dogs waiting on steps

dog

“we live in lonely times, and dogs can go a long way toward alleviating loneliness—but I think the more important truth has to do not with modern culture but with dogs themselves, and with the remarkable, mysterious, often highly complicated dances that go on between individual dogs and their owners. That dance is about love. It’s about attachment that’s mutual and unambiguous and exceptionally private, and it’s about a kind of connection that’s virtually unknowable in human relationships because it’s essentially wordless.” ~ Caroline Knapp, “Pack of Two: The intricate Bond Between People and Dogs”

The kennel where I sometimes board Java and Latte has a big fenced in area where customers can bring their dogs to play. I’ve never seen anyone actually use this fenced in area, so when Steve and I brought the dogs there, we had the whole area to ourselves.

Within the fence, there is a place to grill food, an automatic waterer for the dogs and water fountain for people. There are a few pieces of agility equipment and a pond that Java cooled off in right before we left. She didn’t seem to care that we hadn’t brought a towel to use to dry her off.

When we took the dogs off their leashes, first they walked around sniffing at things. As soon as Latte realized how much space she had to run in, she took off, taking a swipe at Java on her way.

dogs playing

Java will run full bore after Latte but she quickly realizes she cannot keep up with a low to the ground, running and dodging machine. So she tries another tactic, waiting for Latte to get close and then throwing her body into Latte’s path, except that Latte can change course and fake you out better than any football player.

dogs playing

The pure joy on Latte’s face when she is running is the best medicine for anything that ails me. Well, at least I think that’s joy…

dog running

When I get home from work, Latte and I play crazy running games and hide and seek in the house (much to my wood floor’s dismay). Latte runs from the living room, over the bed, under the bed — where she waits — until I get close then SPRINGS OUT and goes back over the bed and under the bed and around the living room — over and over again. I run after her, cut her off, dodge and dart, get down on my hands and knees as we bow to each other, ready to spring.

Latte is my laughter dog. She cracks me up with her antics and the way she will talk to anyone who will listen with a series of noises that are difficult to describe.

dog photo posing

Please don’t make me sit still for a picture

dog photo posing

Okay. Quick take a picture while I’m doing my happy face.

 

 

dog tired of being photographed

That’s enough of that. I’m out of here!

I can’t count the number of times that the happiness of a dog has flowed in my direction, but it’s one of the reasons I have dogs. Surely, it’s one of the reasons we all have dogs. We don’t spend nine billion dollars a year on dog food just to have dog hair all over our couches… Dogs make us happy, because if dogs do anything well, it’s being happy themselves, and happiness–bless it–is catching. ~ Patricia B. McConnell, Ph. D., “For the Love of a Dog”

But Java is my heart dog, my calm down and relax dog. She barks and tries to intervene with the Latte frenzy. She brings me her stuffed zebra or dragon so I will play with her too, but it is much more of a loping play and ends quickly when Java runs back towards me but then takes a quick left into the bedroom where she and her stuffed buddy go back to bed.

Dog fetching ball

Dog fetching ball

Dog rest time

Millions of us have been comforted by our dogs, there’s no doubt about it. Just petting a dog lowers your blood pressure and decreases your hear rate. No one doubts that dogs can influence our emotions just by being there. ~ Patricia B. McConnell, Ph. D., “For the Love of a Dog”

I can’t imagine what it would be like coming home from work, without these two waiting on the steps as I walk in the door, making me feel welcome and important as I arrive back home. OK. So they were waiting a bit long here and looking a little less than enthusiastic… Still, my faithful friends await me.

dogs waiting on steps

Sorry guys. Bad traffic…

The look they give me, that expectation that something good comes from me — games, walks, food, new places to see and smell, lap cuddles — how do I explain what this means to me except to say that everyone needs to know that they matter.

To my dogs, I am a magician, pulling rabbits out of my hat. And I think that’s a pretty good thing to be.

dogs

Highland Cattle

Highland Cattle

I took this series of photos, trying to capture just the right water drippage as this cow (or is it a steer?) drank water out of an automatic waterer. I was on a local farm tour so there were other people in my way, a fence limited my angles and how close I could get, the sun was too bright, there was background stuff that I knew would be difficult to cut out, and I was using my camera’s manual mode as the auto-mode was over exposing the shot. Did I mention I’m no expert on the best ISO, aperture, shutter speed, white balance, auto-focus versus continuous-focus combination to use in a given situation?

Highland Cattle FarmTour2016-26-5 FarmTour2016-27-6

I was disappointed with the sharpness and detail when I downloaded the photos onto my computer. As I scrolled through the shots with a critical eye, I forgot about all the things I’d seen that day.

I forgot about the exploration and experimentation I’d done.

