Around this block, we have a lot of animal lovers! But ever since I read Melissa Fay Greene’s wondrous “The Underlings” (remember she’s coming to All Saints’ to read and sign next Wednesday, September, 28), I’ve been trying to think from a dog’s point of view. Do dogs love us?? Unless Flash is really faking me and Carroll out, I believe he does!
And here’s Sydney Cleland and the gifts of love and new life with her friend, Peaches:
Facebook pros will recognize TBT—Throwback Thursday, a day when people post photos of events from years past. Well, I’m in a real-time TBT.
I recently left my teaching post, visualizing the carefree life of the empty-nester with a little means—frequenting trendy spots for coffees with friends, meandering through the Atlanta Botanical Garden or the High Museum, maybe traveling abroad. Even grocery shopping, errands, and appointments would be scheduled back-to-back in a single day, without worrying about fixing dinner, driving carpool, or taking care of pets.
And then, we got a dog—actually, a puppy. A five month old rescue Basset Hound named Peaches.
In her short life, Peaches has been cast off as many times, so she’s a kind of throw-back herself. The moment Peaches came to live with us, my dreams of no schedule were replaced by puppy schedule: Feed Dog, Let Dog Out, Let Dog In, Play with Dog, Walk Dog, Train Dog, Keep Dog Away from Danger. And Repeat. Several times a day.
So this is the TBT, as it were: I haven’t had a puppy in 15 years or a toddler in 20. I feel like I’m in the Throwback Time Machine, at home with and organizing my day around a dependent. I chose to do this, having forgotten how much time and energy a puppy requires. Those with grandchildren understand. But I have a skill now I lacked back then. I have learned mindfulness: being in the moment. Dogs (and children) have a way of pulling us to be in the moment. That is their gift to us.
Even as puppies, Basset Hounds don’t hurry, so I’ve slowed for Peaches. We sit long stretches in the yard — listening to traffic zipping and children playing and owls calling, noticing ants and worms and butterflies and yellow jackets. Apart from food, water, and shelter, Peaches wants my presence. Not my distracted-by-cell-phone or do-list presence, but my calm, breath-conscious, in-the-moment mindful presence. Of course, we’ll have misfortunes and frustrations. But we’ll also have joy, like last Thursday, when we lay belly-up on the warm deck staring at the blue sky, two thrown back beings, living in the now.
Thanks, girls. Sydney and Peaches are our teachers, Throw-Yourself-Back-to-the-Heart-of-Matter Teachers.
And here’s a shout out to your buddies Mary Margaret Oliver and Henry.
Mary Margaret (and maybe Henry) will be introducing their friend Melissa Fay Greene. Melissa is such a swell writer, and her new book, “The Underdogs”, is a deeply moving read about an astonishing service dog academy which began with thrown-back-almost-end-of-rope pound dogs and serves kids and families with the most difficult challenges I have ever read about .
Not sure how one bread would work! But one cup is mighty fine.
I don’t know exactly how great Peaches and Henry would be as service dogs. But O yes, they believe in unconditional love. Really, they live it.
Happy Tails to you until we meet again.