Today’s #DailyDose features a favorite place of mine, Second Chance Farm (SCF). Regular readers may remember SCF as the sanctuary of Cooper James and Emma Rose. It lies deep in my heart as do the people who live there.
At the farm, courage comes in all sizes, shapes, years, and species; love seems to persist no matter what. To me, that’s magic. I’ve never known what really led me to the sanctuary, and I probably never will. It doesn’t matter. I found it.
This past week has been one of goodbyes. As one goodbye piled upon another, I began to pay attention. I was reminded of a piece I wrote with another writer years ago called, “The Long Goodbye,” a wife’s farewell to her husband who lived more in the realm of Alzheimer’s and less in their sixty year marriage. For me, “The Long Goodbye” was always more about living than moving into another realm of existence.
Nowhere is that truer than at an animal sanctuary where I’ve been a volunteer for the last four years. Mostly, I send out monthly updates to animal sponsors–it’s easy and fun–I relay stories and pictures of animal antics, always a welcome email. As the sanctuary is for elderly and medically needy animals, goodbye is often on the horizon. At times, goodbye is said so often it is hard to catch one’s breath.
In the past two days, three sanctuary residents crossed the Rainbow Bridge, one goodbye after another. Two of the residents were elderly canines, Snapper and Rocky, and the other was a very human-friendly rabbit, Dudley. For the remainder of their lives, the sanctuary provided them the security of home, a daily routine they came to trust. Lives regained. No matter how long or short their stay at the sanctuary, each of their lives ended in arms of love. Would that every one of us lived a life with such a long goodbye.
As I have learned from Dr. Mac and the residents of the sanctuary, the long goodbye is unique to each and every being. On the very morning the long goodbyes played out at the sanctuary, Cooper reminded me the moment looms for us as well. Like his friends at the sanctuary, Cooper lives in the moment, devoted to routine. For now, he is still willing to accommodate the physical changes his body is undergoing but he will let me know when the end of the long goodbye is here. There won’t be much notice, just enough. Until then, we go on as if life has always been this way, and after a while, we believe what we tell ourselves.
For some time, Cooper and I have been witnessing a long goodbye between a woman and a canine that live in our apartment complex. Alice has Alzheimer’s and her hair is white just like Buddy’s, her West Highland Terrier. In the two years we’ve known them, the two have been the best of friends but for a while now, Alice hasn’t been able to remember their routine. While Buddy does his best to remind Alice, Alice remembers routines with other Westies. Buddy does his best to keep up.
We learned that Alice and Buddy are moving, and while we know it’s a fact, the actual date is never mentioned. At first, Alice told us that all of her sons were moving as well and the whole family would be living in the same state. First it was Colorado and then it was Connecticut but now the most frequent moving destination is an assisted living center in a small Florida town not too far away from us.
Of course, none of these moves involve Buddy living with Alice anymore. Alice’s sons have dogs of their own, and they seem genuinely fond of Buddy and he of them. He is a fairly young dog, smart, but he has had to fend for himself a lot lately, and he is not as trusting as he once was. Buddy and Alice have done the best they can for each other but the change they face may not involve a long goodbye, at least with one another.
I am reminded that the long goodbye is not a guarantee but a gift as I re-read the sponsor updates of Snapper with her tennis balls, of Rocky’s kiddie pool antics and his chomping at the hose water trying to fill his pool. Even little Dudley felt safe again after what seemed a hopeless situation. I cannot know what will be for Alice and Buddy but the long goodbye is often the reward of a life regained.
(AWARDS: Recently, this blog received some awards exchanged among bloggers, and I am humbled. Thank you, fellow bloggers. It is a true honor to have one’s work appreciated by one’s peers.)
On this first day of my being 60, I am not writing the blog post I had planned; living in the moment is like that or so I am learning. Certainly, I thought about this particular post much more than I usually do—I kept considering it my first blog post of my next decade–but by mid-week, that ego balloon went airless.
