
Apparently the allure of entering a smoke-filled cafe is that one’s friends are also entering this carcinogenic cloud. Together you ritualistically prepare the fruit and sugar-laced tobacco in a water pipe–hookah, shisha, narghila–light it up, and alternately take puffs, laugh, flirt, and chat; sharing your smoke and your germs as the pipe is passed around the crowd.
I am of the generation that nicked their parents’ cigarettes or soaked them in water before stuffing them back into half-empty packs, all in a zealous attempt to make those poor ignorant fools understand that The Surgeon General Has Determined that Cigarette Smoking is Dangerous to Your Health! I am a bit confused by this generation, who has grown up among health nuts and vigorous anti-smoking campaigns, and their decision to embrace the communal smoking of said product.
I suppose I should be grateful that my child is smoking maassell and not hashish or opium. But I find myself astonished and concerned nonetheless.
Perhaps this is a push-back to the constant digital cloud that buzzes around and through them? That by sitting in a real cloud surrounded by real friends talking in real time these young adults are experiencing a kinship and community that my generation got to have, and took for granted? I applaud the gathering, the talking, the shaping and sharing of cultures from around the world. I worry though about the unintended consequences of these Hookah Cafes:
In the Middle Eastern studies, hookah smoke has the same amount of nicotine and tar particles as cigarette smoke. There are even unique poisons and evidence of lead arsenics that come from smoking out of the hookah’s heavy metal pipe. The amount of carbon monoxide is also very high and related to heart attacks. Secondhand smoke contributes to breast cancer and has been linked to lung cancer.
One session of hookah smoke (approx. 45 min.) is the equivalent of smoking one pack of cigarettes per day. The blood levels and genetic changes of the bronchial tubes and chromosome changes of hookah and cigarette smokers are about the same. There is just as much damage from both.
Dr. Herman Kattlove, a medical editor at the American Cancer Society
Making an informed decision about joining the Hookah culture means seeing past the myth that the water pipe’s filtration limits exposure to the contents of tobacco smoke; it means moving beyond the enticement of a sweet taste and a communal experience.
Take the time to research what carcinogens and heavy metals you will be inhaling. Consider what gets transmitted as the pipe gets passed; are you ready to develop tuberculosis, herpes, or hepatitis in the name of Hookah?
All things considered, I would rather enter the kitchen, embrace my renamed pups and pass the kibble. I hope my young adult friends can find an alternate Hookah Cafe, too.
I went on the treadmill this morning, mimicking life a bit. The damp cold of fall turning into winter dissuaded me from walking dogs up the real hill. “Morning Edition” kept me company as I huffed and puffed; Luci snuck downstairs to eavesdrop. I was doing ok, with the whole fa la la chore list thing, until I heard Rachel Flotard singing a ballad, “I will still live after you’re gone.” I was overcome with longing to visit my father, to share stories about kids parting, living their lives without moms and dads in the next room. All I could do was settle here.
I know that you would kick my behind if I didn’t finish what I started, raising kids to be independent, loving, capable people. I know that you would hug me close when I rage at my kids’ leavings on Christmas adventures.
You would say go start a food drive or
feed the birds Christmas pine cones slathered with peanut butter or
invite someone, who has no one, to share Christmas Day.
“You are stronger than you know.”
My son will live on after I am gone, and I want him to remember me as I remember you:
Smiling and waving, sending me on my way.
Merry Christmas, Daddy.
When the emptying begins, a mom thinks that she can cope. When the emptying continues, a mom thinks that she can cope. When the emptying stops ending, a mom thinks she can cope.
But coping is not the same thing as being excited. Or fulfilled or needed or happy. Coping is another word for making peace with loneliness.
“Tis the season for peace. I rage, “Bring it ON!” ” please.”
Into this grieving abyss jumps a puppy.
Every morning Luci wiggles all over with the exciting discovery that I have returned. I am her world, very briefly, and that moment is enough to keep me waking up. Her total puppy adoration and joy in my reappearance is enough to make me climb the attic steps, drag down Christmas decorations and start a tradition. Raffi’s voice fills my home.
Every little wish and every little dream has a chance of coming true at Christmas.
(All three dogs spin to the right.)
Every little song sung throughout the year has a chance of being heard at Christmas.
(All three dogs spin right on Christmas.)
Every little prayer and every little hope is the joy of Christmas time.
(All three dogs look confused but gamely heel to the door and back to the living room.)
All our loving hearts, beating all as one. Everybody fed, there’s enough to go around.
(All three dogs spin to the right.)
All our loving hearts beating all as one…. The joy of Christmas time .
(All three dogs try to spin, stand, then bow.)
And so a melody sung each December since 1987 is knit to the choreography of 2009, creating a tradition that brings both comfort and joy.
Decorations are going up, cards are going out, cookies are going in. Traditions move through my fingers, from the past to the present to the future. Crafting words or movements or notes pushes my loneliness aside, just a bit, giving contentment a moment to reside in my emptiness. Dare I say it feels peaceful?
‘Tis the season for such tidings of comfort and joy.
We had been home from Ireland less than twenty-four hours. The dogs had been home from Uncle Jim’s Canine Retreat less than twelve hours. WHAT WAS I THINKING!?!
Like an atomic clock automatically reset to the correct time when it crosses a time zone, Luci sat in front of her food container. You can take the dog anywhere and she knows when its dinner and where the food will come from. I obligingly completed the routine, “Say please.” All three dogs went down. I then scooped out the correct portions, (which Luci insists are inadequate), gave the release command “Food” and they scrambled to their appropriate bowls, woofing down the kibble in 30 seconds or less. Then I let my posse out for the post-prandial bathroom break. Like I said…..WHAT was I thinking?
Nonchalantly I returned to the matter of finishing our human dinner. Minutes passed before I glanced at the gathering dusk and thought “Maybe I better get the dogs in before it’s too dark, just in case Luci doesn’t remember the Invisible Fence Boundaries and we need to hunt. Hahahahahaha.” I stepped off the front porch whistling into crisp fall air. No dogs. I rounded the garage whistling around its corner and noted the sun slipping just below the Appalachian horizon. No dogs. I called “Cappy! Fly! Luci! COME!” and walked briskly toward the meadow. I chuckled at the sight of Cap and Fly, heads buried in the Lupine Patch, obviously enjoying some scat delicacy. I whistled again, and they hurled themselves toward me.
No Luci Freckles followed. I called “Luci!” again and continued to make a loop around the house. Step, call, step, call, step, call. Each step coming faster, each call rising in pitch. By the time I came full circle the neighbor German Shepherd had joined my call, and I figured that his was one less yard to search in. I stuck my head into the house shouting “I need help finding Luci!” TD immediately exited the house, then the yard to search the neighborhood.
I kept calling “Luci!” at a steady, hollering pace, so that she could find her way home in the gathering twilight. WHAT was I thinking!? Just letting them out, collars on, no supervision, five months old, after supper. WHAT was I thinking?! I seized my highly reactive brain; plan, organize, harness the energy!!!!
Methodically I moved into the eastern side of the meadow, carefully calling and looking into neighbors’ yards to the left, then searching for movement among the thick patchwork of lupine, milkweed, four kinds of goldenrod, aspen saplings and grasses to my right.
Look left, call.
Look right, call. Goldenrod stalks stand tall, seed puffs glowing in the dimming light like the pup’s tail I wanted so desparately to see.
Look left, look right.
A rustle and shake of some fur caught my attention, pulling it down a now-dark meadow path. Hardly daring to hope that the missing caramel-colored pup could actually be just disobediently relaxing mid-meadow, I moved through the towering goldenrod. “Luci?” “LUCI!?” Amid the crunching of leaves I could hear the crunching of teeth on animal bone. “Luci?” Lazily, she lifted her head from her meadow treasure and glanced at my distraught face. “Uh, yeah, Mom, I’m kinda busy here. Can I get back to you?” I slipped the leash on without another word, and Luci-once-was-lost-but-now-is-found reluctantly pranced up the path with me, Cappy and Fly.
