"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bringing Boone Home

It started with this picture.

He had been rescued from a high kill shelter, only 12 weeks old and just hours away from being euthanized. The whole process of whatever had happened before he got to the shelter, plus his time at the shelter had just traumatized him. He was incredibly timid and shy and needed a home with patient caregivers, and in the best of situations, a confident big brother to help him get his bearings and come out of his shell.
I stared at the picture for a few seconds and looked into his eyes. I have seen hundreds of rescue pictures. I follow a lot of rescue organizations on Facebook, and every now and then, one dog will catch my eye, or a story will tug at my heart. This was one of them. But this one in particular felt different. I emailed the rescue contact and asked if there had been a lot of interest in the dog, whose name at the time was Cameron. She responded, “No one yet”. I told her we really weren’t looking, I just wanted a sibling for Bear before he got much older, and something about Cameron got to me. We emailed a little, back and forth. She checked out my Facebook profile and the pictures and stories about Bear. She felt like Bear would be THE perfect big brother for Cameron. She sent me an application, and asked me to “just fill it out and let’s see”. Cameron, she said, was a special case. The foster mom was very attached and wanted to make sure he was placed carefully. He was incredibly sweet, but was having a hard time.

I hadn’t yet talked to my husband about this crazy idea.

We currently had four furry residents in our house. Three cats and our beloved dog Bear. I can honestly say that Bear is the center of our world, and we both love him so much, that there is no doubt he is spoiled and cared for beyond measure. I have, for awhile, wanted to get another dog as Bear has started sleeping a lot and getting less active, and at five years old, he doesn’t need to do that. He is only doing that because we are doing that, and honestly because our schedules have let us do that. Bear loves to play, and we don’t always make it to the dog park as much as we used to because his energy level isn’t as intense as it used to be. I didn’t want to wait much longer to get another dog, because I want him to be young enough to enjoy a playmate.

When I first broached the subject of another dog, my husband Shea looked at me as if I had completely lost my mind. He loves our animals just as much as I do, and he and Bear are incredibly bonded. But, we aren’t financially in the best place, we do already have FOUR animals, we are renting and will probably be renting for a long time to come (which isn’t always easy to do when you have a small zoo in tow), a puppy is a lot of work, and to top it all off, I was about to leave for a business trip for six days. He wasn’t even considering the possibility. All of his arguments were valid, and honestly, right.

Usually, when I have gone through this before, even sometimes a rescue would call or contact me about a particular case, something would happen, someone else would adopt or foster the dog, and the whole situation would be resolved without my involvement. But in this case, that just didn’t happen. And usually, every other time, something in me told me it wasn’t right. This time was different.

Shea knew the person I was when he married me. Within the first year after we were married, he definitely knew what he had gotten into. We were still living in South Carolina then, and he was riding with me to a sales appointment. It was a rainy gray day and we were getting off the interstate. As we drove on the exit ramp, I saw two dogs wandering precariously in and out of speeding traffic. They were muddy, the rain was coming down and drivers were swerving in the bad weather to miss them. I started to pull over immediately and Shea stopped me. He said something to the effect of “Are you insane?” I drove a little further and stopped. I looked at him and said, “You knew who I was when you married me. I am the person who will stop on a rainy, muddy day and pick up strange dogs. I can’t live with myself otherwise.” I knew I was with the right person when I saw his face soften as he looked at me and then got out of the car with me and called for the dogs, who at first seemed to have disappeared, but then gratefully ran to our car. They jumped in, mud and all. A funny side note to that day, after they got into the car, they immediately both jumped over the back seat and all over Shea, licking him in gratitude, but also covering him in mud. We had to throw away his shirt. But he was such a good sport. We were able to find a local vet nearby who took them in and called a local rescue after checking for microchips.

We had agreed to meet the rescue contact at a local pet fair on the upcoming Saturday, and even though Shea was not on board completely, he said he knew how I felt and would come with me and see what happened.

Both of us were most concerned about Bear. If Bear was unhappy or overly jealous, or if this would impact him negatively at all, it wouldn’t happen. Period.

They brought out this shy little puppy, warning us that he probably wouldn’t even walk around with so many people around. But when he saw Bear, a light went on. It was love at first sight. He immediately jumped and romped and wagged his tail. Bear became a big brother right away.