The last week of my fifth decade proved to be a week of surprises, mostly in the form of sugar, but not entirely in the obvious way. For the most part, my system no longer tolerates sugar in any form other than what it produces itself. Generally, this is not a statement I have to consider but in my last post, I mentioned that I had an appointment with a practitioner of Eastern medicine. Not so surprisingly, she and I had different interpretations regarding Eastern medicine–and sugar–but rather surprisingly, I agreed to try two different remedies at least one time, which proved to be more than enough.
Buoyed by the possibilities presented by the practitioner, I decided to have one (1) glass of red wine, my first in three years. Although my glass of wine and my dose of “remedies” were days apart, literally, my week collapsed before Wednesday noon. I am more recovered than not and leaning toward awareness.
I suspect I was caught up in birthday bliss for it has been a week of gifts beyond remembering the lesson of sugar. Once again, I discovered that I really can, and should, trust my instincts and not my ego. It was not my instincts that chose the remedies or the wine but my ego filled with the idea of birthday, a balloon born to burst. I am reminded of Georgia O’Keeffe–“To see takes time”–a sentence for the rest of my life, yet another gift.
I was pleasantly surprised by lovely flowers from Dr. Mac and all of the sanctuary “critters” at secondchancefarms.org. As you can see, EmmaRose wasted no time in her inspection, and yes, all are “kitty safe” petals.
Cooper and I began our morning on the Gulf of Mexico, near this palm tree at St. Mark’s Wildlife Refuge but here is where we will both end our day.
Almost always, Cooper takes command of the remote. Like me, he is a bit ambivalent about television but he has a preference for the remote.
Thank you, Dear Reader, for stopping by to read my posts and to chat, from time to time. It is such a gift you give, and I am most grateful, always.
“Once during the day, think of who you are as living energy and not as a goal to be achieved or obstacle to be overcome. Feel yourself without inventory” (Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening).
“Originally, the word power meant able to be.
In time, it was contracted to mean to be able.
We suffer the difference” (Mark Nepo, Book of Awakening).
In a world weary and wary of power, I doubt the distinction that comes from rearranging words—even contracting them—is noted when we consider our power, inner or outer, globally or individually. Usually, we find power and ourselves lacking, somehow; “…the wish for more always issues from a sense of lack” (Nepo).
Yet, there are times when lack results in abundance sans want and wishing. I think of Lily, a dog story of joy ever after because with Lily, lack is always more.
A white-muzzled, chocolate lab kind of canine, Lily found herself at a county animal shelter; she was too old to care for, she was too fat, her hips were bad. Lily lacked everything she needed to continue her life as it was so she began a new life, incrementally.
First, there was Underdog Foundation whose main operations are not in the area Lily lived nor is Underdog usually contacted about dogs like Lily. Underdog provides funds for various rescue operations but it is not involved in any physical rescue nor does it have its own facility so Lily found her funding but no place to be.
Yet, home was always near. Lily was in a county shelter that was part of the network of Second Chance Farms’ sanctuary. The sanctuary takes in older animals of almost all species, offering them forever home for the rest of their lives. Lily would live with dogs, cats, a tortoise, ducks, chickens, a horse named River, two goats, a donkey, and at that time, an opossum.
But with Lily, there was still more.
In under two weeks and entirely unexpectedly, Lily met and fell in love with her permanent foster parents who also care for cats, dogs and horses. At first, Lily slept a lot, as always, but her new life moved fast. With her human mom, Lily learned about her barn, her horses and having all around romps in the barnyard grass. Her personality perked.
Lily was no longer quiet about life. Eagerly, she showed her humans that she could howl like a wolf, if needed, yet with a little eye contact, she was just as capable of carrying on a conversation, of sorts, with humans. Lily being Lily, she ascended to alpha dog in her canine pack of three.
Lily’s family travels quite a bit. In particular, her humans are serious college football fans. In less than six months and in time for her first football season, Lily shed the weight that had been too much for her age and for her hips. She was on her way to a victorious season of football trips, especially the pre-game activities inside and outside the family RV.
