“I know I should have yelled at him, but I couldn’t help it,” Heather said, with a smile that was just moments away from a laugh.
Well, that’s what happens when you get a Mischief Miracle.
The source, of course, was Blake. For all of his nearly 15 years, our beloved English lab has displayed a paradoxical intelligence: dense as a box of rocks on almost everything, but a genius bordering on Einstein when it comes to acquiring food. (Mind you, since his judgment remains in the “rocks” category, not all of the food that Blake grabs is actually edible – the baby wipes that he once consumed have gone down in family lore.)
But lately, Big Blake the Canine Trash Compactor has been slowing down as time and arthritis catch up. When even the promise of food required a second thought, and a third, and maybe even a fourth before rising to pursue the bounty, it was clear the big guy needed some help. Even after a vet visit, some lifestyle changes and some new pain meds, our concern remained as we wondered whether any of it would take hold.
And then, one morning, Blake paused. His face took on the old “I’m gonna go for it” look. Moments later, right in front of Heather, he lunged for a cereal bar … one that was still in its wrapper, for that matter.
The need for discipline has rarely mixed so thoroughly with the urge for joy.
If you’ve been the parent of a sick child, you may know what I’m getting at here. They get listless, you get worried. And then, you get some minor bit of misbehavior and it’s like the clouds have parted. They’re interested in something, motivated to something, doing something, even if it’s a something you’d rather not have them do.
It’s a sign of normal. For better and worse. But even the worse now goes in the “better” column because you’ve seen the True Worse and have no interest in turning back.
And you still hold your breath a bit. Because normal is oh-so-fragile and you don’t want to jinx yourself by celebrating too soon.
We’re seeing this on a larger scale, of course. As pandemic conditions recede around the country, all sorts of “normal” behaviors and conversations are starting up again, including arguments that might have once been chased to a lower tier by COVID concerns. (Billionaires in space, anyone?) Not everything that’s come back is welcome, but it’s a sign that things are coming back … maybe.
Because there’s still the breath-holding. The glance over the shoulder. The worry that the Delta variant, or some other monkey wrench, will put us through another cycle of grief and uncertainty. The need to still be careful until we’re sure the gap has been well and truly crossed.
With Blake, we know this is something of a respite. He’s a big dog who’s almost 15 years old and even in the best of worlds, you only get so much time. But we’ll take this respite for as long as we can hold onto it.
With the larger world … well, to some extent, it’s in our hands. Do we want this to be just a respite, or the next step upward? Our actions and choices during this time will lay the foundations for either.
Chew on that for a while. But don’t take too long about it.
After all, Blake the Walking Stomach is on the move. And if you’re not going to chew something, he’ll be glad to do it for you.