March 16, 2010

Holding Memory

I asked myself today, “Where do I hold my memories?” I’m not sure why such a thought entered my mind, but it did and for most of the day, I kept trying to figure out where the memories of today were going.

As a dog, I think some of them go into my muscles. Gretchen says this is called “muscle memory” —  a type of movement with which the muscles become familiar over time. For instance, she said,  babies aren’t born knowing how to walk or even crawl (human or canine), but the more they practice, the more they build memory of taking steps, they build pathways in their brains so that, when they grow up, they automatically know how to walk.

But I also think some of my memories go deeper inside of me and while I’d like to think it’s my brain, that doesn’t feel quite right.

Take Rosie, for instance. She was the first walk of the day and recently she’s been struggling with back pain. No one knows for sure what it is, but she’s on medication and a limited regiment of exercise. Though she wanted to walk faster and for a much longer time, Gretchen controlled the speed of their walk as well as the length much to Rosie’s disappointment. But I think Rosie is an interesting example of where memory is held. She had a horrible childhood and until her current parents adopted her, she’d suffered awful injuries that have required numerous operations.

Her nervousness, her skittish nature hold the memory of this early damage, but psychically, she has a memory so deep it’s hard for her to unlearn it (if memories can be unlearned). Her current back issues are most likely a composite of those early traumas, her subsequent surgeries, and the memory of it all that I think she must store deep inside of her. Yes, it’s in her muscles, but it’s also part of her every fiber so that when she faces the world, she holds herself taut — cautious of the wind, the trees, and every shadow of the life.

I know when I’ve felt crummy, my whole body tightens and even when I start to feel better, I am sore from the memory of my illness. When I think of all that Rosie has been through, I can only imagine the memories she must hold. I’m so happy she has a loving and attentive family to help her work through all of her physical (and spiritual) issues, but if I could help hold some of her painful memories, I would. She deserves to live her life pain free — don’t you think?

Perhaps dogs, much like humans, each have a special place where their memories are stored. Gemma, I think, holds hers in her ears and her tail. Like antennae, they are always moving in response to outside stimuli. And if anyone is constantly aware of outside stimuli, it’s definitely Gemma. Nothing gets past her. Nothing. She walks through life on high alert and all that comes in through those attentive ears, goes straight to her tail or remains in her ears.

Or maybe her tongue. Hard to say.

Saber is too young yet to fully appreciate the concept of muscle memory. Yes, his muscle memory has developed over the first 10 months of his life, but still he sometimes has little control of all parts of his body. One foot moves south, the other north while his tail points east and his head spins and slobbers to the west. Sometimes, when we’re walking, he forgets how close he is to Gretchen and she’ll accidentally step on his foot or his tail. For Saber, this is as close to being murdered as he can imagine and he howls and whines and goes absolutely berserk! It almost sounds like someone is trying to skin him alive!

Gretchen will lean down and try to comfort him and once she does, he looks at her with those sad, sad eyes and asks, “What happened? What did I do wrong?” Gretchen has to reassure him that he did nothing wrong other than losing track of his body in space.

But because Saber is so young, he is selective about the memories he holds. For instance, he’ll walk too close to Gretchen getting under her feet at least once a week, forgetting that by doing so, he’s putting himself in harms unintentional way. But when we play at the tennis courts, which we got to do before our long walk today, he NEVER forgets which ball is my favorite and therefore, which ball he must try to steal from me.

Today, in fact, he was so upset that I was kind of taunting him with the ball (lying on my back), he barked at me in his deep, low, and rumbling voice and I leapt up startled by his big, bad voice!

Anyway, I think Saber’s bodyis trying to find a place to hold all his new memories, but for now, they rest in his skin…he has so much of it…and his slobber, which he enjoys wiping onto my body while we play!

I know Ollie stores his memories in his curls. Tight and coiled, each curl bounces with the history of his every sense. As for his relatives — Playa the chow/husky mix and Doodles the chihuahua mix — I have yet to meet them and therefore can only speculate where they hold their memories.

Gretchen thinks it’s definitely in Playa’s tongue — the black and pink tongue of her chow heritage. Gretchen says Playa uses her tongue to communicate lots of her memories — how to play fetch, how to express happiness, and how to tell us that she’d prefer a different kind of treat.

Doodles, on the other hand, holds memories, it appears, in her nervous system. “She’s not quite sure about me yet,” Gretchen told me today.

“Why not?” I asked.

“She’s a rescue dog and sometimes those dogs that have been rescued from not so nice situations are hesitant to trust new people.”

“Oh,” and then I thought that Doodles must hold those not so nice memories in her shivers and shakes.

I, on the other hand, hold my memories in my wiggle. When friends come over to visit or I see someone I know and love, my body wiggles uncontrollably. That’s the memories I’m trying to hold though they just spontaneously release themselves in joy.

The bad memories? I’m not sure I have any except when I’m forced to get my ears cleaned. That’s a memory I release by holding my head low and acting kind of grumpy, something I’m doing right now because Gretchen cleaned out my ears. Super yuck!

Anyway, I’m not really sure where memories live, but I do think it’s different for each of us. I’m going to do some more observational investigations and come back to this subject at a later date.

Hope I remember to do that! (Tee hee.)

Until tomorrow,


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