May 18, 2012

Sweet Stickiness


“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”

A.A. Milne

There is the thing and then there is the meaning of the thing. Heart. An organ, an essential element to the living, in the living — beating, pumping, keeping the living organ alive.

Then there is the Heart – holding more than blood and oxygen — holding love, friendship, loss, and as Piglet astutely noticed, gratitude.

I have been thinking about the capacity of the Heart both in function and in metaphor, though to be honest, it is the metaphor that interests me most. Simply put, my heart is full and during this past week, I’ve been doing my best to count the blessings populating my heart. These blessings are summed up in family and friends, but on a much deeper level — the level at which the metaphor and the function become one — my heart is filled with an awareness of how my family and friends provide my heart with weight and substance – with the physics of my existence as it were.

Granted, like Piglet my heart is relatively small compared to a human heart or to the heart of most of my larger friends — Monty, Paige, Tyson, Woobie, and Roux for instance. But each of us has the limitless capacity to fill our hearts and still have space for infinitely more. I’m not sure how it all works, but there are moments in my life when I think my heart is full, about to bust at the seams, and then something else wiggles in and I can feel my heart actually expand.

Let me start with this moment: I met Max in January of this year. He’s been through so much and yet his heart was always open for any love he could both give and receive. There have been times during the past 5 months when I thought for certain he was moving onto the place where all true and honest hearts go, but amazingly, Max is still with us. He’s moved, recently, finding a new home with the Vashon Island Pet Protectors.  We thought he was going to return to the pool for much needed swim and massage therapy, but his skin infections returned and so we wait for healing so he can begin again.

Still, when I heard that Max’s heart was still beating in this world I could feel my own heart open just a smidgen more. Ironically, my tail appears to be connected to my heart because when Gretchen told me Max was going to return to Wellsprings K9, I could feel my wagging tail and my heart beating all in the same rhythm.

We’re still awaiting photos of Max from his new foster family, but until then, the ones we have we’ll have to fill your hearts as much as they fill mine.

Then my dear friend Rosie passed and my heart felt heavy with grief and sadness. Surprisingly, though it did not shrink, which is what I thought it would do when suffering such a blow. In fact, my heart grew with the pain of her absence —  hollow at first, but luckily, her brother Tyson has helped me fill the void with our new fond friendship. Both of us, though will always have a place in our hearts for the memory of that sweet girl.

And speaking of Tyson, his parents have been in France for two weeks now and have one more week to go before they come home. We’ve been taking care of Tyson and this means we’ve been hanging out together more than usual. I think Gretchen was a bit worried because sometimes I can get jealous and not want to share my moms or my things or even my time with a dog for too long. But Tyson and I, over the course of these two weeks, have grown pretty fond of each other. Sure, we’ve had a few tussles — establishing how we want to be together — but all and all, I’ve come to realize that Tyson has stretched my heart to an even larger capacity.

When Gretchen is at his house and I am here with Ann at our house and then Gretchen returns to our house in the mornings with Tyson in tow, I find that my body wriggles with the beating of my happy heart. Yes, I’m happy to see Gretchen, but I’m equally happy to see Tyson. We give each other a small head butt and then bump bodies while our tails communicate our heart’s intentions. Even I have to admit it’s kind of sweet.

But while these are extraordinary moments, even the smaller ones have the same gravity for me. Take Monty, for instance. He’s known me longer than anyone, and yet every day that we’re together, our bond is deepened. Our hearts, as it were, overflow.

And then there’s the crossing over of heart connections. Tyson sometimes has a hard time with large male dogs, but he and Monty are fast becoming good friends. When Tyson and I head over to Monty’s house and Monty comes out leashed up and ready for adventure, the wagging tails and prancing stances are mirrors of our hearts. And when we walk – the three of us side by side — it’s often hard for me to tell whose heart I’m hearing — mine or theirs — because the happy dance of every thump thump thump is almost identical.

Roux’s heart beats wildly with happiness. When she knows we’re arriving, her heart launches into a loud and elated song of barking. She can hardly contain herself and I swear on occasion, I’ve seen her heart beat right out of her chest with excitement. There are times when I am with Roux that I wish I could just put my paws on her shoulders, make her settle for just a minute or two so I could actually  measure her heart. I bet it is HUGE in the metaphorical sense because every moment of every day, Roux has her heart open wide waiting for the filling to commence. Imagine the capacity of a heart like that?

Woobie is the same. When we arrive on the doorstep we can hear her whining from behind the door. When the door opens, she bursts through it with such glee we can only smile (though I’ll admit that sometimes I growl because it overwhelms me!). Sometimes I worry that her heart will break down the door before Gretchen can get it unlocked, but luckily, Woobie’s heart has remained in her chest (physically) though it’s definitely right out front when she greets us (metaphorically!).

And that overlapping happens again. Woobie loves Monty and Monty feels the same. Woobie has even grown to like spending time with Tyson though they don’t have a lot of opportunities to spend time together.

Which I suppose goes to show that the heart is elastic in many ways. Its form depends on the shape of the love that penetrates it. Certainly there is some love that carries more weight than other though I hate to quantify love in any way. Still, I know the weight of family love expands my heart in a different way than making a new friend. And then there’s the kind of transformational period when friends became family and the love changes in weight and texture, filling my heart with a bit warmer glow.

My Aunt Debbie’s short visit over the weekend made me aware of this. I’ve met her once before, and while I was a little shy at first, once I realized she was in the circle of family, my heart pushed open and grew much like the sun on the horizon does every morning. When you feel that kind of love, you can only smile and hopefully everyone knows that a smile is simply a mirror to the heart (as is the tail…though humans don’t get to experience the joy of wagging their tails. Their loss!)

Aunt Debbie brought photos of her dogs, too — Harley and Rover. I don’t know either of them, but Gretchen says she has a special place in her heart for Harley since they bonded together in an acupressure workshop in Phoenix last February. I can see why…he’s a handsome fellow!

And these are just the beings in my life that fill up my heart. Moments do too. Swimming in the lake doubles the size of my heart. Same with playing in my own little pool in the backyard or playing with all of my toys. A long walk (especially off leash) through the woods or by the lake or even to the scenic vistas of our fair city enlarge my heart.

Some food can do the same. Ice cream on a warm day (doggie ice cream!), raw chicken necks (dog candy, I call them), freeze dried bison lung, and homemade chicken jerky may not be as significant in my life as my friends and family, but trust me, they fill my heart (and my stomach) in a way that is equally important!

But despite the abundance in my heart, there is always room for gratitude. Gretchen tells me that gratitude is like ice cream — even when you’re stomach is full, you always have room for ice cream. And she’s right — even though my heart is filled with love, the ice cream of gratitude seeps in between the crevices –a sweet stickiness that binds it all together.

Have a great weekend everyone and may the world of life and love fill up your hearts, too!


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