#20 ~ saved from a life of doglessness
Always… the dogs saved me.
It’s hard for me to remember times in my life that found me deep in a state of doglessness. I’ve always had gentle beings in dog bodies guiding me. My first memories are of a dog. When I was three or four, there was Queenie – a Weimeraner, with me through the unsettling times that my adoptive parents spent screaming at one another. A big, gray pillow of love I would rest upon, curl up with to snuggle away the scaries. After watching Virginia, my mother, ride on horses I think I must have gotten the idea that perhaps I could do the same on Queenie. She immediately told me no, by piercing my ear. And then she was gone.
Cherie, a small black mass of poodle curls, got me through my Mother’s death. He slept with me, was always by my side and kept that monumental loneliness that only a motherless child feels just hovering in the shadows. He taught me to stand up for myself and bite the ankles of those who were not nice people (in my case, not literally) and even to share, as he shared his milk bones with me! He taught me the language of Dog and took me for long conversational walks, and slept curled in my bed where we whispered to one another until the good dreams took over. He pooped in the swimming pool one day; I think to spite my evil stepmother. And then he was gone.
Their being taken from me left a gaping chasm in my already inflamed soul. They had helped me survive a sadness that too many of us suffer as children, that some never recover from… They let me know that no matter what, I was OK and would be OK, that I was loved, that I was safe. I mourned them even more than I mourned my missing mother. And those two were just the beginning – I’ve always felt the need to pay them back in kind and so it seems a dog or three have always been by my side.
Until March, when Djuna had to leave…
I’ve written so much about him here on these pages, I need say no more other than that his leaving us was a devastating blow – and through our grief, our missing him at every turn, with a dreadful, dog-shaped hole in our hearts we were left doomed to a spate of doglessness. Being quite busy helped. Music, the farm, writing … being in Greece, filling our cups with the light and inspiration that always nourishes us to our bones, it all helped. Paul and I engaged in many a conversation that helped to ease our missing of Djuna and nudge aside a bit of heart, enough to begin to think of bringing in a new companion to fill the holes, should he or she find us.
It was a ‘Yes’ day, something I wake up to on occasion. I would say ‘yes’ to anything that came my way, leaving all doors open to let the light in.
On my list of things to do that day was to go to our local animal shelter, Sammie’s Friends, to deliver copies of ‘All The Little Graces’ which they sell as they wish and keep the proceeds to benefit the animals there. It’s the least I can do. I also was going to apply to possibly adopt one of a litter of Border Collie pups that had been dumped on the angels there as newborns. I had to be ‘approved’ in order to see them when they were ready for the world, and approved I was. As it is now a no-kill shelter, it doesn’t break my heart to walk through and give love to (and get love from) each of the dogs and cats there as I know that they will all eventually find the home they deserve. The ulterior motive here is to see if ‘The One’ happens to be there waiting for me – but though the shelter is filled with lovely dogs, none of them told me that I was ‘The One’ for them.
Upon returning home, as I walked through the door the phone rang. “Eleanore, a dog just came in that I think you need to see” Maureen said. Oh geez, I’d just driven the 20 minutes from town – but it was a ‘yes’ day, so off I went, back to the shelter.
And in came the light.
The dog kennels are in a cement block building, vibrating that afternoon with the loud joy of dogs that knew it was time for their afternoon walkies. It was if hungry lions were roaring, the sound overwhelming and terrifying, and I almost had to cover my ears.
She lay there in a heap of fear, plastered to the cold cement floor as though trying to become one with it, trying to disappear from a terrible, loud world filled with pain and sadness. She shivered uncontrollably, teeth chattering, terror radiating from her emaciated body like shards of lightning. I sat, trying to sooth her with a voice that usually works to bring the scared ones to safety, but she was absolutely shut down. Eyes vacant, there was no response other than even more violent trembling. I scanned her for signs of her past and saw that besides being skeletal, her little body was scattered with open wounds. My heart shattered right there.
“She can’t stay here.” I said. ‘She’ll die of fright’. I was told that she had been carried in by a harried woman with toddlers her side. She was 8 months old and good with dogs, children – and cats. With 19-year-old Queen Lily at home, those were words that clinched the deal and I heard myself say (while another self was yelling ‘No NO NOOOOOOO Eleanore!”) – “I’ll foster her.”
