The thing about puppies is that they are adorable. Calamity’s fur was soft as a whispered kiss, her teeth sharp as razors. She was bright and attentive and eager, distracted and frisky and good-natured. She was playful and captivating and above all, sweet.
We hosted a “baby shower” for her at then-named The Grove knitting and book collective located a few blocks from our house in South Park. I basked in the attention of being a new dog Mom. Robin and I had tried to get pregnant since July of 1999 with no luck. This was my moment. We read all the books. I take it back. I was the one who wanted the puppy. I read all the books. I signed her up for training. I did most of the work. I got attached.
The books said to crate the dog, so we bought a crate bigger than our Craftsman-style bedrooms, and lodged her in with us at night. She cried and whimpered and howled. We didn’t sleep. I woke up endlessly through the night to take her outside to do her business using all the associated phrases and training. She wouldn’t go. She wouldn’t go and because of the lack of sleep, I cried too. The crate wasn’t working. I gave up. I cherished her.
She ate shoes and doorjambs and rugs. At one point I found her snacking on the corner of the most expensive *and* the nicest article we owned and I bawled to Robin, “This is why we can’t have nice things!” as she continued to gnaw watching me with loving consideration. I caught her at it again a few days later and gave up. She lived up to her name. I treasured her.
I was overwhelmed by the amount of attention she required. Let’s be honest, I was overwhelmed by the diligence and persistence required of me. Both Suzie and Bear had come to us further down the line. And though they were headstrong they were also house broken and trained. They each had their own challenges but never once did I think of giving up on them.
I learned what mattered. Each one of these living beings, the ones that chose us, the ones that we chose, the ones that wanted us, the ones that didn’t want us but were stuck with us, the ones who didn’t know any better and accepted us, they each taught me about resilience and showing up and sticking around and getting it done. They opened up doors to greater love and self-awareness and trust and joy.
I. Learned. What. Mattered.
Our house is quieter now. At our peak we had two dogs, three rabbits, two fish and a cat that lived with a neighbor down the street. Now Calamity remains and an errant rabbit named Lively whom we rescued in the Summer of 2015. Lively also lives up to her name and is the current poop-in-the-houser, doorjamb-gnawer, wire-chewer. She’s a handful and drives me crazy and I adore her.
I came to the realization that Calamity will turn 12 in May. TWELVE. I miscalculated the other day, thinking she she was going to turn 11, thinking I had more time with her.
I don’t. I don’t have more time with her. I only have this instant, this breath with her.
I don’t know how much time I have with her, or with him or with you. I don’t know how many more minutes I will get to enjoy her physical health, now diminished because of age and circumstances. I don’t know how many more moments I will get to enjoy her warmth, her waggle, her watching me, her walk or her wonder. I don’t know if she will go first or if I will.
I know that death is certain. I know that the time of death is uncertain. Watching her affectionate, soft-hearted eyes as I dash about the house busy with the daily tasks of getting it done, I know she waits for me to notice and attend to her, to love and be loved by her. She is not a shameless beggar. She is a noble, gracious embodiment of spirit patiently and persistently anticipating the next time I choose to remember what matters.