Saved From a Life of Doglessness, Part I

March 18, 2013  

A “Yes” day left the doors open to let Lovie in

By Eleanore MacDonald
This article was originally published in Notes From an Endless Sea.

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 soothe 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.

Part II will run tomorrow.

Eleanore MacDonald is a musician, animal advocate, and writer. Her first novel, All the Little Graces, revolves around the complicated beauty of the human-animal relationship. The book is available online as well as at Sammie’s Friends in Grass Valley, CA and the Skiathos Dog Shelter in Skiathos, Greece.

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