The Thing Is
This week sees two good friends have separate but related experiences. For one, yesterday meant bringing a new dog into her life, and for the other, it meant letting that dog, Lara go. One was the adopter and for the other it was part of her day’s work as manager of a rescue. Work that I am forever going to be deeply thankful she does with a big heart and relentless courage.
For both, the emotions this week are high and enveloping for neither take lightly, being responsible for the life of another. When we open ourselves up to the emotional commitment that having a dog in our life rightly entails, we’re guaranteed to bring upon ourselves intense moments that can be both agonisingly painful and exquisitely joyful.
Through our shared lives with dogs, we experience these and everything in between, including the mundane. There’s a lot to be said for life’s humdrum days. For rescuers and fosterers, everything is multiplied and repeated for as long as their commitment continues and their attachment lasts. It’s easy to see why compassion fatigue is real when we consider how deeply caring you must be to do the necessary work, day after day.
It was just eight weeks ago that Lara’s life hung in the balance and if my friend hadn’t committed herself entirely to doing all she could to save not only one dogs’ life but that of Lara’s 10 puppies, yesterday wouldn’t have happened. Sudden grief would have hit hard and been understood at the time by all.
Instead, through the last few weeks, Lara and her puppies have been nurtured night and day by a small, dedicated team led by my friend. And now she must be brave and allow them to leave her warm and safe embrace to go out into the rest of their lives. It’s what rescue work is all about, day after day, week after week, year by year. And it’s hard.
It’s a week of mixed emotions but what I do know, is that my good friend’s heart is large, her strength is immense and she will hold life like a face between her palms and say yes, yes she will take it and love again.
to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.
The Thing Is, Ellen Bass