Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes
– Alfred Lord Tennyson
When is the last time you cried? And why? Recently – with obvious cause – photos on the news of the most recent earthquake disaster in Syria and Turkey have brought them forth; the gut-wrenching image of a newborn baby with umbilical cord still attached being pulled alive from the rubble – the children, the families, the animals, and the overwhelming grief of loss has caused psychic waves throughout the world that are are impossible to ignore. I think even those who do not acknowledge it still feel it, perhaps some strange ache hovering on the perimeters of our minds, something rattling around the chambers of our hearts that is undefinable. It makes us feel small, and helpless. Donating to an organization providing aid, hoping so strongly that our own vibrations of caring we manifest would somehow find their way back to that source, our tears – it feels inadequate, but the best one can do from here. For me, it became necessary to finally stop watching. In a strange and personal way, this latest of world disasters seemed to become the baseline of a small mini-drama of distraction that played out here the last couple of weeks and days. It’s about a dog.
Emails and updates from our local SPCA and other pet adoption groups find their way daily into my inbox and social media feeds. I am not especially in want of another dog. The one I have is more that sufficient and checks off all the dog/human love, interaction, companionship and emotional support boxes that I need. And yet I find myself scrolling through photos of adoptable dogs regularly; as a friend put it, not unlike swiping through prospective Tinder dates. It’s funny, but on some level I almost feel like I am cheating on my own dog when I do that! But I look anyway. Just looking…… And so it happened that recently I came across a picture of this little guy.
He’s tiny – all of seven pounds – and cute, with a small body and appealing little face that would probably find him an instant home. But reading between the descriptive lines I found there was more to the story here that stopped me and held my gaze on his page. He’s a senior dog, estimated to be about twelve years old. He has some of the usual senior health problems that occur around that age, but in addition it was evident from the full picture that his back legs don’t work. He’s in a little diaper and can only walk on his front legs and drag himself around (somewhat spryly). At twelve years old I surmised maybe his owner had passed away and sadly left him behind, but upon inquiry discovered that he was a “stray” – which essentially means this little old man at this age and condition probably was not lost, but rather dumped somewhere. He was abandoned.
This pushed all of my buttons big time. I could not stop thinking “What’s wrong with people?” I could not stop looking at his eyes and his photos, which continued to bring forth tears. Click on the photo, cry. Look at photo again, cry. Save the photo, look at it, cry. This kept me up at night. I would wake up, bring up the photo of the dog, look at it yet again and feel my throat constrict. This happened to me about nine years ago, when I came across a picture on an adoption website of the dog I currently own. I could not look away then either. It was a different energy, but the inexplicable magnetism was somewhat the same. Uh-oh….
I sent his photo to my kids and to a few of my friends, “What do you think?” They told me pretty much what they thought, which was pretty much the same responses – “Awwwww” and “Do you want to take this on right now?” I wasn’t sure, but I just could not bear the thought of this abandoned little old dog needing a home. So many of these dog photos appeal to the heart, but there was some sort of connective energy coming off these pictures that kept drawing me back, creating this massive urge to go there and just sit with this tiny old man on my lap for a while. And so, despite not wanting or needing to take on another dog, and one that would require a lot more care and probably expense that would happen sooner rather than later, I contacted the shelter…..just to inquire.
They told me so far he had been seen and rejected by a number of prospective adopters (I’m just guessing because of the level of care they discovered he would require) and that he probably would be sticking around for a while. I did not have any doubts about my own ability to take care of the dog and his needs, emotionally or physically. I know I could do that. My daughter has a dog with a spinal injury who is a wheelie, so this is not a strange situation. I also know that it would definitely mean some adjustments to both the physical layout inside the home and perhaps put constraints on my own (social) mobility, and possibly alter the dynamics with my current dog. It also would require some agreement and cooperation from others in the family, who sometimes provide sitting and care for the dog I already have. Would they be willing to be involved in taking on another when necessary?
Once upon a time you could just go to the shelter and visit the dogs, but apparently that proved to be a bit stressful on the animals and staff alike, so it requires an appointment. And you can’t make an appointment unless you fill out an application first. The person I was in touch with urged me to do just that, stressing there was “no obligation.” So I did….and next thing you know, I am being interviewed and have an appointment set up to see this dog. For this appointment I am asked to bring along my current dog for a meet-up to determine if they get along…and also to bring my credit card. Suddenly things seemed to be moving along a bit fast….
Part of me kept thinking “What are you doing? This is crazy”. They informed me that there were three meetings ahead of mine (which I guess was a good thing for the dog’s prospects) and that if he got adopted before they got to me, they would let me know. I figured if I actually met the dog I would know in my heart what the next move would be. Since they said “no obligation” I could always decline and walk away if I wanted to. If I could. My appointment was for this morning.
Late yesterday afternoon I received a phone call telling me this little old man had been adopted. The people he went home with were absolutely the perfect people for him. I felt myself flooded with relief. I was so happy for him, and for them, and so grateful that there are kind and caring people out there who will love him, make him family and give him a good life for the rest of his time. The other part of the relief is that I no longer had to make a decision, because I very well might have walked out of there holding a grumbly little old dog in a diaper with floppy back legs tight in my arms. Or left bearing terrible guilt if I couldn’t. I would have given him love…but I am sure he really just won the lottery with his new owners. I went back to look at the updated picture of him that the shelter posted celebrating his adoption – this time in the caring arms of his newly adoptive owners. And that made me cry too. (I cropped out the photos of the owners, the shelter and dog’s name for privacy).
I still don’t know why this hit me so hard. What tears are these, when there are so many tear-worthy situations abounding? Giving it some deep thought, it could be a small focus or distraction away from the larger areas of grief in the world that are too big to hold. Or it occurred to me that it might be something way more personal; that perhaps my connection to this potentially “disposable” old dog is a bit more intimate; the fact that I, too, am considered a “senior” – a senior who has and will continue to experience health issues, in a country and world where elders are increasingly discounted, marginalized and disrespected, and often forgotten.
Due to the happy ending, I very well might have ended up dodging an emotional bullet this morning. However, they let me know they would be holding on to my application in case I might be interested in one of their upcoming dogs in the near future. Maybe I should stop looking at these sites for just a little while though….
Oh, I feel your tears. I feel your tears, and also must laugh. This life! So beautiful, so terrible. I enjoy reading what you write so very much.
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