Thursday, January 20, 2011

A time for dogs

The Pack, Christmas 2009
Ron and I have gone from three dogs to one in less than a year. It's been a huge adjustment each time we've lost a dog. We only started with one (Brittany) 10 1/2 years ago. Alex and Shawna came to us as fosters and became part of the pack.

They all became elderly at the same time and caring for them has been a lot of work, both physically, emotionally, and financially.

Ron and I aren't saints. We've loved our dogs to distraction but lose our patience sometimes. When we get frustrated or just plain exhausted, I always say calmly and quietly, "They'll be gone soon."

That always brings us back to the reality that their lives are short ones. And so are ours.

Pre-Brittany, I had an immaculate home. Floors were shiny, carpets were like-new, kitchen was spotless. I took great pride in my home and still do. But since the dogs came along and my ability to work full time disappeared, the house is, well, lived-in.

During those moments of frustration with the dogs, I've sat and thought about how much easier my life will be when they're gone. I'll get my floors refinished, I'll get all of my rugs cleaned, and I'll stop tripping over stuffed animals, dog beds, and dogs.

My credit cards will be paid every month, we can start saving money again to do projects around the house (and for retirement), and I won't have to go out in freezing cold or driving rain to do a potty run with a dog.

No more being awakened at 4 am because a dog has to go out or is sick. No more looking at my watch when I'm having fun with friends because I have to get home to take a dog out to pee. It will be freeing to have my life back as well as the finances and energy to accomplish the things that matter to me.

I go down that road pretty quickly when I'm tired. When I get to the cul-de-sac I start thinking about what I'll miss.

No more tail-wagging and happy talk when I get home. No more company as I work at the computer. No more cold, wet noses on my bare legs. An almost unbearable silence when I'm home alone save for the cellphone buzzing and the email notification dinging.

I'll miss the people that my dogs have introduced me to -- the vets and all of the amazing caregivers at the animal hospital, the kindest dog groomer on the planet, the cheery woman who runs the independent pet supply store nearby. And the countless strangers who stop to say, "What a beautiful dog!" while we're out walking.

Still, I have to remember how many friends I've made because of my dogs, either through Rescue work or simply a shared bonding over the love of a pet. That won't end. And that's where I'll find all of my dogs -- in those relationships.

I always quote Ecclesiastes in my blog since that's really what my life philosophy is. There is a time for all things. There is a time for dogs, and there is a time for remembering dogs. There's a time to take care of, and there's a time to be taken care of.

Recognizing and accepting these cycles of life is what "grace" is. I know there will be a time for me to reflect on all of this. But now is a time to take Brittany outside for her daily walk.

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