Thursday, September 27, 2012

Show Me the Way

Thorin is still taking medicine.  I open the antibiotic capsule, dump half of it onto a slice of deli meat, wrap it up, and feed it to him.  It’s not the same without Sam wagging his tail, waiting for his treat, and I feel a pang on my heart.

We all sit on the couch in the living room as Thorin races through the house.  Lexi sobs, “It’s not complete.  It’s wrong to just say Thorin cuz it’s Sam and Thorin. It just doesn’t make sense.  He just brings a lot more light to this place, Mom.  We’ve gotta get him back.  He’s ours.  We’ve gotta get him back.  How can this be the right thing for us when it’s putting us through this and we’re losing part of our family?  It feels empty already.  It feels empty.  Having Sam here was the closest thing to having a father here because he’s a protector.”
“What’d you say?”  I’m startled by her connection.
“Sam is a protector, like a dad.”
“Sam’s the best thing I have from my childhood,” Laina cries.  “They’re all I have left.”
Lexi continues, “Thorin’s running back and forth ‘cuz he’s anxious.  It’s literally like losing part of our family again.  Having pets was one of the only secure things we had.  With you and dad fighting and getting divorced, the only secure thing we had was our pets.  Sam makes me feel safe.”
          “It’s true; he does make you feel safe.  You know, when Sam’s there, you just feel safe,” Laina adds.
          “Whenever I’d lie down next to him, and he would put his paw on me I just felt safe in that moment.  It radiates from him.”
          “When I was lying there petting him, he was comforting me.”
          Lexi sobs, “So what does that mean, what does it mean?  Is nothing in life ever secure?  Is there nothing in my life that’s secure?  Is there nothing that can be secure besides God?  Why?  This doesn’t make sense.  I can’t breathe.”
          “I can’t breathe at all,” Laina cries.  “He makes you feel warm and loved even though he can’t say a damn thing.  He can’t say anything to us, but you know that he wants to be with you and love you. It’s cold without him.  There’s not as much life in here anymore.”
          Lexi yells at me. “Talk to us.”
          “I’m listening.  I’m letting you get it all out.”
          “I don’t know,” she says. “It’ll just take the next few days to process this.”
          “Not days,” says Laina.  “I’m never getting over it.”
          “I’m really sorry you’re hurting so much.  This is hard and it sucks and it’s not fair.  It’s okay to be sad and angry and hurt and heartbroken but know that Sam will be okay, and we’ll be okay.”  I stand.  “Come on, girls, let’s pray.”  The three of us lie on the bed, the cats around us, Thorin at our feet.  “God, I confess that we’ve been angry and we’ve been hurt and we’ve been sad.  We’ve been stressed and overwhelmed and I’ve been tense.  We’ve been impatient and I’ve even been in despair.  But, we’ve also been blessed and we’ve learned so much and we’ve been so happy and we’ve had so much fun.  We’ve loved and we’ve been so grateful for this time with the dogs.  No matter what happens, thank you for that.  Please help us with whatever’s supposed to happen.  If it’s the best thing for Sam to go to this family, then please help us accept it and heal and let him bless that family.  If it’s better for him to stay with us, then please provide a way, show us the way. Please help us.  Amen.”
          A long pause.
          Lexi sighs.  “I guess we can find a blessing.  There’s something there.  This is helping me deal with something from my childhood, so it won’t affect me as an adult.”
          The girls focus on finishing homework as quickly as possible.  They cry themselves to sleep while I toss and turn and finally sleep.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

“Some Good in This World”

