I like to lie down, especially with dogs, snout to snout, muzzle to muzzle, cheek by jowl. When our late lab, Roxie, became immobile in her old age, I often lay down with her in front of the fireplace, my hand in her ruff.
About ten months after she died, our mourning had assuaged enough to get another dog, perhaps two. Mourning never really goes away. “Closure” is a nonsense word generally perpetrated by people who want to avoid the pain of grief.
We were given an opportunity to adopt two labs, a black three year old named Petite, and a yellow seven year old named Katrina. Petite had been physically and verbally abused and still cowers, but less and less as time goes by. Katrina had been returned to the kennel with the claim that she couldn’t adjust to her new home because she missed her mother. "Unadoptable" was the word. Some people even use that dismal psychotherapeutic term “separation-anxiety”, a term which like “closure” allows people to objectify the painfully subjective and thereby immunize themselves from their humanity.
Katrina showed signs of grief when we brought her home, especially at night when the dogs were bedding down for the night. Dogs have emotions like human beings and grieve like the rest of us. She became agitated and walked aimlessly around the room. After six decades as a minister and psychotherapist with people in grief, I knew that agitation and distraction were some of the signs of grief. Loss is loss, and there is no way around it with platitudes, such as, “You should be grateful since had her for such a long time.” I remember my mother saying to someone after my father died, “God did not need him in heaven more than we needed him on earth.”
As a young seventeen year old recruit in the army, I was one homesick puppy sitting on my foot locker missing home. An old career regular army Sergeant/ Major, ramrod straight and tough as old shoe leather, came by and tapped my shoulder with his swagger stick and said, “What’s the matter, soldier?” I said that I was homesick and wondered why the rest of my platoon wasn’t. He replied, “They don’t have no homes to miss. You outta to thank God that you’ve got one.”
For a few nights I lay down beside Katrina, placing my hand in her ruff. Her agitation gradually subsided. Gretchen cradled her head in her lap. We sometimes still see her staring off into the distance in one of those thousand yard stares, but less and less.
Katrina is beautiful with black eyeliners, a coat of curly waves of caramel, back-sided with yellow and a nose resembling a big piece of milk chocolate. Petite is gorgeous, sleek and black and elegant with a nose like a big, fat black olive, and I wonder why anyone would strike her and curse her. Impotent people strike and curse smaller and weaker creatures because they’re compromised human beings, not fully evolved. Their impotence is so disabling that their only experience of power is to strike at those who can’t strike back. The abused are often afraid and terrified of their abusers, but, the fact is that abusers are actually the cowardly weak ones.
Gretchen reassures Petite, enfolding her in her arms, and as I watch, I see the tensions in Petite’s body lessen and relax, enough so that she feels at ease with me. A drunken male abused her. It’s disheartening to see a creature cower, but rewarding to see them flower. Each day as Petite leaves Gretchen’s arms, she comes still closer to me, diffident and hesitant, but still inching closer, sniffing the tips of my fingers. Katrina and Petite follow Gretchen around like ducklings.
As we all know, life is often a series of losses with relocations, deaths, and disputes so it’s always important to attend to our gains. We’ve gained with Katrina and Petite. They bring joy and life and love into our lives even though we still step in something now and then.
P.S. Be sure to water the yard during this dry spell, especially the trees.
Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2014
Dana Prom Smith and
Freddi Steele edit Gardening Etcetera for the Daily Sun. Smith emails at email@example.com and blogs at http://highcountrygardener.blogspot.com.