When my hubby Bill and I met, he had a very special dog named Fred. I fell in love with both of them.
Fred had so many endearing qualities – his yellow lab enthusiasm, his bloodhound flop-on-top-of-you adoration, his snugglyness (think eighty pound lap dog) and his adorable nibbles on Bill’s beard.
One of Freddy’s unfortunate habits was when he buried his bone (from the butcher) in the bed. If we forgot to close the bedroom door, he would take that messy bone and shove it down into the corner of the mattress frame.
Then, trying to thoroughly ‘hide’ it, he’d push his snout so hard that the tip of his nose would start to bleed. As he dragged his bloody nose from every angle, he left a dramatic red sunburst pattern across the white sheet, at the corner of the bed. A bloody artist.
And then there was the time he stole the plastic bag of stinky sour-bread starter and dragged it (leaking) around the entire apartment. That stuff dries like cement.
Through it all, Freddy helped us lighten up, laugh, and feel loved, as only our fur-family can do. Such deep and mysterious attachments are soulmate kinda material.
It makes their loss incredibly profound.
It was a week before Christmas, when Fred was hit by a car, and killed instantly. Bill and I were devastated. Heartbroken. Unhinged.
My one source of hope was believing and praying that someday, somehow, Freddy’s jubilant spirit would come back to us. My hubby wasn’t so sure.
That would change.
A year later, we were ready to adopt again. We searched around for weeks until we finally found a yellow Lab/Shepherd mix at a local shelter. By the time we got there, another woman had the puppy on her lap. Bill started pacing. I chewed my nails.
The woman asked the shelter volunteer, “Does this puppy play at all? He’s awfully lazy.” The volunteer answered, “He was very frisky with his sister not long ago.” (The sister had been adopted just before we arrived.) “Well, he has zero personality now. Is he going to be big? I live in a small apartment,” the woman whined. Bill jumped in: “Take a look at those paws. He’s gonna be BIG.”
Fifteen agonizing minutes tick-tocked by. The puppy was oddly placid.
“Well if you aren’t sure,” the volunteer told the woman, “let these folks hold him – they came specifically to see that puppy.” HIGH FIVE!
As the volunteer handed the puppy to Bill, the pup sprang to life, wriggling, waggling and then nibbling on Bill’s beard. Aw! When Bill put him on the floor, he scampered away and then circled back and sat right between Bill’s legs. The volunteer was very impressed. “Sometimes the animals pick the owners. He sure picked you.”
We named him Norman. He turned into a 95 lb. blond shepherd, with cute speckled tan polka dots on his white paws.
About six months later, Bill brought home a butcher bone and gave it to Norm. As we were cooking dinner, I put his dog food down. When he didn’t appear, I went looking. I peeked into our bedroom.
“Bill! Come quick!”
There, in the corner of our bed, was Freddy’s bloody sunburst pattern. We stared in astonishment.
Bill laughed out loud, “I guess dogs do get recycled!”
Time flew by. When our sons joined the family, Norm was their devoted gentle giant, a daily cornerstone of unconditional love.
When he passed away of old age, our hearts were demolished, once again. Bill believed he would never get over the loss.
That would change.
A few months after Norm left our world, we began the search. I showed Bill all kinds of online puppy pictures at local shelters – Bill wasn’t moved by any. Until.
This one photo (below) creamed our hearts.
The shelter was two hours away, but there was something about this puppy, in a litter of nine, that felt like Norm. But how will we know?
The adoption day was so big that we had to stand in line. We watched as, one by one, that litter of nine yellow Lab/Rottweiler pups dwindled down to one. By the time it was our turn to look, there was one puppy left and he was the dude in the photo. Yahoo!
As Bill held him, I saw it – one white paw with speckled tan polka dots. Norm!? As my older son and I stood in line with the new pup, waiting to buy some toys, I was still unsure.
I silently asked my guardian angels for another sign that this puppy was the one.
An older woman, ahead of us in line, was talking to the cashier when all of the sudden she yells out into the store, “Norman?! Did you find the birdseed?”
My son and I did a double take at the woman and then stared wide-eyed at each other.
Welcome Home Norm!
Merlin, aka Fred/Norm, is now 7 years old. I like to believe that, in one form or another, he is family forever. He’ll go on giving his daily dose of love. Happy to be alive. Reminding us of the purity and power of living in the present. When we can enjoy the ‘simple’ NOW, then the next moment starts looking pretty awesome, too. And we end up taking a brief, but vital, vacay from our worries.
And while we have responsibilities to tend to, there’s no reason we can’t pause for a moment, and live by their example. Unfettered by the future. Unattached to the past. Following our next breathe to a deeper peace and appreciation of everyday life. That sunny spot on the carpet. Those tasty tootsie rolls in the cat litter.
Montana photo by Joslin Fields
These fur-balls forgive us our sins (as we forgive theirs.) They pay no mind to our superficial distractions, fears and flaws. They don’t long to be leaner, stronger or prettier. They don’t need the coolest device, car, cash or perfect mate. They don’t judge gender, religion, race, appearance or smelly pits (that may even be a bonus.)
They accept what is, without regret, and they feel ecstatic just to be alive. Sniff the breeze. Go for a walk. Or rest in your holy presence.
Compared to us, they need very little, and they appreciate a whole lot. They save us from ourselves with their depth of love, loyalty, life, and uninhibited being-ness. If we mess-up, they don’t love us any less. They never question if we’re good enough.
And when they stare into our eyes – the love hormone, oxytocin – is released into our blood stream. And theirs. Fur free.
So go totally insane with joy. Over anything. Be your own oxytocin dispenser. We may not have everything we think we need, but we can be happy anyway, just like they are.
This earth is filled with creatures who increase our capacity for connection. Wonder. Joy. Just have a laugh at an animal video. Cuddle your cat. “Wag more Bark less.” Be pawsitive. Smile at an ordinary day. It all lets the love stream in. And out. Right where you are. Just as you are.
It’s easy peasy doggy sneezy.
with lotsa love & thanks (to fur friends, far and wide,)
and to us, their hilarious, hapless humans,