Monday, June 16, 2014

Of Walking Sticks and Crutches, Puppies and Dogs


Last week we got a new puppy. It has been 5 months since our dear dog Captain died. Although we knew his death was imminent due to Cancer, and despite our best efforts, his loss was particularly difficult for me. If you've read any of my posts here, you may have happened upon quite a few whose focus is Captain. He taught me a lot. He brought me much Joy. He  kept me afloat. Experiencing his Cancer alongside him, and his amputation and recovery was one of my great Life challenges thus far. Making decisions for another soul is particularly hard. Especially for one who can't speak. The thing about Captain was his intention. He wanted to engage you. He wanted your attention. He wanted to make you laugh. And he did. When he left, he took those things with him. 

We've always had wonderful pets. God's gifted us that way. We've been given pets that are loving, and gentle. Pets that are funny, pets that show you Joy and pets whom others loved just as much as we did. When Captain died, I immediately contacted our breeder and discussed the possibility of a puppy. I'd automatically assumed we'd get another, just because we've always had one. And just because it had always been such a good thing for our family. For a minute there, Terry objected. He felt as if we needed more freedom now- the ability to travel at will. I was crushed. The thought of our family without a pet was something I couldn't fathom. 

Ever since I was a child I've connected with animals. I've needed them in my heart. Mostly, they were cats. If you've read any of my posts, you may know there were a few cats in my past. But not because my family were pet people- but in spite of the fact that they weren't. I'd like to think my folks saw my need to care for and connect with another at a different level,  and agreed to support that; but it might have been that they were tired and relented; with exceptions- no indoor pets. And I was the only one- of their seven children  who had that distinct need. Even bough I had been bitten in the face by a gas station dog who was chained to a fence. I needed to make it clear to Terry- that being with a pet was a function of my well being. I bemoaned this somewhat when I spoke to our vet of his death- I told her ashamedly that Captain had been my crutch- but she said, not crutch- walking stick. An important  distinction. 

So now we have a puppy. But the thing is, as I learned when we got Spencer, and and  learned when we got Captain, this dog isn't Captain, and this Dog isn't Spencer, and this dog isn't Marlin. It's a different Dog. It's a dog who's only job is to be himself, and to show me  "himself."  I've made the mistake of comparing them, and my kids have pointed that out. "Mom, he's not Spencer" I loved Spencer dearly. He was quick to curl up with me when ever I sat down.  Captain wasn't the same. But Captain ended up to be Captain; the dog who curled up behind the bend in my legs each night, the dog who kissed me incessantly every day without fail- the dog who did things specifically to make me laugh-The Dog whom I felt was God making himself known to me- reminding me of one of the places he resides. Dog spelled backward is clearly God. Captain had given me many blogposts. Stories. Not just about his every day antics, although they were entertaining enough- but metaphors and analogies- reassurance and comfort for whatever I was challenged by at any given moment. He gave me answers through his behavior as we hiked along; wherever and whatever we were doing- he had something of depth to convey. He was my pocket monk. 

This puppy clearly isn't Captain. At least not in this puppy stage-he is relentless and willful and attempts to eat everything in site: mulch, grass, flowers plants, leaves, and anything he can pick up. He isn't afraid of anything. He is pensive only for the shortest moment, and then walks right through. He barks incessantly at new dogs he meets, and when my brother-in-law's dogs growl at him, he doesn't heed their warning. When I open the laundry room door, he hightails it straight to the cat's litterbox and gets himself a treat. "No"apparently means step right up-and have another! I called the Breeder on day two, concerned that there was something terribly wrong. It wasn't met with much help, except the remark that we must be doing something wrong! Not feeding him enough, not giving him enough exercise....  No one in my family seemed as concerned as I. But I guess they are smarter than I. I guess they are expecting him to grow out of these things. Funny, I don't remember Captain having any challenging behaviors. But, he was a puppy once too. 

I just hope our new Puppy, Hudson will want to hike with Me. I hope he'll show me who he is. But what I'm wondering at this moment is if this puppy needs a walking stick. If perhaps I'm his walking stick. At least for now, or if we'll take turns being each other's walking sticks. 

Hikes are always easier with walking sticks.




Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Apples and Oranges: Both Fruit


When my son was 17, he got a Jeep Wrangler. A few of his friends had them too. It wasn't long after he got it, that he discovered there was a fraternity among a Jeep  Wrangler owners: When you pass one, you wave to each other. He thought this was kind of neat- I did too.

