Dogs are some of my favorite people. Hubby and I have three. They’re all our babies, but Pickle is extra special. I’ve learned a little something about life from her. Hopefully this won’t get sappy.
First, Let Me Tell You About Pickle
If you’re a dog person, you know the type. You look into her eyes and there’s someone there.
At the shelter where we adopted her, they said she was a border collie mix. Perhaps her mother once dallied with a border collie. But Pickle is most definitely a pit bull mix. I wouldn’t have gone looking for a pit; I always thought their hair was too wiry and their faces looked funny to me. I’d hoped to find a dog who’d fill the shoes of my boy Woody, my constant companion for over a decade. Like Woody, Pickle had spots on her snout, and they called to me. She marched right up to us and introduced herself as our new pack member. And so it was decided.
Brains and Brawn
She’s a problem solver. As in, when she was a pup, if I took a work call in the office and closed the door, she got to work eating the drywall to solve the problem of not having eyes on me. If she hears someone approach the front porch, she opens the door. Delivery people and I are equally grateful for the metal screen door, a second barrier to keep her from eating them. She would never, but she gives off that vibe. Also, she ate pillows.
Pickle’s athletic in a way I’ve never been. She doesn’t just play fetch; she earns extra points for style. Throw a high-pop and she’ll probably catch it in the air. Sometimes it bounces off her snoot and she’ll catch it on the bounce. It took a while for her to learn how fetch works. I’ve said, “Pickle, I can’t throw it if you don’t drop it,” thousands of times. She gets it now. Mostly.
She taught me that tennis elbow isn’t for tennis players only. Aside from playing ball, her other favorite game is simply called “Rope.” We go through several of those thick rope toys every year. Many ratty knots of string, formerly known as Rope, litter the backyard gardens. I get side-eye from Pickle if she notices me gathering them for the burn pile. The game goes like this: She holds one end in her teeth. I hold the other end. Then she shakes, tugs, and yanks that rope until I end up with bursitis. Alternatively, the judges will allow one modification to the game. I may fling Rope across the yard, sidearmed, until I end up with bursitis.
So Much Togetherness
Pickle takes togetherness to a whole new level. While she’s not a fan of having a bath, oddly, she and her sister Belle like to get in mine with me. Hubby took a few pics. I’m debating whether my children would die of embarrassment if I post one. Also, I’m writing this on a plane, and don’t want to alarm my seat neighbors. (OK, doing it.) Pickle’s also good for keeping you company while you poop. I have no idea why, but she’ll march right in, climb into the tub (a foot away from the toilet), and just wait. No pics of that, thank goodness.
When I come home from visiting the kids or a business trip, Pickle’s affection levels go through the woof roof. She’s a vocal girl, so there are sound effects as she snuggles into my lap like she did when she was five pounds. (She’s now 72 pounds but that is irrelevant.) Like Heath Ledger’s Joker’s demented grin, her smile is impossible to miss.
The Most Vicious of Breeds
She’s learned to be gentle with all sorts of “babies” except for any kind of toy. When we have baby chicks, she’ll lie down near them and we can stack them on her (weird hillbilly hobbies!) or tuck them into her armpits. She does her best not to chase the older hens. But if one dies and she gets to it first, it’s probably going in her mouth.
Even Nermal the kitty (formerly known as the asshole kitty – thank goodness for neutering!) tries to nurse on Pickle. She’ll look at me with this confused look, like she’s asking how much of this insanity she’s supposed to endure.
A Terrible Traveler
Know how with most dogs, you practically have to spell C-A-R because they’ll lose their ever loving minds if they think they’re going on a ride? Pickle’s like that, too.
Except here’s the thing. She’s the worst car-riding dog ever on the planet. I thought babies could puke. HA. Poop everywhere? Please. Pickle has upped that game to the point no contenders need apply.
How’d I find this out? First, I took her on a six-hour ride to meet my kids. Off and on for two hours, she gacked in the back seat. I’d stop, mop, gag, and get back on the road thinking certainly she was empty. But no. Also, it got into some places in the car that no human can reach. (Apologies in advance to the poor soul who buys this car if I ever sell it.)
Oh, and there was a second instance. We decided that perhaps if she practiced on shorter rides, that would do the trick. During the ride, she seemed only a little more nervous than we were. Once we got to our (thankfully dog-loving and very kind) friends’ house, she let loose like a scene from The Exorcist. Thus ended our transportation experiment.
As she doesn’t travel much, Pickle’s domain is the back yard. She knows every board of the fence, every stick on the ground, and every pile of chicken shit in the clover.
But that girl loves a good walk. All three pups go bananas if they hear their leashes jingle in their place. We start with the leash on, but let it drag on the ground. The dogs magically seem to understand that they’d better be on their best behavior in this situation. One crazy dog move, and we’ll grab the other end, putting a stop to self-walking mode in a heartbeat.
This is the part where it seems my dog is teaching me something about living in midlife that I am learning to grasp fully.
I’ve taken to calling this state of being unleashed. Free to frolick like there’s no leash. Safe from doing utterly dangerous stuff (thanks to decades of accumulated experiences and the wisdom that comes from doing things that don’t work so well). Fully present to nature’s cacophony of sights, sounds, scents, and sensations. Gulping the fresh air, noticing the wave of tree branches, feeling each springy footfall.
There’s no phone. No Zoom. No Slack. Certainly no social media or email. Just my husband’s warm, work-calloused, huge hand holding mine. Sometimes we chat, greeting neighborhood dogs and talking about work and family. Sometimes we stroll arm in arm, silently.
Many times, it’s on these walks when one of us gets a great idea. Every time, we end it thanking each other for nudging us out the door.
Again with Trevor Blake
I really do try not to fan-girl too much. But when someone writes a book that hits me right where I need it most, it’s hard not to talk about it incessantly now and then. In Three Simple Steps he talks a lot about spending time outdoors. This guy started his first business in his forties, has had massive exits, and works five hours a day. (Two of those hours, he’s walking his dogs in the woods!) As a reformed workaholic (i.e. human doing), I have a lot to learn from him. One big area is in how I spend my time.
The three ways I love spending my time unleashed are:
- Creating – writing, primarily. Making anything appear in physical form from just an idea is about the most amazing experience ever. Highly creative, productive sessions satisfy my soul so deeply that words fail me.
- Puttering. I searched for the best word to describe this regenerative, rejuvenating state. It might involve doing little household, gardening, or chicken-tending tasks. The orderliness, the voluntary nature of puttering is soothing.
- Being with. I have never so enjoyed being with my family and few friends more than I do at this point in my life. As a young working mom, I loved every minute with my babies, but I was so aware of their few and fleeting nature that I felt terrified and unable to soak it all in. Plus, exhaustion. As a work-at-home mom of older kids, I felt tremendous pressure to provide for our family. Fear makes a terrible motivator, robbing us of the present. As an empty-nester with an understanding of life’s brevity, I can enjoy “being with” like never before. I see it in the times I go up to visit the kids. And also in the unhurried bathrobe-clad morning coffee sessions on the porch with hubby. I treasure time now.
Life’s Too Short Not to Go Unleashed
Especially in midlife, there’s this sense of turning a page and discovering the rest of the book is blank. We’ve got a lot of new liberties in our lives, and a greater appreciation of what matters most to us. Maybe your schedule is not as flexible as you’d like, but you still have hours each day you can spend doing whatever lights you up. I recommend finding what “unleashed” time means for you – and lavishing it on yourself.
Like Pickle, may we all enjoy each day to the hilt. As I used to tell my old boy, Woody, each morning when we woke up, “We got another day!” How will you use yours?