Essay. Lessons of August.

One problem in getting your first dog as an adult (after a childhood full of fear) is choosing the dog that will not frighten you. Teddy never scared me. He loved me, saw me through my pregnancy, guarded Joseph fiercely and was a service dog for his autism-related anxieties and tantrums literally up to the day Ted died.

I have to blink hard to realize Ted was born in 1994 and died in August 2001, 15 years ago. We have two dogs now, Angus, who looks much like Teddy, and Bjorn, who is brown, not black, and has some traits I had only seen in Ted before (of our five dogs, anyway).

Teddy was an old soul from puppyhood, which was why his breeders thought he was the dog for us, completely inexperienced dog parents. He raised himself and us, as well as Joseph and two puppies, before he died too young of autoimmune disease.

Teddy was so easy to live with. If it were pouring, I could open the front door, say “Teddy, do business,” and he would go under the bushes, take care of things, shake himself off, and come in.

Today Bjorn was in the backyard enjoying the relatively cool late afternoon. I wanted to get in before mosquito hour, so I called the dogs. Angus came instantly, as Angus always does. Bjorn rolled, stretched, trotted to the fence to pee, and then came at a run, tongue lolling as he galloped up the steps and kissed my face. When I call them, Angus obeys. Bjorn finishes.

In a second jolt to my heart, Bjorn found a toad in the straw-like grass. Bjorn is one of the most empathic dogs I have ever known (and I have been blessed with one who was a therapy dog at an academic medical center, as well as our good shepherd Teddy).

Bjorn has negative prey drive. He has flopped in front of puppies, cats, one rabbit that froze instead of running, and toads. He falls outstretched liked a bearded-collie bearskin rug, arms out around whatever innocent new friend he has found, and waits for them to love him. Today’s toad, wee soul that he was, froze. Bjorn’s tail wagged but he lay still. I had to throw a ball and yell for him to get it in a high-pitched voice before he would leave his new friend, who promptly decamped toward the fenceline.

Once I took the puppy Bjorn for a late evening walk and was pulled back abruptly when he suddenly flopped on the sidewalk near the front porch. He had found a large toad, who decided to pretend we were not there. Bjorn would not leave him. Eventually my husband came out to see why we were stranded so near the front door and air conditioning, and saw the toad. He took Bjorn’s lead and gave me the camera.

I talked quietly to the toad, explaining that I only wanted his picture, not to hurt him, and would he give me a moment. He gave that moment, which I cherish.

Toads, dogs, a young man who will always be my little boy because he isn’t capable of fully growing up, they all remind me that nothing good is ever lost.

Love, real love, refines us over the years with its comfort and truth of both change and permanence. Joy may be fleeting and hatred fade, but love endures forever. Such are the lessons of memories of August days, beloved pets, and my only child. And toads.

Elizabeth Coolidge-Stolz, MD/ (c) HealingWoman

This entry was posted in Religious, Spiritual and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *