11 March 2020

Another trip around the moon, accompanied by an Eagles soundtrack.

Picture a modestly sized disco ball, suspended overhead. Not one so small it would fit into your palm, live it up a little! And it doesn’t have to be so large as to fill a ballroom, unless that’s how big you need to live your life. Light drops spin circles around the room in a flurry of shooting stars moving up, and down and sideways all at once. It’s confusing and disorienting but oh, so beautiful. Difficult to decipher where the circle starts, and impossible to know where it ends. Northern lights for the rest of us down south, please keep your OCD dogs from observing the dancing light. We keep chasing our own tails round and round the dance floor, the kind that lights up underneath your boogie shoes. Every revolution of the glitter ball helps us to quietly ignore the inevitable act of somebody flicking off the switch at the end of the evening. Say goodnight, John Travolta.

There’s only so many movie plots that are going to happen, recycling themselves over and over. Hunters shoot Bambi’s mom, and we weep over the tragedy until a singing warthog carries a baby lion out on top of it’s head while the sun rises. Rebirth! Elton John is the soundtrack, and Disney makes a million bucks before the cock crows three times. Variations include rags to riches, love prevails over all, and fish out of water on an epic quest. The circle’s a loop set permanently on repeat.

Plenty of room in the Hotel California! You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!*

Thank dog for agility, the panacea of distraction that staves off the epic life events. Climate change, political disasters, global disease pandemic, death of a loved one. Pick your poison, agility is designed to absorb a lot of the anxiety. If you love dogs, and you love doing agility with your dogs, and you have multiple dogs so that you don’t have to quit agility, you know well the harpoon of heartbreak jammed through your ribs til you can barely breathe, every time a dog dies. Do you know what a bulla is? It looks like a bubble you would blow out your lips with gum, except that it’s your lung. A giant bubble that attaches to a lung after the harpoon goes through, sitting there, waiting to explode, and when it does, the air escapes out into the chest cavity, causing the air that keeps you alive to crush your lung back into itself, asphyxiating you with nothing to do but wait it out til the end. We know it’s going to happen, but we can’t stop acquiring dogs, because we need them just as much as we need our lungs, we need them like the air we need to breathe to live.

There are all those stages of grief, I know you’ve been through them too, the don’t talk to me one, the weepy outbursts in the grocery store one, the wailing in the car one, the laying under the couch not moving while watching cupcake baking shows one, the crazy lady one that repels strangers because they can just feel the I need to tell you about how amazing my dead dog was ones, then the get up and dust the bunnies off your chest and get on with life one. You can get on with the things, but if that loss means you also lost your agility, there goes your panacea. Your lifeline to quiet the crazy making sounds. So many other things gone.

If dogs are your life circle, puppy fever will set in to keep the disco ball switch ticking, so it glitters another rotation. It has to.

Mirrors on the ceiling, pink champagne on ice! We are all just prisoners here, of our own device.

For sure, the best way to ignore the apocalypse at your own doorstep is training another agility dog. By the time you’re ready for another puppy, you’ve long forgotten the exhaustion and frustration they bring. Baby animals are cute for a reason. They shut off the heartbreak of the future when their little wiggly legs start wobbling around on our laps. And furry, tiny faces erase the past memories of the last puppy’s eating the furniture, biting the arm, and running away into traffic phases of development. Cute, fluffy thoughts only! Running contacts, start lines, good jump skills and perfect lines are a super fun way to stick your head in the sand.

I don’t know if it was luck or fate or what that my most recent puppy became the Banksy that’s laying in the chair across the living room from me right now. She’s a big fluffy weirdo and she’s perfect. Her puppyhood was awful. She didn’t like me, her favorite hobby was staring at dust specks on the floor and running away to chase moving vehicles. I’m not really sure how we both survived it. Go back through my old blog posts, I think you’ll find all the sordid details that I can’t even remember any more, I guess because of that quiet ignoring amnesia that set in when she turned four or so. And as I’ve moved through mourning the death of Ruby, and Otterpop, it’s set in enough that once again I got puppy fever.

There she stood in the doorway, and I was thinking to myself this could be heaven or it could be hell.

How do you find a puppy? Maybe you’re lucky and it finds you. You troll Facebook incessantly, talk to every single person you know, quiz owners of new puppies, and worry. Would that one be a good puppy? Maybe it would. But maybe it wouldn’t. Structure, eyes, legs, spines, temperament, feelings, breed, you name it. Any one of those things could be ALL WRONG! It might have bad eyes! OCD! Seizures! Even though, until Banksy, every single one of my dogs was procured accidentally, spontaneously, and sometimes from the side of the road, and turned out pretty much ok. Actually, pretty much perfect. My future puppy has some pretty big, perfect footsteps to follow in.