When it came time for an extended family wedding, Lily attended, of course, and was included in the official wedding photos. In her first year of so many firsts, Lily’s world of canine and human contact is ever more. Lily no longer lacks for family, for care, for life in any way, a true alpha dog of her canine and human pack.
It’s the kind of story that takes us out of lack into what is best in all of us, canine or human. Lily, lacking all except her ability to be, created a chance for humans to prove they are able, always, to be more.
And that is powerful.
Rhythm of ROW80 Sunday Scheduling:
This week, I begin a month-long workshop with Bob Mayer on Idea and Conflict. For the rest of this round of ROW80, I will work with the idea of my current manuscript so I may actually turn the story into a novel.
Daily, I write for at least 30 minutes, often longer, generating at least 1,000 words per day for blog posts as well as some creative nonfiction.
Cooper has taken up trailblazing, unusual for just-content-to-be-Cooper but Guyte McCord Park —an environmentally sensitive hideaway of creeks, ponds, and bridges—brings out the explorer in everyone. In the last few days, however, Cooper and I discovered a different trail, the one that ends at the Rainbow Bridge. I recognized it right away, and I’m marking our every step.
Cooper has disc disease—some liver issues as well–there are meds to keep him comfortable so he has time before he crosses his last bridge. Even as an older dog of eleven, Cooper has enjoyed reasonably good health, other than taking a daily Pepcid for most of this last year. Essentially, Cooper views the world in terms of how edible it is, often deciding to take a chance. This lifelong habit seems to have caught up with him.
Appropriately, his previous owner named him Snoopbut it was his handsome gait that captured my eye so I searched for a name that rhymed with Snoop and came up with Cooper. He honestly took to it, as if no longer being called Snoop could gloss over his goat-like tendencies. Cooper has always relied on subterfuge—sometimes enlisting his lifelong partner, feline EmmaRose—my rather distracted way of going through life has been a pure positive for him.
With every animal that enters my life—especially the old ones now that I, too, am old—it feels as if we were made for each other but being older is better in so many ways. It means we dispense with the silliness of youth that plagues almost every species, and we concentrate on what matters: food, naps as necessary, “bye-bye in the car.”
Every time Cooper hears those words, joy just fills him, especially his happy ears; one darts sideways and curls just as the other shoots straight up to flap over. Who knew joy could be like that. I’ve never captured it on camera for I cannot say the words to him without meaning them nor can I make him wait after I’ve said them.
Cooper goes everywhere with me, not much of an exaggeration, for if Cooper can’t go where I’m going, I truly consider whether I want to go. Often, I don’t go. To be honest, most of my social activity is online as my own physical activity is restricted, yet my reclusive human nature is well suited to animal life, especially canines and felines.
As long as Cooper can go along for the ride, he’s happy wherever we go. A stroll in the park is a bit more of a bonus than going to the grocery store but first and foremost, he just loves to ride in the car. Cooper would ride across the panhandle of Florida every day, with infrequent potty breaks. It might be the only time where food would not be a priority…it means that much to him.
Cooper watches the world one window at a time; these days, he rides in the back of my Toyota Scion. When he could still ride in the passenger seat, he’d sometimes put his paw on my hand. I miss that but to keep him riding, I use his dog ramp, which makes it so easy for him to walk up and into the back of the car. With the back seat down, he has a comforter, pillows and a small bed, which he rearranges from time to time.
We listen to classical music, which suits us both, as it allows conversation, although we don’t converse a lot. Mostly, I try to remember where we’re going or what I need to pick up at the store because my list is still on the pad of paper. Sometimes, vocalizing items helps, often not. Cooper is always ready to respond with his brown Beagle eyes—I’m learning to look for them in the rearview mirror—he’s mostly mystified that any being could go on so but he is quite capable of relaying, “what were you thinking?”
Infrequently, Cooper initiates a conversation. He’s one for tonal nuance, that Cooper, so I am mindful of my tone, not so much with what I say. I have heard him bark just once, in response to an unusually harsh rapping at the front door, but Cooper was abashed by his behavior, as if he never meant to let that happen. We’ve never discussed it.