I had always driven an SUV of some kind, myself. When I graduated from College, I was eager to buy my own first car. My dad was a co-signer, and wasn't very eager to sign off on something other than practical, so I got what, when  I look back on it, was an old Man car. A Chevy Celebrity. It was, however a NEW car. I had been all ready to buy a used Thunderbird, but on the day I brought my Dad in to look at it, there was bad news! The car dealer's son had taken it out for a Joy ride and crashed it. 

I had the Celebrity for  maybe 5 years, and it carried me through my first two children, until we were expecting our third, and we decided upon the newest family car out there, an SUV. The Ford Explorer was the first in  its class. It was a great car, and so were the next two that followed, which got larger and larger. Our next car was an Expedition, and as our kids grew and we had  friends along for every excursion it seemed, we got the biggest one yet- theYukon Denali. It was a beautiful big boat, and served us well, but as the kids got old enough to drive themselves, and soon were driving cars of their own,  I felt compelled to get something more economical myself. Something that got more than 12 miles to the gallon, but My husband wasn't interested in a Hybrid, which was what I was wanted - the Ford SUV that was Smaller than our original Explorer--the Escape. 

So we met in the middle. I got a Mini Cooper Clubman. The next size up from the classic Mini Cooper. I got my fuel economy, and style factor, he got the engine. This was  a wonderful treat, but a transition as well. I had never had a car that wasn't practical- the Mini, although, much more fuel efficient, was sporty and fun to drive. We also no longer had a cargo vehicle. This was the perfect opportunity for Terry to trade in his company car sedan, for an SUV himself. This was win win win. 

It didn't take long for me to realize that there was a fraternity among Mini owners too. The unwritten rules of  owning a Mini Cooper include waving and possibly beeping at one another when you pass each other on the road, ( I've personalized this with the peace sign) and parking beside other Minis when there's an empty spot beside another. You just can't help it anyway. They seem to belong together. Classic Minis from the 1950's or state of the art 2015 models, you want to acknowledge your connection. Old or new, you have something in common-your shared sensibility and aesthetic.

It's an informal Mini Meet Up. Where as the formal meet ups might be road Ralleys or Pajama Breakfasts at nearby restaurants. Or Road Ralleys  to far off places where everyone starts at one location and hits the road in long lines, traveling winding roads as a unit and hitting the great open to go motoring, as it's called. At zippy speeds, dotting the highway with cheerfully colored humming engines are we, like cells creating the body.

There's something very fun about having a car that connects you to others you don't know, and may never know, but have something immediately in common with. It's like Cousins- they are a given. You know you've always got them,  you've got something immediately in common- and before you  ever even meet- you are family. You're family. And you're connected by a common theme. Blood. You know all of the quirky features and accept them as unique stamp. Perhaps that's how family crests were conceived.

But why, I wonder, don't Explorer people wave and nod at one another? Or Yukon People, as they carry seven car-seats-full of adolescents to a birthday party,  or Excursion  People. What about them. Are they less friendly?
What is it about a Jeep Wrangler or a Mini Cooper  that makes you want to acknowledge one another and pat each other on the back for your exquisite taste in transportation?

It's a sort of comradery you feel at a distance even as you pass one another. I'd go as far as to say it's an energetic connection. I've tried the wave to other models of Mini- like the Countryman, or the  Coupe, but don't often get a response. I don't know if they wave to each other or not; they may not see us as one of their own- Either they haven't gotten the memo, they only wish to wave at those of their own, or their just a shy breed. I may never know.

But I know this. I still find myself waving  when I'm driving my husband's car, which must really wrack their brains as they try to figure out who they know who drives a Black Denali.

I think the roads would be that much more wonderful if we all waved to each other, and acknowledged each other as members of the same family of  those who commute.
But  barring that, I'm glad I have my own little extended family of Mini enthusiasts to energetically connect with like ships in the night as we Motor along, and if Im driving my husband's Denali and Wave to some Minis  along the way, then I've given them something to be curious about as they  motor along, and I bet thinking it was another Mini Enthusiast never  even crossed his  mind.

In the end We're all out there just trying to get to our destinations, experiencing our journeys in the vehicle we choose carrying valuable cargo. Ourselves.

In the Movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, families come together from different backgrounds, and challenges arise because they fail to understand one another. As a toast, the father of the bride, who likes word origins,  makes a point when referring to the wedding couple's last names:

Gus Portokalos: You know, the root of the word Miller is a Greek word. Miller come from the Greek word "milo," which is mean "apple," so there you go. As many of you know, our name, Portokalos, is come from the Greek word "portokali," which mean "orange." So, okay? Here tonight, we have, ah, apple and orange. We all different, but in the end, we all fruit.