I have a dog. A unique and curious fellow, and although I try hard not to talk about him too much, I feel he is the best one to tell this story. He is the kind of dog that yelps when you touch his armpits, smiles when you frolic with him, and tries with all his might to be a real boy. His face has more expressions than mine, and we have become expert conversationalists. Perhaps it is in his genes, or perhaps it is in mine, but we are the peas and carrots of man and his dog.
A year ago this month, I had to wake my dog up in the middle of the night. He was sound asleep at my feet, but when I got the call that Tyler was sitting in the emergency room with an abnormal X-ray, I couldn’t move fast enough. I picked him up, quickly and suddenly. My little man screamed. He shook and he glared at me, and when I tried to pick him up again, he screamed once more. My heart was pounding and all I could think was, I still couldn’t move fast enough.
The clock turned surreal on that night. My heart didn’t stop pounding for days on end. When I finally came back home for clothes and a shower, I reached for my dog in our usual welcome home greeting fashion. Instead of lavish kisses and his wagging tail, he instantly stiffened and screamed when I touched him. My already pounding heart could now be heard in my own head.
I immediately thought the worse. Maybe he has a broken bone, maybe he has an injured organ, maybe he has a tumor?? I didn’t have time to dwell at home, but I researched while I was at the hospital, in between cancer research, and chemo crash courses. What would cause a dog to scream in pain?
There it was, in black and white. Post traumatic or constant traumatic stress. His screams were the echoes of my pounding heart. He was hurting, because I was hurting, because I was worried. Yet there was nothing I could do about. My brave face, and my focused efforts to help contribute to a furious healing team, were not strong enough to mask my heart from my dog.
This went on for several months. Same routine: a touch was responded with a scream. When I was home from the hospital all I wanted was for normalcy, and my dog could not fake that for me. Not surprising to this story, is once good news started filtering in about Tyler, my dog slowly returned to normal. The screaming stopped, and there finally came a day where I could pick him up and hold him.
So here we are, a whole year later. I’m laying in bed and my dog cannot seem to get close enough to me. It dawns on me, he’s been so truly happy lately. Things are definitely far from perfect around us, yet, we have so many reasons to smile.
I have been struggling lately with the concept of closure. It’s a natural desire, post a traumatic episode, to want to feel a definitive point to call ‘the end’. Science likes to label closure from cancer with remission timelines, families like to use the label of a clear biopsy. To each it is different, to some it is non existent.
Ifind my own heart does not believe that immediate peace arises from war. However, I am starting to believe that finding peace with our ongoing conditions can be the building of a deeper calm. When I look down at my peaceful pup, I see the reflection of my own heart at peace, and I think that is enough to build on and to trust. After all, maybe dog knows best?
I wish you all the happiest of holidays. From the bottom of my heart. Thank you for all your support this year.