I’m grateful for today’s harvest, two baskets of tomatoes, some tomatillos, and three more hot peppers, a chimayo and two paprikas. I’m grateful for the comfort of patience, as the drain remains clogged and I hope for a plumber’s assistance tomorrow. With or without a kitchen drain I’ll have to start canning again in the next couple of days. I’m grateful for patience with myself as I plod through the clutter, dust, and disarray I’ve let accumulate this year having no one in my house but me and the animals. Gradually, surface by surface, inch by square inch, I’m getting a handle on the house, which I tend to neglect during summer, when my living room is the great outdoors. I’m grateful for good music, fresh air, cooler weather, fewer flies, coffee, and comfort food that help me through fall cleaning. I’m grateful for my good, sweet dog in his last days, and for the friends who gave him to me. I’m grateful for the last two good nights’ sleep, and another on the horizon as I head to my cozy bed now. I’m grateful for the patience that comes when I’ve run out, and the calm confidence that nothing stays the same.
Morning smoke haze, the new normal in the gathering storm. Visually beautiful in its own way. One obstacle to joy can be an overarching awareness of the planet’s dire state; and yet, to me, that makes experiencing joy in all the tenuous elements of being alive all the more urgent.
An unforeseen obstacle on the path this morning threw me for a few seconds: wait, where’s the path? Did I get off the trail? No, just a down dead piñon tree. With equanimity, I stepped around it, knowing I’ll return and remove it when I have the right tools for the job, gloves and a rope. And maybe wait a bit til my hand is better. No hurry! Sometimes simply avoiding an obstacle for awhile is the wise choice.
I’m grateful for our long, leisurely walk this morning, a holiday stroll. Stellar is feeling good these days, which inspires him to bark for me in the morning and bounce on his front legs, eager for his walk; and makes him move faster, a bit too fast. His back feet trip over each other more when he’s feeling good, but he has strength to correct and doesn’t stumble as much as when he moves slower, when he’s weaker, and falls down. Fingers crossed for a long streak of this mobility and his obvious joy in his morning walks.
After a self-satisfied shelving of the first preserved jars, I turned my attention to today’s major obstacle, the plugged drain that is causing kitchen sink water to burble up from the sunroom pond drain. I was optimistic. I’d borrowed a drain snake, and started to work after morning coffee. I had the right tool for the job, which I’m always grateful for having, and a spirit of joyful effort.
Three hours later, I had seemingly cleared the clog, dismantled and thoroughly cleaned out all the pieces of undersink pipe, perhaps irrevocably kinked the snake, and managed one load of dishes, before the pond gurgled full again and I surrendered to whatever tomorrow brings: effective enzyme action, or a call to the plumber. I went on with the day, detouring around the obstacle after giving it my best shot, practicing patience, and grateful that it isn’t worse: the toilet and bathroom sink still drain, and the shower flows straight outside. Fresh water, for which I’m always grateful, still runs from the faucets, I’ve got a bucket to wash dishes in, and a yarden right outside the front door that will welcome the dishwater.
I served up a leftover burrito with chopped tomato and the last half of avocado, ate a late lunch outside on the patio, took Stellar for another stroll, and enjoyed the rest of my Labor Day holiday. I’m grateful for the mindfulness skills and practice that have enabled me to take obstacles in stride, with patience and equanimity, knowing these are not big deals in the grand scheme of things. Trees in the trail, clogs in the drain, smoke in the sky, and even Stellar’s lameness are all simply transient conditions, while gratitude, contentment, compassion and calm are states I can cultivate and come to depend upon.
Late in his full day of adventures, naps, dreams, and watchdog duties, Stellar’s stand resembled a half-sit, but that doesn’t dampen his lust for life as he sniffs the wind currents. I aspire to live like this dog, so completely present in each moment.
I’m grateful for resilience, his and mine. Stellar slid into another bout of inexplicable diarrhea that started yesterday morning but wasn’t conclusively an issue until after dark, as usual. Why does it always strike them at night?
I’m grateful that I remembered the potty pads I keep for Biko, and remembered my brilliant idea of a sheet path to the door in time to protect the rugs, and had a brand new case of paper towels on hand to line the path for the next run(s). I stayed up late monitoring the situation, then had to get up a few times in the night to let him out and clean up. I’m grateful I had Imodium in the medicine cabinet from the Shitstorm a year ago, grateful I remembered it was there, grateful it seems to have settled things by midday.
