Friday, July 25, 2014
Time for Really Going to the Dogs
I was urging my senior Jack Russell terrier, Abi, to walk a little faster. She just turned 13 and what used to be a quick walk has been slowed somewhat by age. Having lost my senior male, Al, to cancer over a year ago, I no longer have another older dog to help set a reasonable pace that will give good exercise without being too fast. Instead we were meandering at a sniff-every-other-tuft-of-grass pace, being pulled by the two younger dogs.
I realized the fault wasn't all her advancing years. It was mine and the toll that the last seven months has taken on what used to be my life. Daily dog walks, which had been part of my life for years and helped hold back the signs of aging for both of us, haven't been the routine event they were at one time.
"We'll get it back, Abi," I said, "just like I need to get mine back. We'll get back in shape together."
I realized I needed to apologize, not just to her for contributing to her lack of muscle tone, but to all my dogs and all the dogs who have been "mine" for a few days since Dec. 15 when police found my son dead in his apartment.
Although I've made several false starts at picking up the threads of my previous routines, this week has felt better, and I think I may have found a rhythm that I can live with and maintain. I've done it for a week with PiYo in the early morning and dog walks after dinner (although once cold weather comes that may change to after lunch). The changes help my schedule merge with my family's work, but I'll still go for a morning walk when I get the chance, like I did today.
With that in mind, I think it's time to apologize and try to put my failures behind me.
If I could, this is what I would say to them all:
"I'm sorry that the walks you had come to expect every day when you stayed with me weren't always delivered, that more often than not, I just wanted to sit with you. Instead of stretching my legs and yours, I wanted to huddle inside the broken shell of my heart and try to find a way to live again. Instead of being content to dwell in my mind, meditating or praying, and listen to the sound of our combined feet on the road, the wind and the birds, the jingle of leashes and tags, the last place I wanted to be was where it was too quiet.
"I'm sorry that when I came out the front door in athletic shoes, it was to get in the car and drive to a Zumba or PiYo class, leaving your bright eyes and wagging tails to dim and slow as I disappeared. I couldn't bear another minute of my own company or even your silent companionship. I needed the distraction of other people, the escape of getting away.
"I'm sorry that while I was supposed to be caring for you, I was feeding and cleaning up after you, but you were really the ones caring for me. Never once did your disappointment make you bitter toward me. Instead, you nurtured my healing with soft fur and damp tongues, warm little bodies in my lap, or big shoulders leaning against my legs.
"Even though my words couldn't explain what was going on, somehow you knew what I needed. Although you were always hopeful and eager, you were still willing to accept what I could give you. What you gave me was doggy love and time to mourn and begin to heal.
"So not only am I sorry, but I'm grateful. There have been days that, had I not needed to get out of bed to make sure you were fed and had a chance to do your doggy business, chances are I might not have moved. There were times that it was just the sense of being needed that kept me going.
"In addition to apologizing, I want you to know I'm trying to do better. I'm trying to find a new routine that works around changes in everyone else's work schedule and my need for sleep at some point during each 24-hour span. This week's dogs have been the first beneficiaries of the change, but I believe it will be ongoing.
"Thanks for your patience, love and understanding. I love you."