Two Kindred Spirits

Perhaps, for a time, our journeys will coincide, and our two kindred spirits will become as one...

Location: Maunawili Valley, O'ahu, Hawai'i, United States

Thursday, July 10, 2014

So Here's the Thing - July 2014

Making Room for Love

I thought when ‘Opihi, my 16-year-old malamute-chow mix, died that I would not allow myself to mourn her passing. That I would go right out and fill that hole in my life with a puppy in order to move on. That would be the healthy thing to do.

Plans like this tend to look good on paper and actually sound convincing when talked about. But the truth is, other than the loss of my infant son, (which ‘Opihi helped me to survive), her passing has hit me harder than any other death I have experienced, and two years later, I seemed no closer to healing. Time did not lessen the loss. In fact, missing her had become this entity that had entrenched itself so tenaciously, that it grew stronger over time. I finally realized, for my mental and emotional health, I had to get another dog. I acknowledged that nothing would ever replace this wondrous spirit that had so seamlessly enmeshed her life with mine. And for that reason, I needed to find some way of healing.

In looking back, this is the only reasoning that can logically explain my current ownership of a 120 lb. malamute “puppy.” And explains why, although I gave her a beautiful Hawaiian name, Mahealani, meaning the full moon, I most commonly refer to her as Cujo, and sometimes, Baby Huey. After many emailings and countless litters I had viewed online, I finally drove the three hours to Vermont to visit the breeder to take a closer look at a new litter of Huskies, and one 11-week-old goofy looking malamute no one had selected. If you’ve ever been chosen by a dog, then you know the ending to that trip.

In fact, I could almost wonder if the family hadn’t trained this gangly thing with raccoon-masked yellow wolf eyes and spindly tail to come bounding directly over to me on sight and promptly sit down. There was no masking the exchange.

With the surreal trepidation of a parent driving home with an adopted child - I talked soothingly to her all the way home, more for my emotional needs probably than hers, as she lay quietly still on the front seat, occasionally looking up at me with these incredibly trusting eyes.

At 11 weeks, she already weighed about 45 lbs. That was a little startling since, full-grown, ‘Opihi averaged about 55 lbs. Reality check. How much bigger would this dog get? Her paws were bigger than my hands. They flopped around like clown shoes when she walked. 

Each day I’d return home from school to discover some new aspect of my living quarters that had been chewed, eaten, or swallowed whole. I couldn’t crate her since I wasn’t able to get home to relieve her, so various rooms of the house were barricaded to contain her. One morning, as I was reversing out of the yard, I saw her huge bear head with that goofy grin looking out the front window, with both front paws leaning against the original paned windows of my 1800’s farmhouse... Sure enough, I pulled back in, but not before she had busted out one of the panes, and was quite willing to keep on going had I not run into the house to stop her. I needed something big to block off the window and realized I had an old door out back that wasn’t being used. I dragged it’s full heaviness through the house and leaned it against the front window to block it off until I could get the window fixed. I said my goodbyes, hopped back into the car to leave for work, and before I was out of the yard, I could already see her nose poking through the window, pushing the door aside. I pulled back in, hopped out, ran back into the house, moving two smaller pieces of furniture aside and slid my six foot long dining room table to butt up against the door which is butted up against the broken window. There. That worked. For now. 

That first summer it seemed like I was constantly side-stepping, hosing down, or picking up dog crap in the yard. I was amazed at the pure size of her bowel movements. It seemed like one in particular was this artistically perfect Dairy Queen swirl of poop that I noticed whenever I sat outside on the lounge chair. It dawned on me that it had been there for awhile, and that neither I nor the rain had impacted its perfectly swirled shape. Intrigued more than anything, I got up to give it a closer look. Peeking out from the brownish-yellow swirl were these petite pink flowers on a blue background. One of my socks! 

She’s inhaled an unguarded steak, two pots of pasta, a whole bag of cherry cough drops, a box of individually wrapped packets of hot cocoa, a container of butterscotch ice cream topping, toothpaste, cranberry juice, coffee, and one of a pair of my favorite earrings, for starters. 

She can stand, placing her enormous paws on my shoulders, and look over my head now. So it’s increasingly more difficult to “hide” things from her because she’s taller than I am, so anything I put up out of reach, isn’t.. I went through three trainers before I found a gem that continues to teach me various tricks to appear to be the one in control. It’s all smoke and mirrors. I’m not fooling anyone, least of all, her. She’ll heal and sit and lay down, but mostly it’s a pretense to the fact that she can knock me off my feet before I know I’ve even been hit.

This past spring, at two years of age, I finally set up a 10‘x20’ outdoor kennel for her in an attempt to reclaim ownership of the house. I worked with her all through one weekend, acclimating her to it. She wasn’t scared but she wasn’t joyous about it either. I left for work Monday morning, the kennel holding some of her favorite toys and bones to keep her amused throughout the day. I pulled into the yard when I got home. No dog loose in the yard. That was a good sign. I gathered my things, got into the house, and was promptly greeted in the dining room by a very happy dog, quite proud of her accomplishment. I stood for a minute trying to remind myself that I had indeed put her outside in the kennel that morning, right? She had not only broken OUT of the kennel (by tearing the chain link away from the frame), but had broken INTO two outside doors in order to get back into the house. Her look was all of, “Look at what I did, Mom! You forgot me outside, but that’s ok, I solved the problem!”

Smart Puppy - 87   Dumb Human - 0

So here’s the thing. She is filling a place of joy in my life that has lessened the pain of losing ‘Opihi. She is a huge headache at times - a puppy, what was I thinking?! But she’s also a big love bug and every day we learn more about each other. Her birthday is the day before mine. I love the serendipity, but it also means we’re both stubborn Aries vying to be the alpha dog. As my friends like to say in their sarcastically, semi-sympathetic way, “Good luck with that.”


Blogger Julia Ridge said...

Ha! Great essay on the many challenges and rewards of bringing up a pup. I am still laughing about the "Dairy Queen swirl of poop"! Well, laughing at and reeling from...

July 13, 2014 at 9:28 AM  

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