Sometimes, it’s hard to get out of our own heads. I’ve certainly had that problem a lot lately. Thinking about the past year, I get caught up in the things I could have done differently, the mistakes I’ve made. It’s a bad habit, acquired over many decades. The other day was particularly tough. I was tired. I was frustrated with work and other issues. I sat down on the couch and thought, “I should be happier about where I’m at right now.” But I wasn’t.
Then the dog came over to me. She gave me the look that she gives me every day in the late afternoon. It’s time to play some fetch. She’s ready to go and wants to play, and my human concerns aren’t of any importance to this precious little canine. So I got up off the couch and followed her to the patio door. I watched as she warmed up by running sprints across the mess of lawn and crab grass and weeds that I call a backyard. She pounced on the tennis ball and it shot out from under her. She pounced again, this time catching the ball in her mouth. She trotted towards me, shaking her head like she’s a horse. I watched her run around, envying the free spirit that inhabits her body.
Let me tell you a little about my dog. Kami was born in 2001. She had a litter of puppies sometime in 2002 and was later dumped at a rescue with several of her puppies. Between 2002 and 2007, she was adopted and later abandoned by three different families. I adopted her in February 2007, shortly after my birthday. She is one of the kindest, sweetest, most loving dogs I have ever known. I have no idea why she was abandoned so many times. We’re a lot alike that way.
Kami didn’t exactly have it easy the first three years she was with me. Why? Because I was with my ex and her kids. I went to work each day and when I came home, Kami was the only one to greet me with love and enthusiasm. She often looked at me to save her when she was being harassed by someone else in the house. You see, they hadn’t really been around dogs much, so they seemed to think that it was Kami’s job to always entertain them. “Kami shake!” Kami, get the cat!” “Kami, come!” The poor dog never got any rest, except when everyone was asleep.
She and I were usually the victims of my ex’s tantrums or outbursts. Even if we hadn’t done anything wrong, if she was in a mood, we’d be the ones to pay for it. The two beings in the house that most wanted and deserved acceptance and love were the two who most often got rejected and yelled at for no reason. Kami and I became kindred spirits. She looked to me for protection and I did the best that I could. I often failed.
When my ex and the kids left, it was just me and the dog. Not too surprisingly, we both thrived with the change in the household. Yes, she was alone more during the day, but I think she welcomed the silence just as much as I did when I came home. She greeted me after every work day with a wagging tail and a smile, giving me kisses, then running through the house. I opened the patio door to let her out and would join her a few minutes later for some playtime. She romped and talked and played and I smiled.
For various reasons, this last month has been more tiring and difficult than others. Despite the fact that I’ve started a great new job, I’m having trouble finding the silver lining. Some time with Kami the other day put everything into perspective though. We took a little trip to Davis to pick up her monthly flea and tick medicine. Usually, I go there by myself, unless she needs a checkup. This time, however, I decided to take her with me.
I’ve been gone a lot this month with the new job, at least compared to what she was used to, so I didn’t want to leave her home. I got ready and she watched me the entire time. I finally looked at her and asked if she wanted to go for a drive. She cocked her head to one side, put her ears up, then ran out of the room to the entry, making her little happy squeaking noises as she went. Because I took longer than two seconds to put my shoes on, she came back into the room and barked at me, her way of saying “hurry your ass up!”
Once we were in the car, she didn’t really care what happened. I rolled the back windows down so she could sniff the air before we hit the freeway. She checked out the Starbucks drive-thru, then settled in the backseat as we made the drive. That’s when it hit me. She doesn’t think about her past. She doesn’t worry about her future. She enjoys the here and now to the fullest, whatever it may bring. It might be a trip through the Starbucks drivethru. It might be fetch in the backyard. It might be her morning treat that she so enthusiastically takes from me every day.
We need to learn how to appreciate the present the same way dogs do. We spend so much time dwelling on the past and worrying about the future that we don’t notice the joys that are right in front of us every single day. We can’t change our past. We can’t fix our mistakes. We can’t change the actions of others that have hurt us deeply.
Kami was abandoned four times before she came to me, yet she manages to give me all her love and loyalty and trust. I wish it was as easy for me to let go of the rejections of past relationships that have colored my present life. I am trying. We should all try. We should all take a lesson from dogs, who live in the present and make the most of it. They learn from the past but they don’t dwell on it. That is a lesson I need to learn quickly. I will appreciate what I have in my present because I don’t really know how long I have. I want to enjoy the experiences and people in my life while I can. I will take a lesson from my dog, who only wants to play some fetch and get some belly rubs. I think I can manage that.