We had already decided on a name if things worked out…Boone (for my husband’s college town). Boone’s foster mom was there and the rescue contact and they were both so happy and touched watching him open up so much more quickly than they thought he could.

I kept coming back to Shea. I knew he was unsure. I knew he was right about all his worries. He always says he loves my heart. And despite his concerns, and everything else, he looked at me then at Bear, and said, “Bear, let’s take your little brother home.”

I was home for for five days before taking off for a six day business trip to Chicago. In those five days, I suddenly remembered how hard it is taking care of puppies. Boone was still very shy for about five hours. Then, it was as if he suddenly knew he was safe and he bounded through the house, and romped outside, and ate and ate and ate. (something we couldn’t get him to do at first). But it was tiring, and non-stop. The thought of leaving Shea alone with all of this for six days was daunting. I laid awake at night worrying if I had made the right decision, and if Shea would be ok, and if everything would work out alright. But, I remembered that I felt the same way when I first brought Bear home and sometimes felt overwhelmed, and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that bringing Bear home was the best decision ever. I just had to trust my gut and my heart.

As I prepared to come back from my business trip, I worried. Six days was a long time for Shea to handle everything alone, especially in the early days of helping a puppy adjust. But I came home to find that he had fallen in love with Boone, and vice versa. How could he not? Look at that face! But I was so relieved. I knew seeing Shea and watching him and Boone that everything was ok and I had made the right decision.

My love for Bear has only grown, sometimes I think my heart will burst as I watch him be such a patient big brother. Shea and I both thought he would be more possessive and jealous about his food, but he has been surprisingly forgiving. He is learning to share his toys, which is taking a little more time. But overall, the two boys are romping and playing, Bear is getting so much more exercise, and they are both having a blast.

I could never have known the love and comfort my animals would provide in my life. I have been so lucky to find my way to these animals at just the right moments. I have written before about this, but as much as I have saved them, they have saved me. There is something so magical about being a part of a rescue animal's journey, about seeing that light come on when they know they are safe, and that everything is going to be ok. It fills my heart, and honestly at times, gives me purpose. Thankfully, my husband understands. We are at full capacity now, though. There's no more room in our house, or our bed for that matter, for any more fur babies for a long time. 

But I am so, so thankful that we had room for just one more.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Here Before

Usually when I am at some sort of crossroads, when I am struggling or hurting, the words are everywhere. I can write and write, no matter how tired or busy or how little time I have. But, that hasn’t been the case for the last four months. It has been almost physically painful to write, and I haven't been able to find my way out of whatever writer's block or obstacle I am up against. I have worried that I am too far gone this time. But really, I can’t be any more far gone than I have been before, can I? There are too many good things in my life now that I never thought I would have. Too many right things. Too many things that should make everything easier.

This time of year always sneaks up on me. Even though fall is my favorite season, this time of year – heading into the holidays, has always been hard. Even though I have a husband who loves Christmas with such passion that he reverts back to a six year old’s excitement over every ornament, decoration and Christmas movie on television, it can’t erase over 30 years of this being a really horrible time of year for me. I honestly love this time now, as we have our own traditions, and I don’t have to make excuses to avoid going home (and feel guilty for it) or feel like the most single person in the world (as the holidays can really make you feel). But I think there is something to the fact that my body, soul, and spirit learned to start preparing for hard times around September, and somehow I haven’t “unlearned” that yet. I get more emotional over everything, and think too much about everything, and in general, feel a little more of the weight of the world on me.

It started in September, when everything I read and heard on the news and from my friends just started weighing on me. Just the unfairness of life. Just hard stories and hard times and sadness that seemed to be outnumbering the goodness and kindness in the world. I kept telling myself I was just seeing things that way, and I was honestly getting scared for myself. We have been under so much financial stress for such a long time it seems. That will wear on a person. That, and family stress and every day stress, and just life has seemed, well, so heavy. I worried that, like addiction and other life-long battles people have to fight even once they are recovered, my depression was always going to be something that I had to keenly be aware of, sitting in the corner beckoning for me when I feel this way. At times, it felt as if I was fighting not to be taken in. I think we all have low moments, and I know I have had enough on me to justify feeling overwhelmed.

