Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dog is Co-pilot

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about my dog, Ramona.

That's where I have disappeared off to, this world of dog ownership and the swiftest growing of my heart, expanding with love that increases every day.

I have bonded with other dogs before, notably my parent's newish dog Bea and even more significantly the resident dog on the farm I worked at in 2006, Loki.

I'll never forget the day that the lunch bell rang and I lingered in the harvest shed with Loki. Normally, the sound of the lunch bell felt so overdue after a morning in the fields that it was all I - and the other workers - could do to not sprint towards the house. Go slowly, look less desperately hungry, I'd tell myself.

This particular morning, I found myself alone in the harvest shed with Loki by my side. Like Ramona, Loki was a dog that was always underfoot, and like Ramona, I often tripped over him, so surprised I was to find him by my side.

That day, I found myself compelled to plop down on the ground and begin to pet him from forehead to tail. I remember gazing into his eyes and thinking to myself, "I am going to try something. I am going to manifest the biggest orb of love I can and try to transmit it from my hand into Loki."

So I sat there in the shed for a good ten minutes, just petting him over & over, with each pet thinking to myself I love you so much, Loki, I love you so much. Finally the lunch bell rang a second time, with more urgency, and I picked myself up and headed to the house.

Interestingly enough, Loki was not at lunch that day, doing his normal graze between chairs for fallen food. I noticed this but didn't think much of it until hours later when I was back in the field.

I was crawling on my hands and knees, pulling weeds (oh the joy of organic farming) in a field at the top of the hill, when I had the distinct feeling that someone - or something - was watching me. Imagine my surprise when I looked up, and saw Loki just a foot away from my face. Due to my position, we were eye level. I looked at him, thinking What the heck are you doing, pup? And then he took a half step forward, maintaining eye contact, and licked me square on the nose, turning afterwards to run off into the distance.

I felt certain this was his acknowledgment of the exchange we'd had before lunch. Love passed back to me in the way he knew how.

I recall this story as I think of the deep love I felt for Loki and how it compares to what is growing for Ramona. I think there is a difference in the love you feel for a creature you are responsible for,  rather than just enjoying.

I look at Ramona and I think of my friend who said, "You are both rescued." I think that is true. In no disrespect to my wonderful life, career, community, Ramona truly gave me something outside of myself and my goals to be connected to: a reason to rush home after work, awake at the crack of dawn to get in a walk, abuse Google with my dog care questions, and build relationships with strangers who share this one thing in common with me: a canine companion.

I have seen those bumper stickers that say "Dog is Co-Pilot" and though they always made me chuckle, I never really got them until getting Ramona.

It's funny, because a lot of my twenties were about existing without a solid co-pilot. I remarked to many coupled friends how often I was alone, taking care of my mundane tasks and errands, looking at the passenger seat with a bit of longing and uncertainty. Towards the end of my twenties I began to see the gift in my independence, and actually found myself cherishing the moments after dropping off a friend when my passenger seat was empty again and I got to drive home with by myself. And in this space of less desperate longing for a companion, I found Ramona, and she found me.

The other day, I was transported back to the harvest shed with Loki, when I found myself petting Ramona one evening. She was curled up in her dog bed at the foot of my human bed, and I was lying at the very edge leaning over to stroke her with my right hand.

I looked at my hand, and it was like as if I could see golden rays of love and light and nurturing transmitting from my hand to her body. Or, to articulate it another way, I saw myself.

As I pet Ramona and poured my love into her, I realized I was pouring myself into her. Though all I could see was my hand petting her, we never really see ourselves fully, right? Even a mirror image is skewed. And in this moment, in just my hand, in just the action of loving this animal, I saw myself so clearly.

I feel so lucky to have found her.