In Gratitude of Dogs

As I write this, I'm sitting by myself at a fairly quiet watering hole. There are 3 people in the establishment and one is the bartender. It may sound like a desolate setting, but I assure you this is exactly the place I wish to be. It’s here I will gather my thoughts, because gathering thoughts is what I do. And a quiet place such as this is essential for such a practice. 

If you have even a touch of a loner in you, you will know what I'm talking about with the quieter places and feel the comfort I'm feeling in my bones at this very moment. If you do not, please don't feel bad for me. This is not a sad situation. This is a loner’s way. We revel in such places (in fact it may be the space within the place we are attracted to). Although this is a common destination, today is decidedly different, in fact, the past few weeks have been different. You could interpret this scenario and what’s on my mind as sadness, but that will depend on one’s perspective. 

Normally, I find my quiet time at home. It’s where my thoughts are best collected. I’ve lived on my own for most of my adult life probably for this reason, which may not be much of a surprise if you do understand this loner lifestyle I possess. Though you may not, as I’ve come to understand this need for space is a rarity, and not understanding is no fault of your own. It’s all to do with me. Or us, if you want to categorize loners in a group (that’s obviously not how we would describe ourselves). 

To be completely truthful there are very few out there within this select description that are truly loners. Some do marry, some have kids, and some have the companionship of a pet or two, and I fall into the last category as I’ve had a dog by my side for almost 30 years (not the same one, that would be incredible). 

In the late 90s into the early 2000s, there was Doogie. A slow moving yellow lab who was a retired professional eater. No, that's not an exaggeration, he actually was born in a local dog food plant and had to retire at age 5 because he wouldn't differentiate between different types of dog food anymore (something I'm sure most labs wouldn't do from the get go). It's really a bit of a miracle this dog made their way to me and he became my companion throughout 9 years of my younger adult life. 

Floyd arrived toward the end of Doog's life and helped keep Doog younger and around a wee bit longer. I'll always remember the day they bonded over a rope bone, of which Doog was the king in any sort of tug-of-war. Floyd was with me for just shy of 8 years and his story is so epic that he’s featured in the Dog chapter in my first book. Obviously, he was quite the legend, and I believe there may still be more of his story to tell. 

Lastly, there’s Izzy, who grew up with Floyd and has been with me for 16 long years, which I'm shocked to write at this very moment. 

She was different in so many ways than my other dogs. As a puppy she was very shy, unsure of herself, and not until I started to meet on her level did she learn to trust me. She needed her time and space, much like any loner does. She had a great ability to learn and change, which I believe could be the primary reason why she lived so long. Deep down she was learning something year after year, proving old dogs can learn new tricks. 

She would defy logic when she showed how much strength she had within living well past her 15th birthday. Not too shabby for her 60 pound self. She would eventually defy the odds as she reached her 16th birthday and in retrospect I’ve come to understand she was doing this for me, as I now know I was hoping she would reach that age. Dogs are blindly in service to us, and I firmly believe they know our deepest feelings without us verbalizing them. Leading up to the day of her 16th birthday, I honestly wasn't sure if she would make it but in the end it turned out to be her day to celebrate.Though I know it was mostly me doing the celebrating as she was declining quickly and transitioned about a week later. 

It's taken me time (and space) to gather these thoughts, hence being in this bar being as introverted as I know how to be, yet finding comfort in being with a few others (even if it’s just a few other souls who I’m not even talking to right now). 

Since Izzy transitioned, I've been finding many distractions before facing the four walls of my home, hence this alternate quiet pub visit. Usually, in tough situations like these I would find salvation in words, music, or art, but nothing has been speaking to me in the slightest. There have been no ideas floating around, no words whispering, and no images flashing through my subconscious. It's been a desert of sorts, and I can only think grief has held it all hostage. In fact, I think grief held it all back until I knew how to express my feelings, and the confirmation of what I needed to express finally came in the quietest of places during my sleep. 

In the past week Izzy has been visiting in my dreams. Three nights in a row to be exact. On the last of those nights, I saw her running around in a field and my first thought was she was looking for Floyd (a big part of our conversations when we got closer to her transition was to reunite with him). Eventually, Floyd appeared and gave me a loving embrace like only he could and then ran off showing his usual independence. Izzy went with him. Very surprisingly Doog then appeared walking slowly in the distance looking much like he was sniffing flowers (so him). Izzy eventually came back around on her own to trot along at my side, looking up occasionally with her panting grin. I could see a sense of freedom in her eyes that I hadn't seen in several months. 

I'm never completely sure why I write certain things, and most of the time it’s for myself to understand whatever I’m going through. Sometimes, like this one, what surfaces seems important enough to share and the purpose becomes clear once the words are formed. Whether it is a dog, a cat, a hamster, a rabbit, or even a human who you miss, I wholeheartedly believe they are still with us and visit when it's appropriate. It just takes time. 

In years past, I would have run right out and adopted another dog, or at the very least had a plan to start looking for one. For some reason grief is holding that action at a distance right now, too, just like it’s held those inspirations. I'm in no hurry to adjust that course. In my first book, in the chapter about Dogs (and Floyd), I say "If I didn't have a dog, I honestly wouldn't know who I was.", currently, I'm curious who that person may be. 

As someone who enjoys the quiet places, I rarely feel lonely, as the Universe speaks more in those calmer situations. Though this is the case, I will say that the past few weeks have been interesting to say the least. The dreamer in me wishes dogs would live forever, and the realist knows Izzy lasted way beyond what she should have. In the end, I had her for almost twice the amount of time as Floyd, and I can't help feeling grateful to the Universe for orchestrating this balance. 

This drink in front of me is almost gone and I’m savoring the last drops as the ice provides its own balance. At this moment, I start to feel more like myself than I have in recent days, and am grateful for the inspirations that have come to me today after being held back by the powers that be. 

In the late 90s when I had Doog, I had a framed quote in my living room that said “Be the person your dog thinks you are”. This pause after Izzy’s passing may have been for me to realize I am close to the person my dogs believed me to be. Hell, there’s no doubt all three of them made me into who I am today. 

Damn, I owe them all so much.  

These dogs. Sweet Izzy. Confident Floyd. Chill Doog. I raise this glass to them. 

If you have a furry companion, please give them a scratch behind the ear for me, or a pat on the head. Hold them close and whisper to them all the secrets. Love them like they love you. 

As I take a very pleasing inhale, I know it’s time for me to find an even quieter place and my house is as quiet as ever right perhaps it's time for me to head in that direction. Ironically, in that quiet I’ll be reminded all of these dogs are still with me.


Bernie and Izzy

Izzy 2020

Floyd and Izzy (as a pup)

Floyd and Izzy 2008


Floyd 2006?

Izzy 2020

Floyd and Izzy 2010?

Doog and Floyd 2004?

Doog 2001

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