I’m at yoga teacher training this weekend. Yesterday it snowed at least half the day. Every time I looked out the window, fat flakes were falling. As I was leaving last night, the trees were white with it, wrapped in holiday lights, the snow still coming down. It was magic.
This morning, Sam revisited a game he invented as a puppy: bury the toy in the bed, thus destroying the bed. He stole the new orange ball I gave Ringo yesterday, the one Eric had been teaching Ringo to play fetch with, rewarding him with treats. He played it until he remembered he was four years old and not a puppy anymore, and then took a little nap.
It was good to see it. I’d forgotten the game, and this morning was feeling a bit distracted because of an episode of scratching, itchiness that woke us all up last night. It only took a few minutes for Sam to relax back down and fall asleep again, but it’s a reminder that he’s not entirely well. And yet, I think of something that Patti Digh always says, “you are not broken, you don’t need to be fixed.” Whatever is happening with Sam, wherever it might lead, he is whole.
- Yoga pose cards, homework for yoga teacher training
- Property tax bill
- New 16 GB SD card that will hold almost 6000 images
- Camera battery charger
- My favorite pair of scissors
- Chocolate and sheets of origami paper from Germany
- Puppy shot records
- Tags from Ringo’s new harness
- Tags, receipt and harness that didn’t work for Ringo and needs to be returned
- Paperwork for puppy kindergarten class
- Microchip info flyer
- Hearing test results (sometimes Cattle Dogs can be deaf, but Ringo’s whole litter has great hearing)
- Beaver’s Market receipt
- Meat processing receipt (we got 1/2 a beef from a friend who raises organic, small herds, of which our dogs get to eat almost 1/2 — spoiled)
- 2013 Tax documents
- Feed and grocery store receipts
- Receipt from Sam’s last visit to the neurologist
- Corral West Australian Cattle Dogs Contract of Sales and Deposit, in which I promise not to sell, give away, or euthanize Ringo without telling Sherry, and if we can’t care for him any longer, she has the right to have him back, to keep or find him a new home, and I agree that “the dog will reside at their home and will be an integral part of the family.”
Not all paths are the same. This morning on our walk, Sam and I traveled one section of trail that was covered in snow and ice. There were slick patches and in other spots it shifted under our feet like we were walking on sand. It took more effort and time to walk this.
It reminded me of something I told Eric last night, about how when this intense puppy phase passes our “normal” lives will seem so easy in comparison. I told him about how I’d sat on the couch eating a big salad for lunch and actually watched some tv, and even though I didn’t get to watch a whole show before Ringo woke up and needed to go out, it seemed like such a luxury. Eric suggested that while that might be true, after you feel normal for awhile you forget to notice that it’s anything special.
It was like that on our walk this morning. After walking the side trail, we landed on a section of cleared paved path, smooth and solid. It felt so easy to walk on it, almost like we were floating, but it didn’t take long before I forgot and it was just walking, the awareness of ease replaced by noticing how cold I felt, how far we still had to go before returning home, how much work I needed to get done today, the worries and concerns and busyness creeping back in, distorting and confusing the previous sense of ease and joy.
I watched myself do this, aware of the suffering I generated. As an antidote, I felt my breath, saw the deep blue flutter of a single Blue Jay, noticed the turning colors of the sky, and felt such deep gratitude for the heart-shaped patch of snow and tiny splash of white fur inbetween Sam’s toes.
Part of yesterday was hard. I had to crate Sam twice to keep him and Ringo apart because they want to play together so bad, but they get too rowdy, wanting to tug which Sam just can’t do anymore with his jaw and Ringo wanting to bite him in the face. I feel bad about crating Sam, until I remember that before Ringo, Sam would be in his crate for six hours until someone came home from work and now he gets to stay out when we aren’t home, and before Ringo we weren’t playing tug with him anyway, the only real play was when we would play fetch for a few minutes in the backyard. This is what is necessary to protect him, to care for him, and this need for constant play won’t last forever. Ringo will grow up so fast and be able to go for long walks, hikes with Sam, to hang out together in ways that don’t hurt Sam.
When you are a caretaker, there are days when you need a nap, a shower, and something to eat, but only two are possible and you have to chose, can’t fully care for yourself. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed, like it’s too much, like “I can’t do this, I want to give up.” Giving up yesterday was a moment in the kitchen, Ringo being a bit of a monster but not quite ready for a nap. I was worn down by his constant need. I sat on the floor with him in my lap, him trying to eat the face off a stuffed bear, doing somersaults and biting at his own tail, and five minutes felt like an hour when I knew in just half an hour he’d be ready for another nap, I could put him back in his crate and get back to work. I hate how I wish him away like that.
Then when I was making my lunch, he stole a tupperware lid out of the drawer, and I gave in and let him have it, was happy to have something entertain him for a few minutes. By the time I took it back, there was a tiny chip missing. I couldn’t find it anywhere on the floor, don’t know if it was already missing or now somewhere in Ringo’s belly but it felt like failure.
But other moments, when he’s playing nice, being so cute, sitting for a treat, going on a walk, asking to go outside and go potty, curled up asleep — I can’t even stand how big my love for him is going to get, know that this part that’s hard is so brief in the context of what will hopefully be a long life together.
It snowed again. It snowed all day long, was more than they predicted. We tried to take a single walk around the block, but you got too cold. In the places where people hadn’t shoveled, the drifts were almost as tall as you. When I picked you up, you leaned against me and shivered, even as you whined and wanted to be let down. We all need someone to walk with, someone who can pick us up and carry us the rest of the way home when we just can’t make it.
I’m teaching Ringo to be a writer’s dog, to sleep peacefully with the background noise of my fingers tapping on the keys and to wait patiently until I’m finished. It’s not like I haven’t compromised — he fusses if I listen to music, so I write in silence, which is not my preference.
“There was a writer who had a dog, and Ringo was his name-o…”