Friday, April 3, 2009

Like minds, me and the Times

Thanks to my friend Patty, who sent me a link to a piece from the New York Times, titled "Life Lessons from the Family Dog" by Dana Jennings. Different dog, different situation, same idea. I've excerpted below. We are blessed by our canine companions.

Our family dog started failing a couple of months ago. Her serious health problems began at about the same time I was coping with my own — finishing my radiation and hormone therapy for prostate cancer.

Her full name is Bijou de Minuit.... She is a 12-year-old black miniature poodle, and she is, literally, on her last legs. Her hind quarters fly out from beneath her, her back creaks and cracks as she walks, she limps, she’s speckled with bright red warts the size of nickels, her snore is loud and labored (like a freight train chugging up some steep grade) and she spends most of the day drowsing on her pillow-bed next to the kitchen radiator.

She is, I realize, “just” a dog. But she has, nonetheless, taught me a few lessons about life, living and illness. Despite all her troubles, Bijou is still game. She still groans to her feet to go outside, still barks at and with the neighborhood dogs, is willing to hobble around the kitchen to carouse with a rubber ball — her shrub of a tail quivering in joy.

Human beings constantly struggle to live in the moment. We’re either obsessing over the past (”Gee, life would’ve been different if I’d only joined the Peace Corps.”), or obsessing over the future (”Gee, I hope my 401K holds up”). We forget that life, real life, is lived right now, in this very moment.

But living in the moment is something that dogs (and cancer patients) do by their very nature. Bijou eats when she’s hungry, drinks when she’s thirsty, sleeps when she’s tired and will still gratefully curl up in whatever swatch of sunlight steals through the windows.

In spending so much time with Bijou, I began to realize that our dogs, in their carefree dogginess, make us more human, force us to shed our narcissistic skins. Even when you have cancer, you can’t be utterly self-involved when you have a floppy-eared mutt who needs to be fed, walked and belly-scratched. And you can’t help but ponder the mysteries of creation as you gaze into the eyes of your dog, or wonder why and how we chose dogs and they chose us.

Good dogs – and most dogs are good dogs – are canine candles that briefly blaze and shine, illuminating our lives. Bijou has been here with us for the past 12 years, reminding us that simple pleasures are the ones to be treasured: a treat, a game of fetch, a nose-to-the-ground stroll in the park.

Simple pleasures. As I lazed and dozed at home last summer after surgery, there was nothing sweeter to me in this world than to hear Bijou drinking from her water dish outside my door. It was if her gentle lap-lapping ferried me to waters of healing. I’ll miss her.

1 comment:

Emily said...

What insight - from you AND the Times. I love this excerpt. Strange ... the last time a dog close to me died I thought 'I'm never getting a dog again; it's too sad when they go' - but reading this makes me realize I missed the point. Such valuable perspective.