Monday, July 7, 2008

The Unexpected-- Openings: Grace speaks

This is a photo my two-legged took of a burrowing owl. After my two-legged, Soft-Tone, found these owls at the Marina, she visited them every day until they left in late spring. This was after I had passed on. I tell you things about us which will help you to understand my story.

Three hundred sixty-five days of every year Soft-Tone and I walked, ran, and played ball. She took me every day. I was always the leader, I ran ahead.

Sweet-One, (My two-leggeds have many names.), said, “It’s ‘cause you’re an Aries, doggie, that’s why you always have to be in front, right?” She’d laugh and I’d smile and wag.

I liked leading. I go ahead to scout, to sniff things out, to decide if it’s okay to go forward, find the news from other dogs, find balls, and because I love running. I love being ahead and seeing everything that’s happening. That’s who I am.

Rain, sun, fog, wind, mud, freezing, scorching heat, whatever the conditions, we were out there. I remember only two times my whole life when the weather was beating us back that I thought I might want to get out of it.

One of those mornings we were out at Point Isabel, a park for dogs to run free, swim, get in competitions of tail angles, Alfa Competitions the two-leggeds call it. We were the only ones out there and that always made Soft-Tone laugh out loud. The wind and cold rain were slashing horizontally against us.

“Wow! It’s wild out here, Gracie. Soft-Tone said excitedly and laughed. “It’s wild!” And she threw her arms wide open to the wind and rain and let it beat her face and her chest. I was impressed.

After about fifteen minutes, she looked at me—my tail and my head—my whole body was down, sort of retracting. She said, “Gracie girl, you’re not having a good time. It must be extreme if you’re crouching like that. Let’s go, girl.”

We turned around and I perked up and pranced a little because I knew we were leaving the gale winds. I even plumed my tail. I smiled.

I loved when my Sweet-One took me with her places. Staying alone at home wasn’t for me. I hated it. I felt lonely. So when she opened the back of the station wagon one Saturday morning and my Number Two, her daughter, Gentle Hands, came too, I was thrilled. I never cared where we went, just that we were together. Every outing was an adventure. I leapt in.

We were driving to San Francisco. I was looking out at the water and feeling happy to be together with my pack. Suddenly I lost my balance and fell into the side of the car. I couldn’t stand up. I started to shake. I didn’t know what was happening. Every time I tried to stand I tipped over.

Soft-Tone heard the sound and looked in the rearview mirror. “Gracie, what’s wrong? Shit, I can’t stop.”

“Mom, what?” Gentle Hands said.

“Look back there and see if you can see what’s wrong with Grace. It looks like she can’t stand up.”

We were approaching the Bay Bridge and there was no pulling over or stopping. Soft-Tone kept talking. “It’s okay, sweetie. We’ll get over the bridge and we’ll see what’s going on. It’s okay sweetie.”

Gentle Hands was reaching through the barrier, petting me and encouraging me to stay lying down because even sitting I fell over.

When we got into San Francisco Soft-Tone parked, opened the back hatch and watched as I stood up and jumped out onto the pavement. I shook myself and was a little unsteady but not much. I felt better.

“Let’s see you walk, Gracie.” Soft-Tone watched me. I trotted around, sniffed, collected news. I felt fine. A little stiff.

She felt my body. Ran her hands down my spine, my head, legs, tail, chest. She squatted in front of me, looked in my eyes and kissed my nose. I loved that. I felt her worry and Number Two, my soccer partner, my charge to protect, I felt her worry the strongest. Gentle Hands. I also call her Sweet-Names because she called me many sweet names, love names.

“You seem fine, Gracie. But something happened. I’m going to ask the vet.”

I think I was about nine in two-legged years then. For the next four years, imperceptible at first to all of us, I began slowing.

Hey, I tell you I am a filled-with-energy, love to run and play being. I’m always ready to go. Every moment is exciting and unknown. I still feel that way. Slow, was not something I knew.

So, I didn’t know I was slowing. My black muzzle was showing a little grey, my brilliant tan points: my eyebrows, epaulets, my cockatiel cheeks as my Sweet-One called them, were fading. But no one noticed or said anything. I think sometimes when you love someone you don’t notice something that you don’t want to see. Because she loved ME.

