1 And A Half Year Old Cat In Human Years A Cat Woman Learns About Dogs

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A Cat Woman Learns About Dogs

Cats have always been my animals. Well, and the horses. I’m kind of a girly stereotype, at least based on my animal preference.

It’s not that I didn’t like dogs. I’ve always enjoyed them and even retain a strong attraction to German Shepherds despite being attacked quite viciously by one when I was only three. My only clear memory of that event was seeing my father’s shirt change from white and brown to red as he ran with me over his shoulder from Central Park to the nearest doctor’s office. Still, my brother-in-law Miles the Shepherd was one of my favorite people.

I feel an affinity for other animals at other times in my life and pay special attention when a species appears repeatedly over a few days or weeks. i love the book Animal talk, by Ted Andrews. He writes about veterinary medicine and advises his readers to remain alert to the lessons to be learned and the clues to be found so we can step on our path to inner knowing. Medicine comes to us through spirits who greet us in the form of a hawk, skunk, bear, heron, deer, or coyote. And much more.

But for me, 2013 has been very much about dogs so far. Through various circumstances, I have spent a lot of time on them. Different types of dogs. I’ve moved around a lot and ended up, several times, living with, getting to know, taking care of dogs.

I am in love with them. Dogs have melted my heart. Even complete strangers dogs I met while visiting the dog park with my sister and her puppy Dexter have won their way into my consciousness and heart.

What have the animal magic dogs brought me? I’ve been thinking about this.

Live in the moment

A dog forgets a full bladder in the morning, a hungry stomach when a person’s dinner is cooking and no one has yet had time to feed him, neglects in favor of a laptop, a washing machine or a lawnmower. For the dog, history is gone forever and now is all. The smell of my flip flops. A flash of laughter outside on the sidewalk. The sight of a favorite person. Sensation of fingers scraping under tilted chin. The dog’s sensations at the moment trump everything else. The past is irrelevant. The future doesn’t exist yet, so why bother?

Forgiveness

For me, the dog’s forgiving nature is related to living in the moment. The two dogs I live with and care for now, Nico (a poodle) and Chini (a lab mix), are sweet, loving souls who love nothing more than to hang out in the woods with me, flopping in the sun at my feet. When I’m reading a book, sit across from me while I watch TV and scratch them boringly. They have accepted me as a surrogate mother in their lives, whom they like very much. Sometimes I have to leave them. Life is. I try not to leave them for more than 5 hours at a time if possible and ask a neighbor for help if needed. One day I got stuck. Frantic, I watched three hours slip past my deadline. When I finally reached the driveway, I heard them barking. Clearly I wasn’t the only one who was frantic. I ran into the house at top speed, patted Nico who literally jumped 4 feet off the ground, released Chin from the crate (Nico can’t be caged) and apologized all the while. The dogs wouldn’t leave the house to relieve their bladders until they licked me, nuzzled me, and got my love in return. The dog did not appear. No pout (I mean, admit it – cats do pout). No attitude. Only love and direct forgiveness as the past was forgotten and the moment of love and liberation was cherished.

Patience

My friend Terri has dogs. Five to be exact. Two laboratories. Bull dog. Australian silk. A mixture of chihuahua, greyhound and something else. Somehow everything works. Scout, one of the labs, is one of the most long-suffering, calm, and non-explosive beasts in the universe. He lies on the floor as Lily, the Mixed Breed dog, inexplicably presses her head in abandonment. He roams the sprawling estate with Daisy, a terrier 10 times his size. They are running; he is waiting; Daisy eventually catches up; they run more. Without exception, they come home together. Rosie, the bulldog, has a temper. Scout refuses to get mad. Admittedly, he is not so patient when the meal is near, but he is a dog nonetheless.

Unconditional love

Bodhi, an extra tall standard poodle with wiry hair and melting eyes, every day like a king, legs neatly lined up, waiting for his mother, my old friend Annie, to come home. He waits all day. Sometimes he sleeps on the couch. (He takes half of that, but when he wants to fit in with two or more people, he can squeeze into a remarkably small package.) This hippie dog’s heart is as big as Gandhi’s or Mother Teresa. When I was there for a two-week visit, Bodhi tuned into me amazingly quickly. He sensed my sadness, and in a compromise born of his own empathy, left his mother’s bed in the middle of the night to sleep on mine. He didn’t do this at first, but as he got to know me and care about me, it became part of his plan of action for love. Did he ask for something in return? Not really. But he got my undying love. Bodhi loves unconditionally. Dogs know how to do that. They don’t question, criticize, doubt or demand. They may ask for pets, and certainly see fit to feed them now and then, but in the scheme of things, they give a lot more than they get.

Dignity

It’s true that dogs can be pretty silly. They do not have the exact requirements of a cat. The dogs roll around in the rotten pussies. They make a scene, barking hysterically at a leaf floating by. But now I find these behaviors endearing in their unbridled zest for life. Bella, a Swiss Shepherd, belonged to my friend Teri for ten years. I met him the day he came home with Teri and her two daughters and knew him all his life until his recent death. Bella can be quite infuriating. Eat chocolate, reading glasses, underwear and many other unusual, unhealthy and indigestible items. But somehow, no matter what evil she got herself into, Bella had an inherent dignity. He embodied the qualities of forgiveness, unconditional love, living in the moment and endless patience towards the other dogs in his family as well. But her dignity in the face of adversity struck me at the end as she slowly lets go of life. Although she was not in excruciating pain, she grew weaker and weaker as the tumors spread throughout her body. Breathing wasn’t always easy, and walking hurt. But he woke up every morning to walk in the garden with his mother, waited for his girls to come to say goodbye, and left life on his own terms.

Incorporating dog training into my life is a task I’m struggling with this year 2013. I can’t ignore the future and even though my mind sometimes erases it, the past still has a strong hold on me. I can forgive easily, except for the one I’m most important to forgive – myself, although I’m getting better at it. Patience. That’s good. My record is spotty there. As a teacher, I would have a lot of patience. Patience has something to do with forgiveness, right? And maybe also unconditional love. Something easy to feel for your children – so hard to feel for yourself. And finally, I look for my own dignity in the face of gross failures and mistakes. “Be patient, forgive and love yourself,” I hear the dogs telling me, “and live for the day. Isn’t this day wonderful? And Aren’t you lucky to have it?”

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