As I walked her into the neighborhood to rendezvous with TD my senses were released. For the first time I noticed the sky was streaked with vermillion and cinnabar stripes, pulled west to east, where they disappeared into the eastern dusky gray. I took great drags of late autumn air spiced with fallen maple, walnut and oak leaves. The sky was streaked, not my face. My throat was full of gratitude, not sobs. And Luci remained oblivious to the search and rescue mission TD and I had launched.
My heart had barely decelerated than I received this email from ITD:
Dear Mom and Dad,
Glad to hear that you guys had a good time and are back safely. I look forward to seeing pictures, and sharing stories with you of your time over there. In recent news, I have decided to spend my funds to do this winter trip with AP . I am in the process of trying to get a new passport, and will be filling out paper work with AP to get a visa with the Syrian embassy. I sent you the itinerary for the trip.blah…blah….blah….I am budgeting 2500 ….my savings…blah…blah…blah…. Let me know if you have problems/concerns with what is going on.(Emphasis mine)……blah…blah…blah…. I have talked not only with AP, but with 5 other people who are from Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan blah…..blah……blah…….Get back to me on the ongoing discussion. Best Regards,
Seriously, my son signed this bombshell “best regards.”
There is a local bridge repair that requires one to enter the expressway with no ramp, from a stop; 0 mph to 50 mph in about 100 feet. ITD’s email required my heart to do the equivalent. If it would have been helpful to the cause to jump up, run around the house, through the meadow, and along rock outcrop paths, I would have. Such is my response. Instead, I tore through the US State Department web site, pressing copy and paste buttons until I had my first email response. I then went to bed.
I awoke with new clarity and initiated the day’s exchange with startling insights and careful ruminations. Pithy one sentence letters –$1000/day over 21 days=$48/day– were followed by pithy one sentence affirmations –We are amazed by and proud of you! – and then I concluded my day’s assault by reminding him of already owned STA student travel cards, NEXT student insurance cards, and SIM phone cards. Planning and research; it’s what I do when running won’t yield results.
Having ITD travel into the very big world yanks my heart like Luci’s venturing to defy the recall whistle. I can crash through a field of six-foot high goldenrod stalks, dried in autumn sun to a crisp brown. I can find and drag Luci from the object of her rabbit-lust. I can’t very well crash through the tangle of ideas, skills, and ambitions I so carefully sowed throughout my son’s childhood. I can’t find and drag my son from the object of his wanderlust. Both Luci and my son challenge me to grab onto that calm-assertive energy, and become the person I need to be; so ITD can become the person he needs to be.
Moment of profound insight. Solemn sigh.
I NEED ACTION!
A C T I O N
Next….research and plan a project! …..ITD’s Winter Adventure.
Recipes for Happiness: a Collection of Pup-Inspired Ideas to Celebrate Life
by Luci Freckles
1 freshly acquired rabbit 2 paw-spans of meadow herbs, goldenrod leaves, milkweed seed, whatever is on hand
Skin your rabbit, tossing fur to the side.
Roll rabbit in herbs.
Enjoy. Best if served while still warm, and not shared.
Finding myself has never been so much fun.
Five o’clock am.
Sheesh, Luci. That is an hour earlier than normal, and normal is early when it’s seven days a week.
I am tired, to the bone tired. And I would like to be grateful that it is Friday, but tomorrow will bring the six o’clock alarm of puppy yips and whines just like any other daybreak.
Dogs, like babies, remind me that cutting time into days, weeks, months, and years is a social construct of the human imagination. Luci’s puppy rhythms wrap me up, folding my focus onto the present and all the life moments that can lay hidden in its nooks and crannies. So I vow to let the exhaustion be a state of mind, to wallow in and relish the discoveries that extra energy would drive me right past.
Life Lesson #1,909,090.
Sometimes it is enough to just be.
Remember those little chairs you were directed to sit in at parent teacher conferences?
Remember the heart palpitations as the teacher described your child?