Flowers

I forgot the ideas that were prompted as I looked at how other people were housing their chickens and what herbs they were growing.

chickens

I forgot about how I had spent the day trying different camera setting combinations and purposely overexposing or moving the camera to create blur. It’d been a long time since I’d spent so much time playing with my camera.

But I forgot all that.

At the end of the day, what it came down to was the result. Did any of the photos contain what I had tried to capture? Were they different than my usual shots? Were there any photos that I was actually proud of?

Trying to get to “good” (preferably “excellent”) is something I struggle to approach with any form of patience.

Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.” It’s going to bed at night thinking, “yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am brave and worthy of love and belonging.” ~ Brene Brown, “Rising Strong”

This is one of those statements that I respond to with a resounding “YES!” and yet I continue with the habit of being very hard on myself. I’m even being hard on myself about being hard on myself! Good grief!

I feel like so much of what I write here is about struggling. I’m sure you are tired of it, as am I. But am I alone in this? I doubt it.

It’s hard to believe that the woman writing the above and the woman floating around laughing below are the same person. And yet they are.

selfie

Take note of this contradiction next time you compare yourself to all those confident, happy people on Facebook and Instagram.

We’re all struggling in some way. OK, maybe there is someone out there who isn’t but most of us have “stuff.”

What I’m learning, though, is to be grateful for the moments when I am not performing. The times when I’ve dropped my guard and am not worried about how good of an impression I’m making.

Such moments are not always the happy, laughing kind but they are authentically real and alive.

It’s the mix of the sweet and the salty that creates a beautiful, imperfect life.

floating in pond

horse trail riding

horse trail riding

“The Feeding of the Muse then, seems to me to be the continual running after loves, the checking of these loves against one’s present and future needs, the moving on from simple textures to more complex ones, from naïve ones to more informed ones, from non intellectual ones to intellectual ones.” ~ Ray Bradbury

I believe to write well, you need to live well. How else can you describe a scene with all of its smells, sounds and textures? You have to pay attention. You have to run after loves.

Not all the things I’ve come to love started out that way. Bike riding didn’t. But I’m a curious soul. I read about something or hear someone talk about it, and I want to see for myself what this “thing” is like.

But there’s more than curiosity and wanting to live well that drive me to run after loves. I’ve also found that having as much in my life that I love, that challenges me and, at the same time, makes me feel at home in my own skin helps me to deal with the anxiety and fear that shadows my days.

Life is pretty good right now. So why would I feel anxious, overwhelmed and afraid? This is a question I’ve asked myself throughout my life. Sometimes there’s been a good reason for these feelings but more often lately, there is not.

And who knows why… Genetics. Environment. Trauma. Habit – a groove dug so deep in my brain that it would take more than a bump of a hand to send the needle sliding to a different beat. Hmmm, a record metaphor. I think I just dated myself.

Finding the why is futile and meaningless, at least that’s what I’ve come to believe. I’m not willing to waste any more time on it. Anyway, finding out why has been for other people’s sake, not mine. To explain and justify. To find understanding. To stop people from telling me to “Get over it.” Or accuse me of not trying. Or of doing this to myself.

In other words, this undetermined, unreasonable anxiety is a character defect that some weakness and flaw in me refuses to overcome.

I know the things I love doing — the things that get me outside in nature and engage me physically and mentally. The things where I feel connected to the bigger, natural world and its occupants.  I also know that some of the things I love doing mean facing fear, which generally comes from doubt in myself. Take horseback riding.

horse trail riding

Yesterday I went trail riding on my own. I’ve gone out alone once since I moved Luke to his new home. There were points during that ride and during many previous rides when I would see Luke’s head shoot up, feel his back drop and his muscles tense. Sometimes he will stop or he might start to nervously gait. If something really blows his mind, he might spin around to head back towards where we came from at a dead run.

These things don’t happen often, but they have happened. I’ve never gotten hurt by Luke through any of his panics. But as a I age, I’m not as confident in my physical strength and ability to ride out a storm, should one occur.

Riding past my fear means putting what I’ve learned from my meditation practice into play — deep breathing and relaxing my muscles from head to toe — not just for my own relaxation but so Luke doesn’t pick up any trepidation on my part.

To make an already long story shorter, Luke and I are both still alive. There were a few tense moments from the sound of a dirt bike on the other side of the river and, as we approached the trail head, we ran into a whole lot of horses, people,  and trailers. Luke heard them before we could actually see them, which was a big part of the problem.

Since we’ve been riding in arenas for the past four years, Luke is no longer used to so much commotion. But once we came out into the open, where he could see everything plainly, Luke relaxed and we calmly rode the rest of the way back to the barn.

After the ride, I felt happy, light, and kind of proud of myself and of Luke. I realized that what frightened Luke on the trail was not what he saw. It was what was out of site and unknown.

It’s the same for me. Which may be why I want to know and experience so many things. The broader I can make my view of the world, the less there is to fear.

prairie restoration

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