I’m grateful for mindfulness practice every day, but especially today. Under the tender tutelage of Mindful Life Program founders Mark and Laura since last summer, I’ve been learning more about meditation, motivation, and meaning than I have in all my years of casual study and dedicated interest. I’ve begun to fully embody qualities like patience and compassion, which may come easily to some people but have taken me years of practice. I keep my attention trained, for the most part, on what matters, and don’t let my mind drag me off into what ifs or if onlys.
In this way, I was able to remain calm as the gravity of this episode sunk in, recognizing that it’s happened before, we got through it before, and he was just fine (as fine as possible with his bad back end) before; that it was likely it would resolve in a couple of days and we’d go back to our normal, peaceful routine. I was able to accept that this is how it is right now. Further, I had confidence that if all wasn’t well later, and his health took a dark turn, I could handle it. Resilience. So I didn’t fret, I got up when I had to, slept lightly, did what I could do to mitigate mess and cleaned up when necessary, all with unruffled patience and a heart full of unconditional love for my dear companion. I tended and rested through the day, and by evening, all does seem well, neither of us much worse for wear. I’m so grateful that I could hold this unfortunate event in perspective, respond appropriately, and still enjoy many aspects of a quiet, calm snowy Sunday.
I’m grateful every time that Stellar poops on a walk. That means less chance he’ll poop on his bed or on the floor. I’m even more grateful when he poops off the trail, but that doesn’t happen much anymore. He cannot longer squat, so he poops as he walks along. Anyone who has ever loved an old dog, (or a puppy, or any dog, or a cat for that matter) understands the importance of monitoring their companion animals’ digestions, from what goes in and how often to what comes out and how often. It’s not a tasteful task but necessary, part of everyday life as much as attending to our own digestive systems.
There are the jokes about praising your dogs when they poop. But there’s a good reason for doing this: training a puppy, helping it understand what a goooood boy or girl it is for pooping outside not inside. Some puppies learn it quickly, others slowly. I don’t think Stellar every pooped inside. I think he was house trained by the time we got back from Florida after a week on the road in the Mothership. He never pooped in the Mothership. We stopped often enough that he had ample opportunity to learn that lesson, and by then I had learned to always take a puppy out after every time it eats or drinks, and be patient, and praise a good poop.
This is the third winter he’s suffered from neurological damage in his spine, at first presumed to be degenerative as he continued to lose strength, muscle mass, coordination and mobility in his back legs, and began to lose bowel control. First it was just a random golfball on the bed overnight, and then another a few months later. Around that time a friend posted a query on Facebook: “Does your old dog ever leave a hard dry poop in the bed?” Yes! I answered, as did some others. We figured it was just an old dog thing.
Since he moved downstairs a year ago, bowel incontinence has increased. For awhile it was every morning. I adapted his feeding schedule, and made his walks more intentional, and now it’s back down to every few days. There’s a little turd or two in his bed when he gets up for his morning walk. The earlier I get up and walk him, the better the odds for me: less laundry. Also for him, I think. He doesn’t know it when it comes out, but I think he’s a bit ashamed when he notices it. You understand. Old dogs, they’re special. I’m grateful to meet any old dog.
I am so grateful to have Stellar’s last days with him, alone, the only dog I need to love right now. He’s been the most remarkable companion a girl could ever hope for. He’s made patience practice easy and a pleasure. I would be immeasurably lucky to get a thousand more days with him, supremely grateful for a hundred or two, or three; grateful even for only ten more. Ten days from today he’ll turn thirteen.
Granted, I’d feel cheated by only ten, since he’s finally doing so well (though I’m well aware, every day, that I could get only one more). After two years of steady decline, his health has been slowly improving for the past six months on a magic formula called ‘moleculars,’ a half-homemade diet, and a routine of two short and at least one long walks a day. Long being relative, half a mile or more.
I was grateful this morning when he chased Cynthia down the driveway. He hasn’t run that far in at least a year. Run being relative also, but he managed a pretty quick wobbly lope that I couldn’t keep up with walking. He got way ahead of me, and she was way ahead of him but he was gaining on her. I yelled her name, and I can’t stop him!
She assessed the situation, then walked toward him to turn him back across the field. Overjoyed that he’d caught her, he turned to lead her back to me, still lope-limping, til he spied a deer bone, which he grabbed and chewed, and trotted with toward home. We waved, and she continued on toward the Barn, while I headed home with my dog and my cat. I’m grateful for mid-morning quotidian adventures.
More gratitude for Stellar’s Last Days will be expressed leading up to his birthday… It’s too much for just one post.