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Oliver’s dance…

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When a mother loses a child, does she still count that child as one of her own?
I’m wondering. When someone asks, “How many children do you have,” how does she answer? What happens with that deceased child? Will the mother answer, “Well, I have…or had…but one…” . . . I’m just not sure.

Jane in her kelly green sweater

The governess

I have four dogs. One is the queen…the governess. She needs order and will impose it if I don’t. She feels responsible for this family, I suspect, and wants things to go well. She’d also like to be the only dog who’s allowed to sleep on the bed, but that’s going a little too far for me. She’s lovely and smart and nobody’s fool. Her story is complicated and I tried to tell it once before. A few weeks ago I listed her on Petfinder because she, technically, is a foster dog and I thought she might rather be an “only” dog. She gets a bit testy, especially when she’s tired and I often play the role of the bouncer.  I’ll never really be sure she’s my dog and I’m not sure I’ll ever know that I’m her person. Maybe that’s the way it is sometimes. Let’s face it: moms love all their kids, not always in the same way.

Seeing her profile picture on Petfinder was just awful and we took it down. John said it first: “Why don’t you take her off Petfinder? She has a place here. A job to do. And, she does it well.” I wasn’t about to argue with that. As far as I know, Jane’s not leaving here. A friend of mine is an intuitive counselor and she assured me that if I placed Jane, she would be back here within six months.

I have four dogs. One is the little court jester. She’s comic relief …. until you move toward a bone she’s buried in the backyard. There’s little comedy in that. She survived a hurricane. A really bad hurricane. I have an image of her in my head. She’s whining and shaking on a roof top, stinking water, dark and forbidding, rising around her. Boats full of tired families in distress pass by the roof top, not hearing her cries until a little girl with disheveled hair notices her tail wagging in the gray sky and pleads for the boatman to stop and give her rescue.


The jester

She looks at me with squinty eyes when she hears gunshots and thunder. She can sense the barometric pressure dropping at least 3 days before a significant weather event. She also hates digital beeping noises so we can no longer watch MSNBC. I’m not sure if you know this, but there are digital beeping noises in the background of that station all the time. Or, perhaps she’s just politically conservative. Still, she’s adorable and classy and a little short on brains. I’m madly in love with her. She’s “All that Jazz”. . . Jazzie. . . Jazz-ma-tazz. I suspect if she were a human she’d play the clarinet.

oliver with john

Oliver with John

I have four dogs. One is the old soul, no longer here in body. But that doesn’t mean he’s not around. He passed suddenly after many months of trying to help him heal from physical illness. I thought he was cured. John and I had done everything we could and imagined we had five good years ahead with him. He was only nine. Yet, you can’t predict these things. Dogs have their own time line. When we got word doxycycline generic that he was dying, I asked him to stop putting his energy into mending and instead to let go.

The death of a dog hurts like hell. Physically aches. Painful, tight in the chest, gasping for air at times, grief stricken. I’d put all my energy into helping him heal and though I didn’t feel like a failure, it was clear that things didn’t work out as I planned. Life continued without him. I kept my chin up and moved forward. I wrote a little story called “The Ten Good Things About Oliver” and sent it to everyone who knew him. Oh, that grief and disappointment ran much deeper than I knew. I thought it was a speck. As it turns out, my grief was the size of an iceberg: affecting my outlook and creativity. Impacting my relationships with family and friends. My Auntie and Uncle in Maine…parents to me, really, and to my dogs. They mourned his loss as deeply as I. Things were not quite the same after his passing.

And I didn’t even know it. A ghastly, filthy trick grief can play! A nasty hand it deals! I wanted him to heal. I WANTED HIM TO HEAL!! GODDAMMIT! A flash of fire, a tantrum welled up and whirled around in my soul, much like the foul water that rose toward the roof top where my Jazz had once stood helplessly waiting for her rescue. The water kept rising and coursing it’s way, stinking and brown and dead, as she. . .  and I. . . waited for someone… the little girl with the disheveled hair in the boat…

Oliver hadn’t healed. He died. Right in my arms.

It was over. And it wasn’t over. The heart wants to be whole again. The soul wants connection. We’re wired for that.

Aaron in the Autumn leaves

The prince

I have four dogs.One is a prince. A mountain of strength as his name suggests. He arrived here broken in spirit, timid, weak and lost. But that’s over, too. He’s gained confidence with every passing day. He’s inquisitive and smart, friendly and self assured, little by little. His curiosity gets the better of him most days and last week he met Auntie and Uncle for the first time. Our visit was joyful and sweet, heaviness and sorrow dissipating with each gentle offer of tasty bits of donut. The water recedes, the iceberg melts, my grief is replaced with hope…and Oliver’s energy dances. Uncle spent much of our visit on the floor with my prince of a dog stroking him ever so gently. Telling him with delicate assurance that life is good. I have never met a man who loves dogs…my dogs…more than Uncle. If there was not healing in that moment, then there’s not healing anywhere.

Aaron is staying here with us. He’s not leaving. Those hollow eyes of late July saved him. The light I discovered in those eyes provided rescue for me. So, who rescued who? Who healed who? Well, that’s an easy question to answer. Aaron is the healed and the healer. And, I’m the healer and the healed. Aaron will pass away someday. And he’ll be in my arms.

This is end of our story for now. I’ve accomplished the task I set for myself: to chronicle Aaron’s journey. Did something go awry with my plan to place this dog in a new home? Well, yes, and I’ll gladly welcome that. And, I’m not going to accept the term “failed foster” to describe what has happened to us. It feels much too trivial and mundane. This isn’t a failure. This is a new beginning. And that’s joyful.

Music by Paul Winter: “Heaven Within” from his album, Sun Singer.