“I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me, they are the role model for being alive.”

Gilda Radner

Self-care in Covid, self-care in Lent, self-care in life. There’s been one constant for me throughout, and that’s dogs. These days, being a dog IS an essential service.

Find me a dog that hasn’t loved quarantine. And not just because we are spending more time at home with them. God knows that’s not been all easy for them. (Home haircuts given by novice groomers are painful–especially when a razor is involved. Not to mention, they are exhausted from all that over-walking.) That said, on the up side – and it mostly is upside for dogs sheltered in place- there is the amount of love and attention they are receiving. ‘Finally’ they say!
But that’s not it, I think they’ve got to sense how relevant they are right now.
They aren’t producing, achieving and delivering to make themselves relevant. Nope. They just are. Reliably at our sides, walking through Covid, and life, with us. They show up, they stay by us (unless there is a squirrel nearby.) They listen, mostly. And they love, anyway, even after we are poorly behaved.

In answer to my friend’s wonder the other day after receiving more tough news, and asking, “What’s the point?”… I think this is the point ~ To love one another while we’re here. To be open and courageous enough to give love, and open and courageous enough to receive it.

Two close friends lost dogs this week.
A beloved 13 year old retriever named Abbey was stoically hobbling her way through old age, with minor conditions and major limitations. She checked out in her sleep, at home, with everyone there. Hospice teaches there are many different ways that people pass–some wait for certain people to be there. Others wait until loved ones leave the room. I suspect dogs might have a similar sensibility.

The second friend lost her dog, but then he was found, 14 hours later. It was an unlikely situation. Enzo is one wilderness savvy dog who went missing on a familiar local trail. I don’t know the adventures he incurred in his 14 hours on a particularly cold night out in bear/ coyote/ elk/ hawk country, but I do know the heroic efforts put forth to find him were done in the spirit of love. Nice to have a happy ending: in the middle of the night, he found his way back home to his parents, asleep in their Sprinter, parked by the trailhead.

When I lost my dog a few years ago I remember laying on the front stoop next to her body, wailing uncontrollably. It was gut wrenching pain, and I tried it make sense of why I was having such a visceral reaction. And then it dawned on me, that the nature of our relationship was entirely visceral. We had no words between us, just instincts, and true (and vulnerable) love, which is gut wrenching to lose.

I was going to write about service today, but instead I wanted to write about dogs, who have been so central in so many of our lives, especially lately.

They are there through all the starry nights, and the dark ones ~ steadfastly so. It occurred to me that dogs have the same need we all have, which is to love and be loved, and to serve and be of service. Namely, to feel relevant in this uncertain world. Or even, to be essential.
Leave it to our dogs to show us the way home.