May 24, 2010

Crossing Paths

Gretchen often tells her students that what goes around, comes around. I think she’s trying to tell them that if they are kind to everyone, they’ll receive kindness in their lives. But in many ways, what goes around, comes around can be more than a lesson in kindness and karma. It can also be a lesson in the beauty and brevity of life.

I’ve been reading a lot of philosophy lately (in my spare time while Gretchen is working at Wellsprings) and I am constantly fascinated by human obsession with eternity. Even today, as we were driving to our work, we heard an author talk about his need to believe that there was something after this life, something more wonderful than the aches and pains and tragedies of each day.

“Do all humans believe this?” I asked Gretchen.

“Not all,” she said, “But a fair amount believe that there must be something after we no longer exist.”

I was shocked by this information. As a dog, I believe the world of now is far more entertaining and glorious than the world we cannot see, in the world we hope will be there when we no longer are in this moment, this life. I believe that all time is now and that my passing (whenever that may be) is not about the extinguishing of a life force, but about my life force moving into a bigger sphere.

Take, for instance, my predecessor Chester. He was a beloved dog who spent 14 years in a living form. When he passed, after a yearlong battle with a brain tumor and subsequent seizures, he was not forgotten. In fact, his photos still perch on shelves all around our house and his ashes sit on the nightstand right by where I sleep.

Occasionally, I’ll hear stories about Chester — about how he ate chicken bones and never got sick, about how he snatched up some dried duck legs off the beach and Gretchen tried to get them out, how he ate a hot dog on the day he was found by Ann, how he had the nickname Mr. Pajama Pants because of his pantaloons, and how, after a seizure, he tried to eat his way through the glove compartment in the car to get to the dog treats he could smell within. He loved the snow, but wasn’t fond of the water. He loved long walks, but was a bit testy with other dogs. He loved to look in your eyes long and serious while you petted him. And he loved to clean up the floor if someone spilled cheese.

See! He’s not gone. He’s here and every day, I can feel his presence. Our paths cross, as it were though technically I never really knew him.

But there are also little ways in which our paths cross. Not necessarily Chester’s and mine, but with all the people and places I’ve known in my short, but rich life. What got me thinking about all of this –aside from my time reading Plato and Voltaire– was that Gretchen told me she got to see Wilson. Wilson was a dog we walked last year while his Dad served in Iraq and his Mom worked nights as a nurse. Wilson and I played in the yard…

…swam at the lake…

…and played fetch at the little field…

Until Gretchen mentioned his name again, I hadn’t realized how much I missed Wilson, but when she came home on Saturday from her work at the pool, she smelled like Wilson (and chlorine, too) and all these wonderful memories of my time with Wilson came flooding back.

“How is he?” I asked.

“He had surgery awhile back on his knee,” she told me, “But he’s recovering well and I’ll be working with him at the pool.”

See how paths cross? And it doesn’t even stop there. Nope, the pool where Gretchen works is on 25th Ave. SW. We live on 25th Ave. S. The cross street is SW Dakota and today, while we were dropping bread off at our good friends’ house, I noticed the cross street was S Dakota. We teach at a school that’s in the same zip code as our house and all the dogs we walk have interesting connections — like Woobie’s Dad works at the same place as Saber’s parents (just to name one interesting coincidence).

Gretchen says it’s called six degrees of separation, but I’m beginning to think it’s more like three degrees and sometimes it’s just one degree.

Anyway, Wilson had his first session in the pool and though he was nervous, he soon relaxed in the warm water and enjoyed the massage.

When he’s completely healed, we’re hoping for a play date, but even if it doesn’t happen, I know he’s with me both in memory and in my universe. I don’t need to think about meeting him in some beyond time. Instead, I’m happy to have had him (and still have him) in the circle of my life even if it is just his scent at this point.

So today, while we walked our current clients, I tried to hold the memory of our moments in the beauty of the now in which I live, though I must admit, I’m glad to have this blog so I can look back at all the fun times we’ve had.

And even though there are some dogs I may never actually meet (like Rosie and Tyson…though I’m still hoping we’ll meet one day), their scent is a part of my life every time Gretchen comes home from walking them (as she did today).

Others — like Gemma, Oshi, and Perrito — are IN my life and though I didn’t walk with all three of them today, I can tell from the photos they had fun at the field chasing the ball and rolling in the freshly mowed grass.

Saber is in my life almost on a daily basis and today, as we passed the off leash dog park and saw that it was empty, I let loose and got Saber to play a rousing game of chase, which creates some of my favorite memories that will stay with me for my entire life.

I only see Alice once a week and I have to admit, at first I didn’t think she liked me much, but today she was almost beside herself with excitement. In fact, Alice didn’t even bark when Gretchen entered the house (something Alice often does even though she knows it’s Gretchen) and when Alice and I got to run on the grassy boulevard, she actually smiled and nudged me as we ran side by side.

Of course when we stopped for a photo op, I kind of freaked Alice out by rolling around in the cool grass. She thought I was kind of cuckoo and for a moment, I suppose I was, but still, Alice is someone who will remain in my long term memory because she, like all of our clients, is unique and connected to me through scent and our time together.

I don’t know if I believe in god, but I do know that I believe in DOG and in all the possibilities and opportunities to have our paths cross whenever and where ever that may be.

What goes around, comes around and so…

…until tomorrow, when it comes around once again…


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