A few key moments stopped me in my tracks. The first was on the drive into work a month or so ago. I was already emotional that morning, and traffic was backed up on my regular route, and I had to take some back roads as I neared my office. I got a little turned around, as I always do with my lack of direction, and as I pulled up to a stop sign, trying to figure out which way to turn, a homeless man sat on a tiny patch of pavement between me and the oncoming lane of traffic. He held a small cardboard sign, with messy letters in black magic marker that read: Dreaming of Tacos and a Clean Pair of Socks. He was looking off in the distance and the pain on his face and that sign…well, I lost it. I was sobbing in my car, soon serenaded by multiple car horns pleading with me to move on. It just broke my heart that someone wanted such simple things and didn’t have them. The next morning, I tucked a pair of my husband’s socks into my purse, and went the same route to the office, but the man was no longer there. I cried again. I see so many homeless people here. Every day. And my heart is torn every time, and especially when I see elderly people or when I know someone is mentally ill and lost in a world that has discarded them. But this man’s simple sign has stayed with me. I have tried to remember that and be so thankful for all that I have. I have punished myself for feeling down when I am NOT by the side of the road begging, and I will sleep in a warm bed and have food tonight.

The other key moment came just a week ago. I was at work, and got a call on my cell phone from a sales person, trying to sell a conference sponsorship. She was trying to reach me, but in connection with the company I last worked for. When I explained that I no longer worked there, she responded, “Oh, Kim, I hope you are doing something  you love to do, something you’ve always dreamed of doing.” I sat silent. She and I had worked together briefly at my last company, and she let me know she had enjoyed working with me so much, and was glad to see I had moved on (my last working environment was not a very positive place to work). And while my new job is much better, much more geared to my work strengths, and while I make a good salary, what she said made my stomach drop. It was such hard timing when I have been struggling to write a single sentence for months and at times have given up on my dream of ever publishing a book. I want so badly to finish my novel and just try to get it published, and to just really feel that first and foremost, I am a writer. I know that can’t happen all at once, but I have always felt I was working my way there. Lately, I have felt like it just isn’t going to happen, like I am losing something, a part of me, a key core of who I am. I know I am so lucky to have a job in a time when people don’t. I know we are lucky to be paying our bills when others can’t. It is just so frustrating to be working so hard and turning over what feels like every cent to just cover our asses—barely—and it’s not even doing what I love- what I really want to do. But, that’s life. I know it. This is no surprise. It is just harder right now for some reason.

I feel time ticking by right now, it feels like the clock is speeding up. I had to check my age on a form recently, and I have a birthday coming up in a few short weeks. I will be 44. FORTY FOUR. How in the hell did that happen? And how did I LET that happen, without going after some of these dreams sooner? How did I let depression rob me of so many years? I know I didn’t “let” that happen, and that second question kind of answers the first, but it hurts my heart all the same. I know I still have time. I am constantly telling people that it is never too late. And it isn’t. It just feels that way right now. I just want to make up for lost time, and go grab everything I want to do, and do anything and everything that makes me feel better, and worthy, and hopeful about the world, and most of all, myself.

One thing that helps, so much, is this. 

This is the end of my day every day. My dog Bear. This face in the window. There are no questions or worries here from this sweet boy, just love. It amazes both me and my husband just how much love you can feel for a dog and how loved you feel in return. On my way home from work, when I honestly have cried a few tears for reasons I can’t explain, when I need to feel needed and worth more, and need to know that I am making my mark and a difference in the world somehow, I pull into my driveway, and Bear somehow knew five minutes before that I was turning on our street, even though I never arrive home at the same exact time. He looks out the window and waits. He sees me walking up to the door and explodes into a happy dance and pulls to get to me so much that my husband cannot hold him back until I have put my bags and purse on the kitchen table to turn to him. There is such joy in me just being there, just arriving, after only hours away. It seems small, and maybe even silly to those of you who aren’t dog lovers, but I can tell you that there are days when that moment is everything. 

It's a small sign that in a world of weight and sadness and lost and forgotten dreams, that there is boundless love waiting for me, just behind my front door, and somehow, I am doing something right.

 The beautiful painting featured in this post is called "The Fisherman's Wife" by Scott McLachlan. More of his work can be viewed here.



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