Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ode to a Spotted Dog

In my last blog post, I said I'd post about accountability.

The very next day. Accountability, community, and competition.

It's not the next day, and I haven't held myself accountable.

But I've been human.

My dog died. That simple statement carries more depth of emotion and implication for my life than most people realize.

Let me tell you about Hannah.

I committed to Hannah the first time I met her and decided to bring her home. I told her that I would be there for her until the very end. She could count on the fact that I would not throw her away and I would do the best I could for all the days we knew each other.

I committed to love her before I actually loved her.

I secretly doubted I could ever fully love her. Hannah was a wild woman - a smiling, spotted, running at 50 miles per hour, waking me up before dawn to go walk and run in the icy January air, chewing through her leash if I stood still for too long, eating all the little plastic ends off my shoelaces, honest-to-goodness wild woman.

And then I set myself up to love her. Granted, it was easy because she was lovable.

And she had a moment, a visible moment soon after we met, of deciding to trust me and join my pack. That made it even easier. It's always easier to love someone who's loving you back.

I was consistent in my love for Hannah and in the life activities associated with having a dog. That proves I can be consistent, right?

Hannah seemed to age quickly over the past year. And for the last 4-6 months, she'd required a lot of personal care. A lot of coaxing her to eat tasty morsels. More trips outside in the middle of the night. From symptoms she'd slowly developed over the last 4-5 years, I think Hannah had a brain tumor that reached critical mass this year. The nature of her ailment was definitely neurological.

Hannah was a lot taller in real life.
An impromptu portrait

Spotted Dog sleeps, Spotted Dog dreams

Hannah was with me when I got this blog idea. She lay beside me, in a companionable way that only good dogs can, as I jotted notes. I knew time with Hannah was short when I was prompted to doodle a pencil portrait of her curled up and sleeping in a sunbeam last fall.

As I watched the elderly Hannah doze, I remembered the young active Hannah. She had the heart of an athlete and a natural tendency toward healthy lifestyle. I'd often said that I'd be a much healthier and happier person if I just lived life like Hannah the dog.


When Stress Derails Your Plans

Things have been stressful in my world for awhile now. Hannah's illness and the disruption to my schedule has just pushed it over the top. I'm a stress eater. A stress crap eater. It's not that I eat so much more, it's that I eat all the wrong things.

I'm also a stress "curl up in a ball and try to sleep to pretend the stresses are not there" person. You don't burn many calories or rev ye ole metabolism or build much lean muscle when you curl up in a ball in the dark. It turns out you don't even sleep all that well.

I'd lost about 5 pounds when I had to make the hard decision to let Hannah go. I could beat myself up for losing my momentum, for staying away from my exercise class. But that's not the spotted dog way. Remember, it's always easier to love someone who's loving you back. I figure that means it will be easier to love myself if I love myself. (Take that, circular logic haters!)

She was much taller than her impromptu pencil doodle portrait.
Savor the sunbeams!
So I'll get back on track when I can and remember this smiling healthy face and all the joy it brought me. I leave you with a half-dozen of Hannah's rules for a happy life.
  1. Choose running and playing over eating a big meal.
  2. Refrain from drinking. (I swear she got a look of distaste and scorn when I let her sniff a beer.)
  3. Enjoy the time with your pack.
  4. Head to bed at the stroke of 10:00 and sleep peacefully in your own bed. (She slept through the theft of my car from the driveway in August 2005, but in her defense, the air conditioning was on and how could a dog be expected to hear a thief with the heat pump running right outside the bedroom window.)
  5. Wake up in a good mood, stretch big, and go outside to sniff your perimeter.
  6. Savor a good sunbeam.

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