This time, I was involved in a great plan to avoid all the random puppy searching. One of my best friends bred her dog, who happens to be Banksy’s favorite frenemies. A dog I know and love, a dog with a great personality, stable temperament, speed and style. A baby daddy was selected from loads of eligible border collie bachelors. There were appointments with the very best dog ob/gyn in town, DNA and hormone testing, and dog semen flown from Canada on an airplane. I was excited beyond belief at the chance of having a puppy with amazing border collie parents who I would know from birth, and couldn’t wait to play with tiny puppies before their eyes even opened. I started stocking up on toys. Cleared my schedule for the anticipated due date. Planned where to put the puppy pen in the house. No time like now for getting ready for the future!

I planned to raise my puppy without plastics and free from patriarchal oppression. I would teach her not to be a nut job during agility and how to send to a wrap from across the field and always turn the correct direction. I promised never to point my feet the wrong way during a threadle and not to shout bad words if she misses a weave pole entrance because I was running on her line but i didn’t realize it. I was going to give out so many cookies! Figure out how to use my treat robot effectively and keep the batteries charged! Work on clear markers and perfect stimulus control. Make toenail clipping a breeze! I was ready for my puppy!

The day of the ultrasound to find out how many puppies was excruciating. Would there be enough, one for me in there? The perfectly adorable one of my dreams? That looked like her mom but had giant ears and hind legs like her dad. Even though I’d been thinking about getting a boy, I only called her a Her. I could already see her. My new tiny girl puppy. In her very first photo in the ultrasound, though, it turned out to be zero puppies. The mama dog was never pregnant. There were tears. How could so much be invested in just a little puppy? The circle of life isn’t guaranteed to be smooth, sometimes those rough edges really bite.

How they dance in the courtyard, sweet, summer sweat.  Some dance to remember, some dance to forget.

Not that I ever go off on tangents, but can I tell you about a couple weeks ago? Just after learning of the absence of my puppy, Gustavo had an urgent surgery to remove a chunk of his lung. It was where it had been stabbed by a coyote tooth two years before, and while we were busy living life, turned into a giant air bubble on the verge of exploding. A bulla. Not what a lung should be. Wouldn’t even need a harpoon to pierce it, a feather touching his fur would do the trick, and no breathing when that would happen, he’d feel like he was drowning, until he couldn’t breathe another breath. Maybe it would happen with him in my arms, maybe when he wasn’t with me, maybe trotting down our path in the woods. His vets found this accidentally, and I was asked by them to choose, to gamble that that thing would not burst, or to put him through a risky surgery to take off a hunk of lung. Either choice was wagering maybe life or maybe death. I picked the surgery, a more humane way to go if it came to that than unexpected traumatic asphyxiation. He was whisked off to surgery, and, long story short, saved once again. How many miracles do most people get in life? As many as Gustavo’s had? Made it easy to stop crying about the puppies that were ever even there.

Relax, said the night man, we are programmed to receive.You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

This disco ball, it keeps spinning, round like a virus you see under the microscope, over and over. You can wash your hands for the pandemic but you can’t wash off the past. The dog gets old, you get a puppy. The dog dies, you get a puppy. Your agility legs get slow and old, you get a puppy. At some point, is there ever an end to Get a Puppy? Shut the front door. Maybe. When does that day come? It’s a day I don’t want to think about, I’d much rather stick my head back into the sand. I’m going to cast my hand for luck and fate, and just bank on keeping that glittery ball of light moving, trying to not let it stop.

Joe Walsh guitar solo to finish. He is, miraculously, and as far as I know, not yet dead.

*I didn't write the Eagles lyrics. They did. In the 70's. You should know this. If not, I cannot help you.


Anonymous said...

This is the sad, then happiest, then sad again, then funny post of the year. Thank you. If you don't know Hotel California, then GET OUT!

I hope the perfect puppy comes your way very soon.


Rosie, Razor and Rums.

Elf said...

I feel the weight of all the grief – – all the dogs who have lived with me, all the dogs that I’ve known and loved who lived elsewhere. And then I laughed at how we forget what puppies were like. Just came home at three months so she missed a little bit of the earlier puppy adventures, but I found myself a few months ago telling someone, boost was a joy, practically perfect In every way. Then I went back and read my blog. Oh, my! It is a good thing that we forget! I wish you luck on having the perfect puppy come into your life sometime soon.

And this is all about where we are today, COVID-19, so much loss (freedom to move, ability to spend time with friends, grocery shopping becomes a PTSD experience, you know that stuff). And yet amazement at how well some people respond to finding ways to help.Thanks for all you right here, and all your posts on Facebook. They are a joy, even when they are sad.