Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Dear Olive

Dear Olive,
It's the autumn of your life. So I thought I'd do some remembering out loud.
You came to our family because of my defiant decision to get a dog. In truth, some of my best memories are from moments of the same of dogged determination (pun intended) to do what felt right. I was in a marriage and mentality where I had learned to concede authority and final decisions to my husband and in regards to a dog, the answer was always "no." It was no, for whatever reason, I don't remember why, because we had a huge park of a background and plenty of hands to take care of you.

I remember that it was my birthday and I got up, feeling unusual tingles of excitement race through my body. I wondered if it was the thought of getting a dog, or the idea that I could make a big decision for our family without my husband's consent that thrilled me most. Must have been both. I remember thinking, "to heck with that," the kids and I are in this family, too. We matter; four kids and me, five to one. He had said absolutely "No" to a dog. I knew he'd get really mad, but his controlling anger was nothing new. I would normally have been frightened by the idea, but we were now separated for six months, an anger management agreement arranged by the counselor to "save our marriage." And I needed this. The joy of a dog, to romp, to play with the kids, to hang out with and be part of our family. It had almost become an obsession.

So, I pulled on my jeans, pulled back my hair, long in those days, and daydreamed through a fast breakfast, slipping out of a sleeping house to drive across town, a big city, really, but in CA we say "across town," to the Sacramento animal shelter. I was going to see if God had that "special dog" just for us. In those days I believed that God did all kinds of miracles, if you just opened your eyes and looked around, open to his surprises and blessings. I still believe that, I guess. The kids, partly grown, all wanted a dog in the worst way, I mean, groaning with wishing and squealing with delight kind of way, and I was determined to find the perfect one. Have you ever seen those videos on the media where a parent brings home a dog and the child/children scream and cry with happiness? Like that. So, I went to the Pound, the Sacramento SPCA, on my birthday. I walked the sad concrete aisles of dogs, all who for one reason or another, had become unwanted or discarded. Olive, you and I have something in common, there, but that's a different story, and yours is such a good one. I scanned the cages. There were some dogs eagerly, frenetically jumping up at me, others had retreated to a corner, all the while a deafening barking vibrated up and down past the cages as I walked. I was almost at the end of all the initially seeming endless cages without finding what I was looking for. In the last cell of cages, near the end, there was a pack of dogs all piled on top of one another pawing a look at whomever walked past, at me. I didn't see you at first, because you were so young, still rather small, and all those more aggressive dogs had pushed you underfoot. As I stopped to examine those dogs up on hind legs, tails wagging effusively, I noticed there was a black puppy below them, flattened out. Just then you looked up at me with a soulful, hopeful look. I wasn't sure who you were because you were so surrounded, but I was so surprised to see you there. I called to a keeper to help me get a better look at you. She came and separated you from the rest. You were so timid, so scared, so sweet. Just six months old, a black labrador pup. What could be better?

So, heart soaring, I began the dizzying amount of paperwork, paid for your shots and required neutering, and became informed on your immediate care. You loved being with me, looked so happy, but I couldn't take you home yet, until everything was finished. I hated leaving you, but just a couple of days later, all four kids and I came and got you, everyone wanting to have you sit with him or her, petting you, smothering you in kisses and love. And so, you were officially adopted, had a family and new home. What joy. It's true. God had a gift waiting - it was you.

You were a much better dog than we were dog owners. You had such potential for training, but I was so busy schooling kids, taking care of a family and parents and husband that I didn't  take you to obedience class and you just got to be a dog. Still, it was great. You hung out with us, chased squirrels up the trees religiously, had all kinds of adventures* and even learned how to be kind to our/your cat, André, another "in need of family" animal I brought home for Ryan.

*Camping w/REI booties
*Pulling kids to the park and back on roller blades and skateboard
*Escaping the yard and running to the park, only coming back by us getting you in the car. You        Loved car rides.
*Barking and "protecting" us

I wasn't with you for your last five years. I wish I had been, but I heard you were happy, loved on, and saw pictures with you as fat as a sausage. Happy rainbow crossing, sweet Olive. You've been so loved and you'll be missed.

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