I felt sorry for myself a bit. This surgery didn’t feel right. I wasn’t ready for it but there was no choice. If I wanted to rid myself of some pain and walk freely I had to show up. So, I did. But I didn’t want to. I felt depleted of fortitude and the necessary will to overcome. Personal situations had caused months of doubting what I had once believed about myself and life had shifted drastically. Worry over my brain tumour paled in comparison to recently lost relationships.
I had endured the death of Stillwater, my great white bush dog from the Mile 26 rescue as well as the passing of Lady Rose, the wildish dog that had taken me a year to gentle. Huck, our mighty male, was diagnosed with bladder cancer and there is nothing to be done for him other than love and comfort. This was the dog that had been given a life expectancy of eighteen months due to a heart murmur that was supposed to defeat him. Instead, we will lose Huck in his twelfth year of life. I told myself what I needed to in order to keep going. There were rescue dogs that needed care and I couldn’t let them down. It wasn’t their fault they had come in our sixteenth year of work when we were tired and worn. I reminded myself of what Mission, a German Shepard dog, had taught me about endurance - “give all you can, then all you thought you couldn’t.
It was the death of Ruth, my angel of light, that finally broke me though. She was the first rescue dog we kept for ourselves years ago and she was mine. When I was lost, Ruth knew the way. The light of her spirit guided me to where I was meant to be and she went with me.
I thought not being strong might make this part of the journey easier. Would giving in feel at all akin to floating? What if I didn’t find my way and just allowed myself to get lost? I thought it was my battle, mine alone to fight or not. I thought that until I looked into the face of a Terrier named Mabel. She held my glance and would not look away. She wasn’t challenging me or offering encouragement, she was letting me know that if I let myself down, I let her down too. Not because she depended on me but because she had chosen me. Mabel had become my protector and if I cried she growled at those around me, when I sighed she drew closer and when I laughed, she danced. Mabel had chosen me and made it clear she would have no other.
Mabel had lived in a hole by the side of a highway in Mexico. She had given birth to pups in this dugout of neglect. She hadn’t had expectations of anything better but wasn’t accepting of hardships either. She just did her best every moment of every day without allowing herself the luxury of thought. She was neither hopeful nor woeful, she was simply strong.
The thought that I could now cause this dog to give up was more than I could stand. If I was enough for her, she would have to be enough for me. In true dog fashion, Mabel didn’t demand this determination from me, she brought it out in me.
Still, since surgery, I wake some days and the pain and sadness tempt me into depression. I know Mabel would willingly share my days of misery but it seems too much to ask of her. She will watch me, waiting to trust whatever it is I choose to do with our day. On these days, I challenge myself to just get up. Once standing I look at Mabel. Her tail is wagging and her expression is one of anticipatory delight. It takes so little to please her. The hope of moving forward is enough for her. Dogs don’t need a map, a plan or a promised outcome. They simply need to begin. Whether it be to the door, a window, a pathway or a road to anywhere, the possibilities are their reward. Joy is in the simplest of journeys.
All I needed was to begin the journey of a moment. Mountains can wait to be climbed and not every river needs to be crossed. I can enjoy the view without ever reaching it and the clouds overhead drift by without effort from me. Rain or shine, the day belongs to me and I will wander through it being as strong as I am able to be right now.
Mabel taught me what is enough. I was surprised to learn just how small wonder could be and that contentment takes so little effort. Once again, I am grateful. Our dogs see what we cannot. That our flaws are forgivable and our perfections always in reach.
I thank Ruth, Huck, Trillium, Lady Rose, Stillwater, Will and Trumpet for their patience over many years and Mabel for her wisdom. Because of them, I will once again make it.