When Soft-Tone explained the incident to John, my doctor, he said the incident was probably arthritis. I had been taking arthritis tablets for a couple of years. They were yummy and I think they helped. But Soft-Tone knew that the car incident wasn’t arthritis. She told John that but as he checked me he said there was nothing else.

“She has a slight heart murmur,” he said, “but that wouldn’t cause this. I think it’s the arthritis.”

Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you every creak and crunch I acquired during those four years, but it became harder to jump into the back of our station wagon. I weighed fifty pounds. Soft-Tone began researching ramps; phone calls, store visits, Internet, tried this and that.

One morning I was standing waiting as she opened the back hatch and she said, “Okay, Grace, I’ve got a new idea. Come back here.” We walked ten feet away from the open hatch. “Okay, we’re going to run to it, you’re going to jump and I’m going to help you leap.”

That sounded fun. I took off, I launched and in mid air I felt her sweet arms and hands encircle my middle and continue to support me and encourage me forward in my trajectory. That was our new strategy. I loved it. The feeling of jumping. With her help I could still do it. We did it every day.

At the Marina there are beautiful narrow dirt trotting paths that go up hills so at the top you can see all around the Bay, almost three-hundred sixty degrees. There are beautiful dirt trotting paths that lead down to the water. We loved going up and down these every morning. Of course I ran ahead down them and took detours hoping to sniff a rabbit or hear the squeak of a ground squirrel and tear after it. Yummy.

But somewhere in those four years after the car incident, Sweet-One and I changed places. One day we were walking down one of our favorite paths and I stopped and sat by a big outcropping of pampas grass while she continued down to the water. She thought I was detouring for a squirrel.

As I sat, the beautiful silvery tan plumes blew in the wind above my head. I tipped my nose up sniffing and thinking; my tail is majestic like these pampas plumes.

I had stopped about two thirds of the way down the hill. I waited. At the bottom Sweet-One turned around as usual to come back up but unexpectedly I was not leaping after a rabbit or running close to catch up after a side exploit. She saw me sitting.

“Gracie! Oh my gosh. I’ve never seen you stop or sit. You’re waiting for me aren’t you?” She walked up to me. “It’s too hard on your haunches to come all the way down this hill and go back up? I’m so sorry. What a fabulously clever girl you are to wait here.” And she hugged me. But I felt her sadness.

Sweet-One observed me from then on in a way she hadn’t before except to sing my beauty. She talked to me about what she saw. “Gracie, I think you’re not hearing the way you used to. Now I see you hear a normal sound but your ears perk up and you sometimes put your tail between your legs as if you’re hearing something scary. You come and put your nose on me or lean into my legs for protection. Something you’ve never done before except when you hear the street sweeper. Sometimes you don’t seem to hear someone coming up the steps, or at the door. I love you.” She hugged me.

I am a great lover of balls. When Gentle Hands was two and a half she learned from her mom how to throw a tennis ball for me, how to tell me to drop it, and how and when it was safe to pick it up again.

Often I grabbed the ball back after I’d put it down. I’d put it down in front of the two-legged’s feet, but I’d keep my muzzle down two inches at most away from the ball. I didn’t move a muscle. Only my eyes moved, watching the hand. I’d wait until the hand got almost to it and then I’d snatch it. Sometimes I got the hand too. I was quick and it was fun. But the two-leggeds didn’t like it much. Gentle Hands’ mom taught her how to get me to move farther away from the ball, how to be Number Two Alfa. It took a while. It was fun.

I loved soaring through the air to catch a fly ball, catch a line drive, a ball on the bounce, it didn’t matter. I never missed. People at Point Isabel joked about how the Oakland A’s could use me on their team.

I began missing the ball. Sometimes it bounced off my teeth. I didn’t know why. It was very frustrating and unsatisfying. It didn’t feel good. “My sweet Gracie. I think you’re not seeing the way you used to.” She’d hug me and pet me and toss me another ball, close up. Sometimes I still missed it.

One day she said, “Grace, maybe I can get some help for you so you don’t have to suffer. I’m going to journey.”

I had lain on the rug many times when she lay down and journeyed to the spirit world and when she danced and sang. Now, she journeyed to my spirit to ask permission to do healing work for me. The spirits can offer information and help but the journeyer must get a person’s permission to work for them.

The information received is sacred so one must think about whether or not to share this information and if so, why and what part of the information may be shared. Is there a purpose for sharing?

