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Too afraid to cross the threshold

Dogs in my Life – Part 3 / Dog 4

“Open the door and let it come in. It will fill your mind and dance with your heart.”
― Debasish Mridha

It is amazing how elastic the heart is. When we put Alja to sleep for the last time (all the euphemism for killing a dog are somehow terrible), I thought I would shatter. She had been very sick but we were hopeful that she could get better and then suddenly she was gone. For weeks, I couldn’t think of anything else. Even now, months later, things happen and I think how she would react and how she was. My Sweet Pea. I miss you.

But there has been a dog in our house for more than 17 years and eventually even in the pain I felt, I needed to hear the click of claws on the floor and feel warm fur under my hand. We wanted a Kuvasz because once you are experienced the strength, intelligence and loving openness of these dogs paired with an exceptional beauty, you want more of it. All of the breeders within reasonable travel distance weren’t expecting puppies for up to a year and somehow I didn’t want to wait that long. So we started looking for Kuvaszes to rescue and found German clubs that support Hungarian Shelters to place dogs. They had several Kuvaszes to adopt and we decided on Aranyosh. There were two cute videos of her and she looked so sweet. We also asked an animal communicator to talk to her to see if she would like to come. With everything seemingly ok, two weeks later I drove down to the parking lot in southern Germany where the Shelter brought several dogs to their new owners and was given a dirty, scarred, battered and terrified creature you almost couldn’t call a dog.

During the drive home, after a hefty struggle to shove her into the car, I was shell shocked. She didn’t look like a Kuvasz to me, and she was so scared, I thought we would never be able to deal with her. I called my husband still on the road and told him I still wanted to get a puppy because Aranyosh wasn’t what I had been expecting or wanting. When I finally got home, he carried her into the house because she wouldn’t come in on her own. She was trembling and laid herself right in front of the door and wouldn’t take another step into the house. It was nearly midnight so we just went to bed. The next morning, we thought about giving her back but I felt like we had made a commitment and that we couldn’t give back such a traumatized animal. It just wouldn’t be right. We would just have to figure out how to help her to trust us and find a home with us.

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Laying under one of her favorite trees.

Fast forward 6 weeks. We are still struggling with some issues – parts of the house are still too scary to explore – but the change in her is amazing. A couple of baths (one wasn’t enough) and brushings and the magic of baloney (her favorite inducement to try something new) and you wouldn’t recognize her as that terrorized heap that I picked up in August. She is half the size of Alja so most of the neighbors have decided they like her better (I guess she isn’t so scary to them but they never really knew Alja). And also because she doesn’t bark quite as much but that is also changing as she more and more accepts that this is her house and her yard. And she loves to cuddle! She is still trying to train us to let her be outside 24/7 but baloney helps and when I sit on the couch to watch TV and knit, she is usually laying on her bed behind my shoulder, grunting every once in a while to let me know she is there. We have decided not to get a puppy at the moment. It seems like too much and we are afraid it would make her nervous again. But we are enjoying long walks with her through the woods and learning about who she is. We call her Yoshi. She can twist herself in amazing directions in her attempt to make you think she isn’t dangerous. So I had a Bunny Dog (Weia), a Monkey Dog (Alja) and now I have a Wormy Dog and my heart is learning to love again.

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My mother and I backstage at Carnegie Hall,

On the Tightrope

But she wasn’t around, and that’s the thing when your parents die, you feel like instead of going in to every fight with backup, you are going into every fight alone.
―Mitch Albom, For One More Day

On June 5, 2016, it will have been five years since my mother died. Somehow I feel like I never really grew up until she was gone. I feel now like I am walking a highwire without the net that I had always sensed beneath me, always took for granted without really noticing it was there. My father died when I was in my twenties and that was hard enough but my mother was there. Always. We fought, we bitched and sometimes I felt like she was the biggest pain – but she was always there.

I have to admit, I didn’t appreciate all she did for me when she was alive. I was too wrapped up in my own drama and my own story about what she “didn’t do” or “hadn’t done”. Now that she is gone, I think of so many things and I realize every day what my responsibility was in our relationship. I would so like to apologize for what I did, what I said, to tell her I am sorry I was such an ingrate, so unfeeling sometimes to the point where she said once that she was afraid of me. But I have only realized those things now because that net is gone and that feeling of vertigo is what makes me look in the first place.

My neighbor above me where I teach has a little boy, just under two years old. My neighbor is beautiful, intelligent and strong willed. She is over 30 and a therapist. She has always seemed to me to have everything going for her.-But I watch her struggle every day not to give in to her feelings of frustration, confusion and anger when her son doesn’t want to do what she would like him to do. He is a little ray of sunshine most of the time but she told me that last week he threw himself down in the middle of street screaming and beating his hands on the pavement. She wasn’t even sure why he did it. She had a look on her face I will never forget.

And I think of my mother, beautiful, intelligent and strong-willed and the mother of three children before she was 25 in an era where women were supposed to function regardless of what they were going through or how overwhelmed they felt. When I was five, my mother pushed my father to support her to finish her degree so that she could teach school. It was unusual at the time and I really see myself in that bull-headedness. I know that she “felt” better after she started teaching, more herself, more in control. And the money she made was used for us. It helped pay for all of our schooling and got everyone of us out of a financial disaster or two. Funny enough, I never saw that as an expression of her love. Not until she was gone. I never understood what money might mean to a depression baby, who had lived on the road during World War II because her father was a colonel in the army and they moved a lot. Now I know and it is too late to tell her.

I think of her every day. I miss her every day. For some things, there a no second chances. Take every chance you get to say I love you. Don’t wait.

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