We couldn’t help but fall in love with the playful Golden Retriever, 100 pounds of bundled energy with a puppy’s playfulness still very much present. He had settled in with us with hardly a whimper as our dog-sitting stint began, two days of a fireball in the middle of our quiet routine.
“He won’t jump up on the bed, will he?” He will.
“Does he slobber?” He does.
“Will he let us know when he has to go?” Yes, often.
It didn’t take long to become attached to the oversize furball. Watching him smile as I rubbed his belly was a hoot – oh yes, dogs do smile. And I couldn’t help but laugh uproariously as he bounded about the lawn trying to catch the three tennis balls I tossed into the air. And maybe best of all, sitting next to me on the couch in the den, his head on my lap as the television anesthetized us before we went to bad.
I resisted at first. Didn’t want to fall in love. There is heartbreak built into the collar when you take on a pet like loveable Ollie. It’s called lifespan. The average for a dog is about 12 years. Needless to remind you, your pet will die while you are still very much alive. And you will grieve.
The Malamute husky named Fresca was my constant companion when I lived in Aspen. We hiked the mountain trails, put our prints side by side in the freshly fallen snow and were pretty much inseparable. Then he disappeared. Dog napped. The day the lifts closed, and the ski bums fled town, grabbing up the local dogs to sell to the labs that paid good money for the four legged test subjects. Amid my grief, I thought, why have a pet knowing the end is ordained, knowing they’ll disappear or die and leave you with the hurt that takes a long time to subside.
Of course the question was much larger in scope. It was about how to live our lives, full speed or brakes on. Is it better to walk away from love to avoid the inevitable pain? Or participate and take delight in the time together when love blooms, the transitory nature of the flower a poignant reminder to appreciate its presence even more!
My time with Ollie was a reminder of that long-ago internal debate. And the decision to wipe away the tears and embrace the inexorable reality, life is lived in the here and now. We don’t need Eckert Tolle or Pema Chodron to tell us we cannot be present when our mind is anticipating a future that has yet to arrive or re-writing the script for a past that cannot be re-played.
When I’m playing with Ollie, I’m having fun. I’m experiencing the moment, the rough housing, the excitement, the connection between this whirligig of a happy dog and the kid inside this old guy. I’m not thinking, “Oh dear, Ollie will be gone tomorrow.”
I’m having fun!