What I’ll tell you now is a compilation of several journeys Sweet-One took to talk with my spirit about healing me. Many aspects are not appropriate for me to discuss so I omit them.

She journeyed and found my spirit who looked different than I do. After a greeting Sweet-One said, “I really want to relieve Grace’s suffering.”

“She’s not suffering.” My spirit said.

“But she doesn’t hear accurately, and she gets scared. She has a heart murmur, the vet says.”

“It’s all stuff-stuff of getting old.” My spirit said.

“I feel like I’m falling asleep.” Sweet-One said.

“Maybe you need to take little naps like we do.” Spirit said.

I rolled over laughing and whapping my tail on the floor. I find the spirits very funny.

“Do you want me to work on you to cure your hearing?” Sweet-One asked.


My Sweet-One could not believe her ears. She was shocked. A lengthy discussion followed about why not.

“It seems like you’re suffering because in not hearing accurately you’re fearful.”

“Yes, but this is the way we go. Things deteriorate on the way to death. It’s a natural process.”

“But it’s my job to alleviate suffering.”

“I can see you have a lot of compassion for Grace. You can do the work if you want to.” My spirit said.

“But I want to do what you want.” Sweet-One said.

“You may be doing it for yourself,” she said. “I’m ambivalent. And just so you know, I’m fine.”

“But you seem to be coming to me a lot and asking for reassurance because you’re scared.”

“That’s true,” spirit said. “You can do anything that is loving. I believe this is a loving gesture you’re making. But it’s good to think about this.”

So Sweet-One thought about what my soul told her. She was still shocked that my soul told her, “No.” She had just assumed it would say, “Yes.”

In thinking about it she realized that she was suffering seeing me suffer. She wanted to stop her suffering and mine. It dawned on her that she needed to separate her will from the situation.

She journeyed after that to learn how her will might get in the way of her healing work. She kept thinking about it. One and a half months later she journeyed to my soul again for a teaching on her will and was instructed.

“You can watch me.” My soul said. “I love you.” They floated down a stream together in a canoe watching life happen. “If you watch, you won’t use your will so much. It will just flow.”

A few weeks later she journeyed again. She told my spirit that she realized something. “I know I don’t want Grace to die. I will be so freaked out. I’m frustrated that I can’t understand what’s going on with her. I realize I’m very frustrated and scared.”

“She’s with you all the way. You can just be with her. She loves you and is tuned in to you.” My spirit said.

“But I don’t understand what’s going on with her.” Sweet-One said.

Sometimes two-leggeds are dense. It’s curious. I think they’re not properly equipped to embrace life. But my Number Two, Gentle Hands, understood, maybe because she was young. By the time she was three years old and I was a teenager we knew each other pretty well. She sat and talked with me my whole life. She told me everything.

“Just sit with Grace. Be with her. She just wants to be with you.” My soul said. “She’s talking to you all the time.”

Sweet-One realized she felt helpless. Helpless to relieve my suffering. In the face of that and not understanding, her impetus was strong to do something. Finally, she understood.

From that moment on Sweet-One changed. It would be eight months before I passed. She slowed her walking so that she walked with me, not ahead. She talked with me all the time we walked. She sat with me often and talked with me. She listened to me. She looked into my eyes. And she stroked, petted me and sang my praises. I was in heaven.

She came into rooms I was in, sat on the floor by me and talked with me. These times with my Sweet-One were as joyous as when I was swimming out for a ball she threw into the Bay when I was younger. And these times were different. She really placed her being with mine. It was beautiful. Unexpected. Our relationship, our bond deepened. She was totally with me. The communication was visceral. An unexpected gift of love and pleasure.

When I think about it, my finding her when I was lost on the street was unexpected. I didn’t expect her to say, yes, to keep me. For her, too, I was unexpected, as was her acceptance of me. That my soul said, no, to her request to heal me was unexpected and shocking for her. The stroke I had in the car was unexpected. The unexpected offered so many openings. Look where it took us. To joy. To a teaching about will and healing. To deep pleasure between us. To unfathomed love. All unexpected.

I tell this story to encourage opening to the unexpected. What may seem at first adverse, may, if you open to it, bring unexpected gifts. To joy in each moment. To deep pleasure. To unfathomed love.

I thank you Sweet-One, for making it possible for me to write this.