September 22, 2012

The Lessons of Spiders

(To Grandma…my sincerest apologies for the lateness of this blog. Your loving Granddog, Rubin.)

This is the time of year when the spiders are everywhere. Spider webs, spider legs; spiders and their scurrying hurry on the walls, in dark corners, and in the bath tub.

I’m not afraid of spiders. Sometimes, in fact, I like to chase them, but this past week I’ve been paying close attention to spiders because I think they are in my life to teach me a few lessons. It’s taken me all week to figure out what those lessons are, but finally I think I understand.

Lesson One: Perseverance

Spiders build webs in the most interesting places. I’m not sure of the exact percentage, but it seems to me that for every web they spin, about half get destroyed. Heck, in a given day, Gretchen must walk through about 100 of them (she’s taller and usually out front so while I break my fair share, she takes the brunt of the wispy feathery strands in her mouth, hair, and eyes). Yet when we walk back on those same paths, the spider webs are rebuilt. Now that’s perseverance.

Many of my dog friends have that same kind of perseverance. The first one who comes to mind is Paige. She never gives up. Never. If one way doesn’t work, she’ll try another. If that way doesn’t work, she gets creative and tries something even more complex and circuitous attempts. I know she’s good at it because she does this when we play. I have one strategy — bounce around and bark and then race ahead of her in a game of chase.

She, on the other hand, rolls over, pounces, dives, hides, chases, stops and thinks, ponders, and then comes after me. Or worse, ignores me.

And then, despite the fact that it’s time to rest (she likes to rest on top of Ann while I like to lie on the floor at Ann’s feet under the blanket she has draped over her), Paige never gives up. The other night she was resting on Ann’s lap and I was curled up under the blanket on the floor when Paige got up, pounced down on top of the blanket, and bowed inviting me to play. “Paige,” I said rather grumpily, “It’s time to rest!”

She’d have none of it. She kept coming after me doing every trick in her repertoire to entice me out from under the blanket.

“Come on, Rubes!” she said, “The night is young. We could have another go of chase and wrestling!!”

Now that’s perseverance.

Lesson Two: Patience

If perseverance has a sister it’s patience. Think how long it takes to make a spider web. All that effort coming out of your back end only to watch it fall apart in the rain or a wind storm or worse, clobbered by some big galoot or slobbering dog. But a spider gets up every morning and builds again what’s been destroyed. And then, if she’s lucky enough to have the thing last past lunch time, she sits in that spun web and waits for something smaller and more edible to get trapped.

I know I don’t have that kind of patience, but my friend Tyson is developing it. He’s had a rough week. He got an ulcer on his eye, then had eye surgery, only it didn’t get better and now he has to go back for more surgery.

“You’re very patient,” I told Tyson the other day.

“Oh Rubin,” Tyson sighed, “What choices do I have? My eye hurts, but I know everyone is doing their best to help me through so yes, I have learned how to be patient and keep my paws crossed that all will go well with the next surgery.”

Our paws are crossed too and from you, Mr. Tyson, I have learned a great deal about being patient. I’m still not very good at it, but I’m going to keep working on it!

Lesson Three: Beauty

Spider webs are extraordinarily beautiful especially with a misty gentle rain or when an early morning fog rolls in (both of which we’ve had this week). They sparkle and shimmer and when the light hits them just right, they feel ethereal. They are intricate works of art and often when I see one (one we have yet to destroy by walking through it) I’ll stop and just ponder its beauty.

I often do that when I look at the photographs we’ve taken for the day. I have some beautiful friends. Heck, they’re all beautiful but a number of them are exceptional.

First are Carter and Kali. Gretchen says she struggles capturing their beauty with the camera though I think this is one of my favorite photos of them.

Of course, when Gretchen went to pick them up the other day, the house painter was ecstatic. He really wanted to meet the siblings (not biological) and kept talking about how beautiful they were. “They’re just gorgeous!” he exclaimed in a nice Texan drawl.

Gretchen saw this as an invitation so she asked to take his photo. “Why yes!” said Bobby the painter. “Now I can show my girlfriend just how beautiful these dogs are!”

Next in beauty would be Woobie. Her long flowing coat is a marvel and when she walks it moves through the air like water. And Woobie has the most beautiful personality. Tyson and I love being around Wobbie because she makes us feel beautiful too.

Paige is an absolute beauty, but she’s also a goof (a persistent goof) whose eager happiness makes my tail wag out of control.

And my friend, Lulu, is a beauty as well. Though sometimes she’s persistent and goofy just as much as she is sweet and pretty.

Lesson Four: Determination

Why do spiders build webs? TO EAT! I’m lucky that I have a family who gives me food (and treats and chicken necks…my favorite) so I don’t have to go out and chase down my food, but I’m lucky that way. Spiders show the utmost in determination by 1) taking the time to build these intricate webs, 2) waiting in them for something to get caught and 3) slowly devouring the victim on bite at a time.

The first friend of mine who comes to mind in regards to determination is, of course, Roux. She gets so excited when we arrive, she is determined to get out the door as fast as she can. On the walk she’s determined to enjoy every minute so much so that it’s hard for Gretchen to take photographs of her. She moves around a lot, determined to find the next adventure around the corner. I have a hard time keeping up with her, but I’m determined to try.

Monty, you might be surprised, is a very determined dog as well he’s just coy about it all. Case in point: Monty loves to chase waves (as I’ve mentioned before), and the sound of waves drives him into a frantic, focused silly man. Well, the sound of cars kid of sounds like waves to Monty at times and when he hears them (especially when it’s raining) he leaps up, barks and gets all nutty. He is DETERMINED to chase that sound and while we let him on occasion when it comes to waves, we absolutely do not when it comes to cars.

We’re determined to help him see the difference, but Monty is equally determined not to care. He hears waves (be it water or automobiles) and his instinct to chase that sound is almost impossible to curb. Oh Monty.

See! There’s a lot to learn from spiders and this time of year is like Spider School time. They are everywhere and though they sometimes make the humans screech, I find them fascinating and intriguing.

Not sure they find me to be the same (too big to get wrapped up in their nets), but that’s okay. I have my friends and my family who keep me at the center of the universe so I’ll just let the spiders focus on what they find important.

Still, I will continue to marvel at their perseverance, patience, beauty and determination.




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