“WAH…WAH…WAH….this is what the kids are going to do…yada…yada…yada… and your child isn’t fitting in…blah…blah…blah… and not reaching potential….WAH…BLAH…YADA ….you need to practice…yada…blah…blah…demonstrate competency.
And you sit there thinking,”Well, clearly thechild is not ready for the task! Break it down. Celeberate what is going on. Master this part, then move on.” Oh, I can feel the restless energy gathering even now; the clenching and unclenching of jaw muscles, hand muscles. “Resist the urge to frown, shout , run from room blurting obsenities. You have done this parenting gig before. Calm…..You know your child. You know children, and this piece of the education profession doesn’t know quite as much as she thinks she does.” Breathe.
I hated that world, and all its worries and presumptions. I thought that I had pruned that kind of socializing out of my life. Then came Puppy School.
A tag team of fifty-something women entered the warehouse-turned-canine school. The taller of the two frowned and intoned, “Obedience work is a two-way street. You listen to me, the instructor, and your dog listens to you. Now sit your dog.” We practice.
“This is the down,” and the kommandante demonstrates with her canine partner-in-dogma. “Now down your dog.” We all try with varying degrees of success that any rational dog owner would expect from puppies in their first group experience. “Now we are going to step away,” and drill sargeant doodle-head proceeeds to describe in excrutiating detail how to hold the leash, give the command, pivot in front of the down pup, and …blah…blah…blah. Of course, puppies break the down as she talks. SHE WHO KNOWS SO MUCH goes to attend to a particularly large 10 week old shepherd,and in stern tones alternately reprimands the owner and pup. Meanwhile my little Luci is down, but certainly not out. Her attention is off me and taking in the big cavernous space, ever alert to the pup to her left and the little teeny tiny mutt to her right WHO WILL NOT LOOK AT HER! Luci, a bossy little 4 month old English Shepherd, is like “Gasp! Mom, Mom, he won’t look at me! Hey, Hey! You! Do you like it here? Hey, hey! MOM! ” To intercept the focus I quickly move to practice the down again. Suddenly I hear this disapproving “I didn’t tell you to down your dog” and realize she is talking to ME! So I quickly move back into the position of owner by pup. “Now down your dogs.”
Thank goodness I remembered the Parents’ Guide to Good Behavior:
Rule #1. Always remember and never forget: At all times, in all places, with all people, comport yourself as a lady/gentleman.
Rule #2. Pay your lesson fees/tuition in full and on time.
Rule # 3. Smile.
Rule #4. If your insights are not invited and your collaboration not solicited, refer to Rule #1.
Which I did.
Resist the urge to frown, shout , run from room blurting obsenities. You have done this parenting gig before. Calm…..You know your pup. You know puppies, and this piece of the dog training profession doesn’t know quite as much as she thinks she does. Breathe.
And so I made it through the night. Luci and I learned how to travel in the car for a HALF HOUR; learned that a flat collar will definitely NOT do in a class setting; learned that we do NOT want to compete in the two-way street of AKC Obedience Tests.
Nope. The two-way street I want to travel is between me and my pup, and I want training that encourages us to listen to one another. I’m a parent. I know how to travel on.
Oh, Mister Moon, Moon, Bright and silvery moon, Won’t you please shine down on me.
Oh, Mister Moon, Moon, Bright and silvery moon, Come from behind that tree.
Tonight we are close to having a Harvest Moon, that big orange full moon that rises soon after the Fall Equinox. My three shaggy pals join me for a night walk. Fly and Cappy take off into the brush to flush a rabbit and snack on rabbit duds. Luci Freckles sleepily navigates the path before munching on a night log. They seem oblivious to the silver disk shining down on us. I listen to the grass-bending of rabbits and moles and mice; the whisper of night wings; the soft slow chirps of cold invertebrates; the night bays of neighbor dogs.
I hear children’s voices singing little ditties, Mister Moon.
“I see the moon and the moon sees me. God bless the moon and God bless me.”
Before whistling in my pups I breathe out a thanks for silvery memories of my babies’ childhoods; and whisper a plea for their continued safety. I hope my two remember to look up this week and harvest my love, sent by moonlight, to their new homes.