This blog post is brought to you by beef neckbones. 

This morning I got up at 4 a.m. to take Willa out. Neither of us fell back asleep. It’s been a long day. A good day, but a long day filled with puppy care, training, stimulation, more puppy care, dog care, laundry, dishes, and deep thoughts. Not necessarily in that order. 

I have been in a bit of a funk, on and off, for a while. Menopause is the most likely culprit, but as a long time sufferer of PMS, I have learned that hormones don’t create issues. Hormones act like lighthouses, shining the high beams on the issues for a brief period of time, but then they pass on by and the craggy emotional shoreline is in darkness once again. The issues lie in wait, and the unsuspecting seafarer (or husband) should beware. 

So that beam of light has illuminated my rocky moods a few times this year. Being home with the puppy, I struggle with productivity. I can’t get anything done, I whine. I can’t think a single thought through to completion without having to attend to some other living being’s needs. As I’ve complained before – I feel like a stay-at-home mother of toddlers. Five toddlers all with big sharp teeth and self-control issues. I miss being creative, intellectual, productive, or just plain cogent for more than 3 sentences in a row. 

It came to a head the other day when I pushed the gang to try integration too quickly. I had a scuffle. A five dog deep scuffle with the puppy in the middle. I was able to reassert law and order and separate the worst offenders quickly, and without any broken skin or lasting injuries to pride. Scuffles happen. Sharp words, in Belgian or in humanspeak, happen. We all got through it. 

But it sparked a day of funk, of morose deep thoughts about why the fuck I am where I am and what the fuck am I doing with my life anyway? Because even on the good days, the beautiful days, the days where Peeka wears her muzzle and Bindi recalls off a fox, and Willa does a sit AND a down and Brody jumps up for the frisbee… even on those days, I am not “productive.” I am not doing enough to reverse global warming, or actively engage in anti racist efforts. And while that might sound ridiculous, it’s not. I fucking care. And I want to address all the shit that needs addressing, especially since I have the ability (aka privilege) to do so. 

But I’m fried. “No bandwidth” is my rallying cry. I refuse to set goals, because I refuse to keep track of them. It’s not that I am afraid to fail to achieve my objectives, it’s that I’m too fucking tired to care enough to even keep track. The list of shoulds grow ever longer: I should drink enough water, I should walk 10,000 steps every day, I should do more to help finish the house, I should cook more interesting dinners, I should write another book, I should sell more books, ad nauseum. The sad truth is that with an esophageal motility disorder, drinking one glass of water a day is an accomplishment worth cheering. Back when I lived in India, I used to say “don’t attempt to go to the bank and the post office on the same day.” That was setting the bar way too high. Now it’s “don’t try to drink a cup of tea AND a glass of seltzer.” It will take all day.

While I was out walking, thinking about all this stuff, the thought hit me: I don’t know who I am any more. Someone asked me what I would do with more freedom once I have fewer dogs. I kind of shrugged and said “I don’t know. Go to cafes?” Between dogs and trying to swallow, my world has gotten kind of small. I’m not sure what I can do or what I’d like to try to accomplish. I want “it” to be both easier and more meaningful and productive but I no longer know what it is. 

It sounds rather bleak and mid life crisis-y but don’t panic. There’s light at the end of the blog post. You see, then I had to exercise the dogs. It’s been snowing on and off all day, insane blizzard conditions with blue sky and sun interspersed. I went out when it was sunny but found myself throwing the frisbee in a whiteout. I’m working on tidying up Hawkitt’s “front” position and figured we can do a few more reps of commands while the wind is strong, in between throws. He got a few really nice “fronts” completed. While we did that, Brody fetched and tugged with his frisbee. He dropped the frisbee for me, but when I picked it up, he jumped up and grabbed it from my hand. That’s not allowed under normal conditions, since it’s dangerous. But nothing about Brody is “normal conditions” and a few months ago he couldn’t stand up by himself. He is not only given that latitude but his efforts are celebrated. And while all this went on, Peeka and Bindi engaged in an epic mock battle, replete with chasing, paw wacking, and face biting. 

I laughed. I mean, it’s completely ridiculous and crazy, standing outside in the thickly swirling snow, getting utterly dumped on, throwing three frisbees (Hawk, Brody and Bindi) and taking turns tugging with each dog, wearing thrift store pajamas and my husband’s 30 year old LLBean down parka. I’m getting soaked. My hands are freezing — my fleece gloves soaked from saliva and melting snow. And I’m delaying going inside, delaying because the dogs are playing. Peeka is bouncing around like a marionette puppy, all stiffness and awkward parts of her body that don’t bend. But she’s happy. She’s trying. She’s crossed that line from disconnected and checked out to engaged and playing. I won’t end this. I will wait. And Hawk and I do a few more creative fun things with frisbees and tugs and commands. He looks at me with that look when he gets it right. He knows. We’re both elated.

And it hit me: I am giving 5 living creatures a decent life. For at least two (maybe 2.5) of them, this is no mean feat. It’s fucking monumental. Sure, compared to global climate change or habitat destruction, it’s small potatoes, but it’s something. It’s kind. It’s selfless. It’s beautiful. It won’t last forever but for now, it is what I have to offer, and it’s good enough. I can lay this life at the feet of god.

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