Lilypie Waiting to Adopt tickers

Lilypie Waiting to Adopt tickers

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dog walking and grief

OMG. It is so cold here today. The weather display on my computer says 60 and there's a thermometer at one of the banks in town. It said 62. I am feeling a little outrageous today and therefore will flat-out call both my computer and the bank liars. LIARS! There is no way it is 60 or 62. My hands feel like ice.

I took the dog for a walk down at the beach, and despite freezing our butts off, it was a really nice time. She was full of energy, rolling in the sand, digging for shellfish (yes, it's true - she's a freak.) and she even went in the water. She typically hates the water, but for whatever reason today she actually had all 4 paws in.

This is a weird mental digression that I'm about to take, but it's rattling around in my mind, so I'm going to try to put it into words. Please don't think I'm too insane or weird on this one.

As many of you probably know, my mom died 5 years ago. While I would say that most days, I don't feel like I'm actively still grieving, every once in a while something will bring it up and here I am again. One thing I can say for sure is that losing my mom fundamentally, to the core, changed who I am. As it would anyone, I'm sure.

One of the ways that I feel changed plays out most dramatically in my relationship with my Zoe dog. We got her about a month after my mom died, so we've had her for just more than 5 years. She's now 6 years old. Beagles are supposed to live 12-15 years, they say. So Zoe is about middle-aged, I guess.

Because she's my dog and we've had her for almost her whole life, I really know her. I see her slowing down. She's not a puppy anymore. The vet says she's not getting old, she's 6 and in the middle of her life and I shouldn't see slowing down and that I probably don't really see it. My aunt, who has had many beagles says that 6 is the middle of her life, she's not slowing down, beagles can live for 15 years. Zoe must not be slowing down.

But here's the thing. She's my dog. I see her. I know her. She's slowing down. And maybe when I say that she's slowing down, this is where other people mean something else. Here's what I mean. I mean that if I took her down to that beach every single day in a week, maybe once or twice would she play like she did today. If I had taken her down to that beach when she was 2 or 3, she would play like that every time.

So when I take her to the beach and she wants to pull me off the path because she wants to go in the water and dig in the sand and eat clams (well that part is not OK with me) it stands out to me. It's a rare occasion that she wants to do that. So I let her, obviously.

The good way that I am changed from my mom's death is that I am acutely aware of the passage of time. I recognize that these fun times at the beach are fewer and further between than they used to be. But that makes me more present in those times when we're in one of those rare times that a walk is more than a regular walk. I'm really there with her and enjoying myself (except when she starts eating the clams. That's just weird.)

But the bad way that I am changed is this. "She's middle-aged. Beagles are supposed to live until they're 12-15 years." True. But mothers are supposed to live until they're 80-100. "Zoe's in the middle of her life. She's not slowing down." My mother was in the middle of her life, too. We have no guarantee of tomorrow, none of us. Not my mom, not me, not you, not my dog.

I try to take the good out of that and say that since we've no guarantee of tomorrow, if the dog wants to go on the beach and roll in the sand, then we absolutely have time to do that today.

I hate to think I'm grieving bad things before they've happened. That's the other side of that bittersweet feeling that comes with a dog randomly getting the energy to roll in the sand. I can't notice only that she's doing something she wouldn't do 6 of the 7 days this week. How can you think of the one time something happens without acknowledging the 6 times this week it hasn't happened? I'm happy that she had fun today. But also very aware that the last 6 times we've been at the beach, she hasn't wanted to roll in the sand.

I just reread this and I think I'm insane. So to pay you off for sticking around until the end of this post, I give you a picture of my beloved Zoe. Because if she wanted to roll in the sand and play in the water, I dare you to say no to her. Go ahead, try.

Yeah, I can't either. I can say no to her eating clams though. That's still just weird. And gross.


  1. awww, zoe is so cute! we think piper is half beagle...she has that sad beagle look down pat, for sure!
    i don't think that you're grieving bad things before they happen...i think you're really taking the time to celebrate and remember life in each moment.
    and, zoe eats clams?! that *is* weird. how the heck does she open them?!

  2. Weird and gross, I"m telling ya! The seagulls smash them on the rocks and the pavement to open them, and Zoe will eat whatever is left. I always worry because I assume whatever is left is rotten or something. The seagulls didn't eat it, so a dog definitely shouldn't.

    One time, she just crunched down on a whole shell. I was so mad! Then I got home and googled it and it said that dogs can die from eating shells because the sharp pieces can tear her intestines and cause internal bleeding. She didn't seem to be bleeding though, but from then on, I was way more careful about the shells at the beach...