Carl Friedrich Gauss once said, “Life stands before me like an eternal Spring with new and brilliant clothes.” That may be all well and good for you Mr. Gauss, but the whole, “Spring is beautiful” thing, to me–is crap. I should know, because this morning, I spent an hour shoveling about fifty pounds of the dog version of it into two garbage bags! Spring is not beautiful; Spring is messy! It is what comes after the clean white snow melts and we get to see what has really been going on underneath its pristine lies! Warm and then cold, dirty and wet, mushy and brown, Spring starts out as a hot mess.
So as I stooped outside, I realized that the sunny side of my yard wasn’t nearly as difficult to manage as the shady side. Wearing my adorable pink and green flowered gardening boots, I soon found they were entirely too fancy for the task at hand. Picking and plucking, kicking and then ducking, I found I needed to shove my heel or toe under and over the frozen poopsicles that our delightful, one-year-old puppy decided to deposit in the snow. (Now I know you’re feeling sorry for the boots, I was too, but honestly, it is the most action they’ve ever seen as I don’t, nor do I ever intend to actually garden.)
As if this parade of flying yuck wasn’t difficult enough to manage, I had my dog, Afton, trailing around behind me. Scratching and nosing in the ice, digging for God knows what, and then coming over to lick my face as I bent over her messes … it was a cruelly ironic scene to say the least. So … Spring is eternal alright, but not in the ethereal beauty of poets and painters; Today’s version was more like an episode of the afterlife I will not be a part of.
As awful as it was, I have to say that this morning was about a hundred times better than March 15th a year ago. It was a Friday, and my daughter (three at the time) and I had just dropped off my son to Kindergarten. At nine in the morning we were on a busy road near our home, when I saw a man trying to cross the street. Upset that no one else was stopping for him, I slowed and let him pass. Unfortunately, the drunk driver behind me did not. Hit from behind at about thirty-five miles per hour, I was never more thankful for the five-point-harness that car seats are required to have, or the small voice from the backseat that said, “Sorry mama, I dropped your phone.” Thank God that was it. After getting checked out by the paramedics, we were given the okay. They say that after an accident, you don’t really feel the full effects until later–sound advice, I should have perhaps listened to. But, at the time, I felt fine. I knew I’d stop at the doctor in the next week, but by then it would be too late. Because that night, most likely from the adrenaline-rushed activities of the day, my husband and I weren’t able to sleep. So at two o’clock in the morning, we grabbed his ipad and decided to look at puppies online.
Poor timing as it was, I grew up with German Shepherds myself, and I always wanted a dog. Plus, our daughter had been asking for a puppy since she could talk and had, as of late, adopted an alternate ego of a puppy personality she called, Charlotte. My husband adored this “version” of our daughter, as she didn’t speak the whole time she was in-character. She would bark occasionally, but he relished in the act of throwing a ball for her to fetch for about an hour at a time. It didn’t bother him a bit that she held things in her mouth or licked her brother … but it began to bother me, as I had nightmares of her forgetting how to talk and only “woofing” for our attention. So … we got a dog.
I have to caution you, however, there is a reason you’re not supposed to make any major, life-altering decisions when you have a concussion (which, by the way, was exactly what I was diagnosed as having via the E.R. doctor two days later). The reason behind it is, that you’re not able to really think with your whole logic. Your ability to rationalize is just a little bit foggy. Well, that fog, and restless night of sleep produced a puppy purchase and pick-up the very next day. We bought a twelve-week-old Bernese Mountain Dog who would grow to be between ninety to one-hundred and ten pounds. Yikes!
Last Spring was about as neat as this one, with late nights and early mornings, muddy paws and holes bit into all of our favorite things. Afton was (and still is) a high-maintenance, beauty-of-a-beast. Thinking she is the center of everyone’s world, she often pokes, prods or pushes her way into every conversation until one of us is sitting on the floor with an eighty-pound blanket. If you dare to drop a crumb she is on it faster than lightning and has a particular brilliance at choosing the loudest of toys at the most in-opportune of moments. And yet, we couldn’t imagine our days without her.
Josh Billings once said, “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” This, in my experience, is completely true. I think of myself in the morning: my hair tousled, eyes bleary, stumbling un-gracefully down the stairs with mis-matched pjs and less-than-awesome breath (and I thought Spring was a mess). But from the greeting Afton gives me, you’d think I was the queen of England. She wags and jumps and licks and whimpers like she cannot believe I’d give her a glance. She is too good … too pure of puppy heart and, regardless of the messes she makes, I don’t deserve all the adoring attention she gives.
I think about the way that I casually say, “I love you,” barely glancing at the recipient before I’m off on my way to my own world of whatever I’m doing. And if I do stop to give a hug or kiss, it is quick and hurried, like my speech. But Afton doesn’t love that way. When you give her a moment, she’ll sit with you as long as you’d like. Her love is on your terms … and how often can I say I do the same for the people I love in my life? Rarely at best. I think I’m learning a lot from my dog–virtues I need to be reminded of, like patience, trust and what it means to be selfless.
I guess, this Spring (messy as it is, and messy as I’ll be at it) I’m going to focus on puppy love … because that phrase means a whole lot more to me now.