          First thing Monday morning I had errands to run, so I walked the dogs and then took them with me. When we returned, a friend from Divorce Recovery brought over supplies and filled in the bite marks and scratches in the bathroom, peeled off more paint, sanded everything, and then painted it all to match. The bathroom looks decent again, and the friend refused to let me reimburse for the supplies or pay for the labor. I am awed by all of the kind people around and by God’s work in our lives.
          By the time the girls arrived home from school that afternoon, the bathroom was finished and the cats and dogs had settled into a tentative truce. I sat on the couch with my laptop resting on my lap and Piper sitting across my chest and arms. Yes, both of our cats love plopping onto my arms while I am at the computer.  Sam lay next to me on the couch, his hip pressed against my leg, and Thorin rested at my feet.  Zeus perched on the top of the sofa, content to look down on the rest of us.
          A phone call changed everything.
          We were all settling in, fitting together, knitting a new life when a lady called me earlier that afternoon to ask about Sam. She'd seen the information the woman from church had put out last week.  If Sam still needed a home, she had someone interested.  Could she give him my number?  Within an hour, Tom* called, and he sounded perfect for Sam. A positive solution. A resolution. An answered prayer.
          I stop typing and place my face in my hands. How do I explain this?  What words describe the conflicting emotions rolling through me still?  Joy for answered prayers, raw from hurt, heartbroken for my girls, happy for Sam, sad for Thorin, the list goes on...
          Tom explained that he'd raised a chocolate lab from a puppy to thirteen years. Tom's mom had recently beat cancer, and the lab had helped her have a reason to get out of bed again. Three weeks ago, their lab died. Three weeks ago, Sam traveled to Florida.
          They were looking for another lab, a mature lab, a lab that would be loved and rarely left alone. When not with Tom at his house, the lab would be with his mom who has a huge fenced in backyard and a mountain of dog toys. The lab would be spoiled; the lab would be a blessing to them. Could we bring Sam over tonight?
          "Do you promise if it doesn't work out you will call me and not drop him off somewhere?"
          "I would never do that. The only way it wouldn't work is if he bit someone. I'd never."
          Tom even asked if we were okay; he couldn't imagine having a lab for six years and having to let him go. He offered for us to keep in contact, to have play dates with Sam, and continue to be part of his life.
          We agreed to meet that evening and see. 

I remember when we first met Sam, a tiny black puppy.  The runt of the litter, he made up for size with a big heart.  From the first moment we met him, we loved him.  Laina smuggled him into her room to play, saying she was keeping him forever.  Even then, I argued against adding another responsibility to our life.  The others convinced me.  Sam and his sweet spirit convinced me.  The fact that I’d always longed for a lab convinced me.  We paid for him and kept him with us that very day. From then on, he was part of our family, and we named him after Samwise Gamgee, Frodo’s faithful and loyal friend, thinking of Sam’s speech of friendship and hope to Frodo at the end of The Two Towers:
Frodo: I can't do this, Sam.
Sam: I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.

After picking Lexi up from work, we drive to Tom's house, which is only 15 minutes from our place. The girls cry the whole way, and I feel a knot in my chest.  
We walk into the gorgeous, huge tan house, and Sam instantly explores everywhere.  I chatter away, trying to cram six years of love into a five minute bio. When I mention that Sam loves water, Tom says he has water in his backyard, "You don't think he'll jump in, do you?" I ask what kind of water, and he says "brackish" and opens the back door that looks out onto a beautiful deck with a bar and hot tub.  Sam dashes out and races away. We all chase after him—his favorite game. Tom and Laina are ahead while Lexi and I walk slower with Thorin.
"Why'd you mess it up, Mom? How could you do that? He's not gonna want him now" Lexi snaps at me.
"Stop it. I know you're hurting, but it's not okay to take it out on me."
We walk the block and see no sign of Sam. The girls wait on the deck while Tom and I drive around. On the way back, we find Sam racing down the street. When I holler, he runs straight to my window.  I open the door, and he throws himself into the car, half on my lap, panting and looking so happy.  We return to the house and let him explore. "Do you still want him?"
I realize that I forgot to bring a bone for Sam, so Tom runs to Publix while we wait with the dogs. He returns with $50 worth of dog food, bones, and toys. He opens one and squeezes it, hiding it from Sam. Sam's tail is wagging as he dances around and snatches the toy. He runs to his spot on the rug in front of the large screen TV and proceeds to destroy the toy in less than five minutes. Tom laughs, rubs Sam's head, and hands him another toy.
Finally, we have to say goodbye, and we leave quickly. Goodbye, but only for now. We have agreed for Sam to stay with him this week, and we'll pick him up Friday to spend the weekend with him. We want to see with our own eyes that he's healthy and happy in three days. We want to see what our life will be like without him, now that we are used to him again. We want to see how Thorin will react being separated.  We want more time.
The ride home is long and hard. With blocks on our chests and tears rolling down our cheeks, we all loudly protest leaving him behind.
Once home, I text Tom to check on Sam, and his text affirms: Tail wagging chewing bone. Lying on carpet. I'm lying on floor next to him.
It's supposed to be us there on the floor with Sam and his wagging tail.