It took me four hours to coax her out of the car. I sat, reading by the open car door, trying to let her know that she was safe. Darkness fell and I needed to get Posy goat put to bed for the night. Frustrated, I walked Posy to the goat villa and en route whispered to Djuna, wherever he may be. “Help her, please.” When I turned back to the house, there she was – standing in the open, tail tight between her legs, but out of the car. It seemed to be her safety zone, and she dipped in and out of it, trying her legs on new ground, looking for trouble and when her well of courage emptied, she’d hop back in to fill back up.
She slept in the car that night.
The next day, she came in after much coaxing – and immediately found Djuna’s sofa. Her power-spot. I examined her, doctored open wounds, and when she’d summoned enough of that special courage she had, she began to explore a bit. She returned from our bedroom with Djuna’s favorite (disemboweled, destuffed) stuffie, the hedgehog hanging from her mouth. A bit of a twinkle in her eye. Tail wagging. I have no idea where she found it. Maybe Djuna showed her.
Paul and I awoke at dawn the next morning, just at the time that Djuna would always come to snuggle with us, to this thin little being jumping on the bed – and taking Djuna’s place. “I’m afraid I like her.” Paul said.
Lovie is her name. She’s had her ups and downs here but once the dark shroud of trauma began to wear away, Lovie began to come alive. She started her second life like a tight rosebud, and shedding her fears one by one slowly opened to the light of love, as a flower opens to the sun. Each fresh petal told us more of her story. The sound of motorcycles in the distance sent her into a panic. She’d been terribly mistreated and had swellings on her body, signs of abuse. Large men with no hair and gruff voices brought on the shivers, her coat pilo-erect. The sounds of children in the distance perked her up, and while she eschewed kibble for days, she LOVED the rustle of a bag of chips, and dove into the butterscotch wormer the vet offered her. Chips and Candy! She’d had children of her own, and likely was their angel, that buffer between them and violence in the home. Dogs terrified her. She was covered with open bite wounds and old scars. We discovered that he’d been shot, as there were pellets under her skin, showing in small and hard, round wounds that she chewed at furiously for her first few days here … and purged herself of the pellets as though purging herself of her past life.
A bit of bird-dog betrays her lineage as we watch her sneak up on the birds and then hold a perfect ‘point’. She follows their flight path with envy and sometimes tries to take off after them. She loves water and mud puddles and has her own little pool now that she leaps into from six feet away with great, triumphant splashes, rolling and wallowing and grunting like a little pig. (We’ve found it to be difficult to keep her out of the horses’ water troughs.)
Lovie is just a pup, probably for the first time, really, in her short life. She’s learning how to ‘be’ in love and in safety, but really has come so far, so quickly. She’s studied the book that Djuna left behind for her in all of his scents that still linger. Food is good. Burying bones is good. Zoomies, leaping and flying and dancing, tongue waggling – good. Stuffies and sticks and water and pinecones – and socks and shoes are all good. (But Djuna forgot to tell her the part about bringing all of the things she asks us to throw for her, or those things she steals, back to us, running right past in mischievous squigglyness instead.) People are good. She has a job keeping us in line and making us laugh. She has horses to watch over and cats to cuddle – and is learning to speak the dignified language of ‘goat’. Greek will be next. With the great compassion kind dogs have, her boyfriend ‘Rudy’ has melted her icy fears and she now plays and leaps and runs with indomitable joy. She now loves the dog park and her pack of ‘littles’ there, and the larger dogs who can only try to keep up with her deer-like agility.
The car is REALLY good, and with the window open she leans her head on the sill, eyes closed, blissfully studying the notes that come to her in the wind. She’s been through ‘cat school’, being tutored, severely at times, by Madame Lily who, at 19 still has it in her to show her how to become an Honorary Cat. She has been to the beach. The pictures here tell us what she feels about that.
Lovie has been with us for two months now, is sleek and soft – we can’t see her ribs any more.
And she smiles.
With an incredible capacity for forgiveness, Lovie blossoms, filling our once dog-joyless home with the essence of great contentment- and a lot of laughter – echoing and magnifying all of the happiness (that filled dog shaped holes) that was graced us by all those who came before her – and when she comes up on the bed and nestles into our warmth … we smile.
People tell me how lucky she is that we rescued her.
But we’re the ones who’ve been rescued. Lovie Cupcake saved us, from a life of doglessness.