Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Charlie's Dream Vacation

Over the holidays, I drove to Indiana to visit with my family. Mainly, I wanted to ensure my step-dad, Doug, was alright. He's not quite an old man but he has lived a hard life, and I haven't seen him since my mom passed away over 2 years ago. Although he was the source of a lot of fear as a child (he drank too much), he taught me to love animals. He always had pets: chickens, cows and dogs. I used to spend summer days wedged between branches of a tree, completely immersed in a book. Our beagle, Buttons, would be keeping watch, asleep on the roots. Once our jack russell/terrier mix, B.B. (stood for Black Butt), followed us onto the school bus! I bonded most with Kenzie, a wire-haired terrier mix, who would accompany me on runs and trips to the grocery store. She would bury herself under the covers and keep my feet warm during the winter, when lake-effect weather blew right through our old farm house. Kenzie was also my copilot when my step-dad would get angry and I only felt safe getting the heck out. As I grew up, however, so did he. He stopped drinking. He started taking care of his health, although he still smoke Marlboro's. Despite the difficulties I faced as a kid, I found comfort in the dogs that Doug insisted on having. My step-dad really showed me how to love a dog, and after getting Charlie, I knew they needed to meet.

Here is a little album from Charlie's dream vacation. Charlie was happy to be in the car with me and kept her supplied with snacks and toys. Her favorite spot is on the console. That way she can really see everything. She was a good copilot with Doug too!

For the few days that we visited, Charlie would bound out into the snow and shake herself of the zoomies. When she had finished, she'd sit by the door, waiting for her people to let her back inside. Doug really spoiled Charlie. He bought giant bags of pig ears and beggin strips, which he doled out once an hour. He made knotted socks into toys and delivered her meals on plates, declaring that her snout was uncomfortable eating out of a bowl. Doug didn't penalize her when she stole pizza off my niece's plate. Instead, he got Charlie her own piece! When Charlie and I fell asleep spooning on the sofa, I awoke to Doug giving me a kiss on my forehead. As he covered us with a blanket and clicked off the TV he said, "She's like your guardian angel."

I today is my weekend, and I spent all day eating Shepherd's Pie (made with lentils instead of meat) and napping on the sofa. Charlie was snuggled in next to me during my marathon of laziness. When I'd rise to refill my glass or find the remote, she'd gaze up at me, eyes half closed with her ears down and back as if to say, "Where are you going? It's so comfortable next to you. Don't take long."

I am exhausted because we went on a two hour hike yesterday. (As a side note let me mention that I accidentally dropped her lease in the parking lot of the park just as we arrived and she took off! My cousin, JP, who is over 6 feet tall and mostly made of muscle, darted after her. Swerving and twisting in her trail until he half lunged, half fell over a barricade at the end of the lot. Somehow he managed to grab her leash on his way down. It was a real-life Benny Hill chase!) Aside from the physical stress of the hike, I am mentally exhausted. My aunt is less than a week away from the end of her life after a battle with lung cancer. Her situation is eerily similar to my mother's, who passed away from pancreatic cancer. Additionally, I am in the middle of some highly stressful events. I can't talk about the details so let's just leave it at that.

In the middle of these stressful events, I am so grateful to have a fuzzy dog to act as my heater on a lazy, rainy day like today. Much as I did as a child, I find peace in her presence. I know that part of managing the emotions I have is allowing myself time. 

See, Charlie knows what it's like to be blue.
This was my view for most of the day. How could I be upset?