*Name changed for privacy.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Social Hour

          Laina’s sleepover weekend with friends left only two of us to take care of the dogs.  Because they cannot be left home alone, we take them with us almost everywhere we go.  Saturday morning I ran Lexi to work, and Sam and Thorin rode along. 
A friend suggested I take them to the dog park at Wickham Park, so I decided to attempt it, though I was scared.  Would they get along with the other dogs or would they fight?  What would happen?  Would I ever get them back in the car again?
          I parked and let them out.  Thrilled with new smells, nearby dogs, and a novel place, Sam pulled and jerked, trying to take off.  I held him tight and got them into the large waiting area where signs told me to take them off of their leashes.  Concerned, I followed the rules and opened the gate into the big dog park.  They galloped off.
          Sam spent an hour exploring, sniffing, and playing with other dogs, though one smaller dog kept barking and nipping at Sam.  Altogether, he was a good boy and played nicely with his new friends.

Reincarnated, Thorin ran like a five-year-old dog and, undaunted by size, proceeded to hump any large dog he could find. 
          Both dogs had a blast, and I was shocked that they willingly and quietly left with me.  I stopped to hose them down before we picked Lexi up from work. 
          That afternoon, we wanted to go to the library for an hour, so we decided to put both dogs in the large kennel.  We wouldn’t be gone that long but long enough for Sam to destroy something in the house yet too long to leave them in the hot car, so kennel it was.  I had to pick Thorin up and carry him in.  Once Sam noticed, he hid beneath the benches, and I had to upend them to get him out.  Then, he pushed and pulled until his collar came off.  He did not want to go in the kennel at all and wanted only to go with us.  If I were president, I would make a law that pets could go anywhere, anytime.  Not really, but the dogs would sure love that!  In order to get in him the kennel, I had to literally grab his skin and push him in.  So not fun.
          On Sunday, we stayed home from church so that the dogs wouldn’t be left alone and again took the dogs for social and activity time at Wickham Park. 
          Once Laina arrived home, we went to a family friend’s house to introduce him to the dogs.  His house sits on a golf course, so he got out his golf cart.  Laina rode with him, carrying Thorin on her lap, and Lexi ran behind with Sam.  Finally, she let go of Sam, and he raced alongside and then pulled ahead.  Once he was in the lead, he took off; however, once he saw the cart again, he returned for more fun.  Thorin peed in our friend’s house.
That afternoon, we found out that Sam would not be moving to the Gulf, and while glad, I felt stressed about another week of trying to figure out what to do.  Lexi was excited and set about finding someone to pet sit on Tuesday and Thursday.  It relived my mind to have a plan in place for the next week.

We’d been so busy with work, school, and spending time with the dogs that the house was an embarrassing disaster, so we spent the early evening cleaning.  While folding clothes, I left the bedroom door open, and the cats ventured out.  We watched carefully, but the cats and dogs tolerated and were even curious about each other.  The cats peek around the corner, stare at the dogs, and then race to a spot on the couch where they sit until they decide to brave it again.  It’s hilarious to watch.  Sam wags his tail when the cats risk getting close, but Thorin mostly ignores them.  Finally, the cats, dogs, and teens are all together in the condo. 

          With a clean and harmonious house, I wonder if I could keep doing it, but then I remember that we are having to have pet sitters come in twice a week, which is not feasible long-term.  Still, I feel more calm and peaceful than I have since this started.  More hopeful. 
          This week’s Nehemiah study begins with confession and having a faithful heart.  I confess that I am grateful for this experience and for all those who have helped, that I have learned so much, that I have struggled and despaired, and that I have not been patient.  Yet I also confess that I have never doubted God’s help and plan.  I trust that a positive solution will come in the end, even if it’s not on my timetable.