Like any canine, Cooper lives life moment to moment, adjusting, always ready to ride. It is comforting that he will have a long last ride to Second Chance Farmswhen the Rainbow Bridge is the only bridge we have left. But in this moment, he is sleeping, snuggled against me, and we are as we have always been.
ROW80 Wednesday Word Marking:
From January 2 until February 4, my goal was to write 250 words per day—as blog posts, fiction, or nonfiction–for an approximate total of 8250 words.
Beginning February 4, I started the “30-minute” stretch in which I write for 30 minutes. So far, that has generated just over 9,300 words, averaging about 900 words a day and now the writing is for longer than 30 minutes. It still takes care of the mind minutia so my other writing is more focused. I am still “keeping” between 250 and 300 words beyond those 900, which means with ROW80, I am just over 20, 300 words. For me, these numbers are really something.
On this day of the noble SOPA and PIPA protests to protect Internet freedom, here is the freedom story of beagle Snoop (now Cooper) and feline Emma (now EmmaRose), who got a little help from another beagle named Gumby.
Ten year old Snoop and his cat, Emma, had been together for all of Emma’s six years. Then, their elderly owner was admitted to an assisted living facility. The “mature pair” was taken to an animal shelter where they were separated immediately.
Snoop’s geriatric status meant he was not adoptable so he was facing euthanasia. Emma was being held, although she most likely would have contracted a respiratory infection as she waited, which would have meant euthanasia for her as well.
Second Chance Farms, Inc. (SCF) decided Snoop and Emma deserved better. “We became aware of their situation and couldn’t help feel sorry for this lifelong pair who were first separated from their beloved owner and then from each other. We decided to take them both into our program so that they could be reunited and have a chance at being adopted by a forever family.”
Five months later, my beagle, Gumby, crossed the Rainbow Bridge. She was an elderly, SCF graduate, whom I’d adopted. For three years, I took her beagling, and she taught me Zen. Thus, on January 19, 2011, I found myself turning down the familiar SCF road– tears turning into sobs of loss—then, the moment passed. Gumby was with me.
SCF seemed to sense Gumby’s presence as well. “As if Gumby had orchestrated the whole thing, Snoop and Emma were welcomed into the open arms (literally) of Gumby’s mom. Snoop clearly knew that his job was to help Gumby’s mom heal after the loss of her special friend, and he eagerly greeted his new mom with many kisses and excitedly jumped into the car (along with his cat, Emma) when it was time to leave the farm to head to their new home.”
Today is Snoop’s (Cooper’s) eleventh birthday and tomorrow, January 19th, he, Emma (EmmaRose), and I celebrate our first year together.
As Dr. Mac said to Snoop just before we left, “You did everything right.”
Indeed, you did, birthday boy, indeed you did.
Rhythm of ROW 80 Wednesday Words:
Since January 2, I have written at least 250 words per day or more than 4250 words.
I know better than to announce which day a blog post will publish. Ditto for submission deadlines to secondchancefarms.org, although Leashed will be submitted soon.
Frankly, it feels good to be struggling with the familiar structure issue. It certainly is a reason I am participating in ROW 80.
Tomorrow, I start writing for two hours each morning. By next Sunday, I hope to have a specific time designated but that may be a step too far. Lupus lives with me 24/7 so structure with flexibility.
Have begun my work with the first verse of the Tao–the nameless and the named 10,000 things–in Wayne Dyer’s book, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life. The idea of writing a blog post for each verse appeals to me, daunting as it is. For now, the verse provides enough energy.
My morning meditation with Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening continues to work well. May have found a daily routine for the rest of my life.
So far, I am writing at least one hour every day. The wording on this goal is deliberate in that an hour’s worth of writing–usually more– is accomplished each day. My plan is to make this goal more specific as the 80 days count down so there is no word count this week.
As for blog posts, “Grace in the Ether” is in draft and will be published on Saturday; between now and Sunday, I will submit “Leashed” for secondchancefarms.org.
By Sunday, I hope to make my morning meditation a regular part of my routine.