The Gracie Chronicles – Chapter 8. Changes

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Months pass. Winter leaves behind mounds of plowed-over, dirty frozen snow which take months to fully melt away. Spring begins to warm and brighten the landscape.

In January, Mom and Dad had an “anniversary.” I’m not sure what that is, but it has something to do with how much they love each other. And they love each other a lot. Mom says Dad is the best thing that ever happened to her. Dad frequently asks ‘how did he get so lucky?’ For me, never before having experienced what love between humans can be like, it was new and strange – but wonderful. I could feel the love that came from them and surrounded them. I was becoming enveloped in their love, becoming a part of it somehow, and that new sensation was so warm and comforting. I knew I was home, and this home meant safety and security for me for the rest of my life.

I began to change then. Maybe it was the lovely meals I get twice a day, plus treats. Maybe it was all that love. Maybe it was both. The fur on my butt and thighs began to grow back. My gums stopped bleeding. My ears were now clear and free of wax deposits. The blackheads on my chest began healing and clearing. I began to gain weight; my coat grew glossier and softer each day. But more amazing than the physical changes were the changes in my personality.

Just a few months earlier, when I was first adopted, I was nervous and fearful of almost everything. But as I was fed and cared for so lovingly, and taught so many new and wonderful things, my fear lessened. I quickly learned that humans here, away from the track, are ALL nice! Every human I meet is a new friend! I learned that the car is not so awful, because it takes us to fun places full of new scents where I can play. Lessons like these have shaped my life and made it happy and secure.

Mom has changed too. She cries less and is not as frightened of the thumping overhead. She seems healthier and has gained some weight. When they first brought me home, Mom was underweight because of stress and illness. She says having me in her life helps her so much. This makes me proud. In my life at the track, I never even began to think that I could do something for a human that they needed. I just ran, ate and slept. Now though, not only do I enjoy a rich life, full of comforts and a loving environment, but my life here has a purpose.

As my fears lessen, so do my inhibitions. I discover what playing is, to the delight of Mom and Dad. They laugh each time I bite a toy and fling it or make it squeak repeatedly. I play “pounce” with Mom and Dad. I play bow and stomp my front paws, pouncing toward them. One of them pounces toward me and laughs. I whirl around, bite a toy, snap my teeth in the air, and pounce again. They pounce back and laugh. I love human laughter. It makes me feel happy and encourages me to continue doing whatever it is that makes them laugh.

With my newfound confidence, I am more playful with other dogs but also more aggressive toward those small fluffy creatures we sometimes meet with other humans. They are on a leash like a dog, and Mom assures me that they are in fact real dogs too. But I don’t believe it. How can a “real dog” look, sound and move like prey? Mom says we are going to work on this behavior. I don’t know what that means exactly, but I get the idea she wants to change me reaction to those small fluffy things. I don’t see why we should change my reaction. But Mom’s the boss.

With the warmer weather, we go to the park more often, which I enjoy very much, although when I arrive home I am completely exhausted and sleep for the rest of the day.

One day in late spring, Mom and Dad put me in the car and we take a long drive. As the car turns off the main roads and into a grassy area, I can see dozens – maybe hundreds – of dogs! Real dogs: Greyhounds! I begin to whine in anticipation. I want to meet them all!

“Shh, calm down, Gracie-girl. You’ll get to meet them soon enough.”

We get out of the car and walk around what I recognize as a park. But it is full of tents and tables – and Greyhounds. Mom and Dad walk me over to one of the tents. Mom talks to the woman under the tent.

“We’d like to get her microchipped.”

“OK, just fill out this form and we’ll take care of her.”

Mom hands my leash off to Dad and starts writing something. Dad leads me a few feet away, and while Mom is still writing, the woman in the tent walks over to me with a big needle and quickly sticks me between the shoulder blades.

OUCH!

Mom looks up from her writing.

“What happened?”

“It’s done. She’s chipped.”

“What a yelp!”

“You know she’s a bit of a drama queen.”

Hey. I resent that.

We walk toward a table that smells very good. There are people preparing food and eating all around it. There’s also a line of humans with Greyhounds waiting for food. We stand in line. The humans all talk to each other about the dogs. We dogs sniff each other and enjoy a subtle exchange. It goes something like this:

Me: Sniff sniff. Nice to meet you. Your people seem nice.

Brindle girl: Sniff sniff. Nice meeting you too. My people are very nice. How are yours?

Me: Oh they’re great. Are you allowed on the furniture? I am.

Brindle girl: Yes, I am too. It’s great being retired, huh? Who knew humans were so nice?

Me: Yeah, who knew? Hey, look, someone dropped a hamburger!

And we both look at the hamburger, calmly keeping our places in line. Eventually a large parti-colored female shoves past us to eat the burger.

Someone has obviously forgotten their Greyhound manners.

Mom and Dad eat and talk to several of the kind people that I met months ago, when I first arrived from Florida. Mom buys a t-shirt to support the adoption group and then we go back to the car for the long drive home.

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A Woman Without a Child – Part 2

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“So, she did all the hard work and you get to kiss the baby.”

Ouch.

No, I have never carried a fetus in my womb, nor have I experienced the agony of childbirth pains. I deeply appreciate all that women endure to bring this priceless treasure to birth. I acknowledge, recognize and commend every mother for all she has done, currently does, and will do for her child(ren).

But the fact that I do not have a child of my own does not make me less of a woman. Is my heart colder than others? Do I hear the cry of an infant with less compassion than a woman who has borne a child? Do I care less for the “minor” accomplishments of a small child, knowing that in their young reality, these accomplishments are HUGE?

I would daresay that there is little in this life that warms my heart more than the sights and sounds of happy, healthy, polite children. There are a few children in my life that I consider myself very blessed to be quite close to, through family and friends. These precious little ones are in my thoughts more often than not, as I think of ways that I, as “Auntie,” can bring a smile to their faces and remind them how much they are loved.

When the dear infants cry, my heart aches with the need to make them as comfortable as possible. When the kindergartner wants to draw a picture, I stand ready, crayons in hand. I regard each piece of juvenile artistic expression with awe at the promise of talent displayed. I marvel at how well words and letters are sounded out. I swell with pride. But “I didn’t do any of the hard work.”

In this day and age of instant (or as near as possible) gratification, few people understand why, if I love children as much as I seem to, I do not have one – or more – of my own. And I can’t explain my reasons without inadvertently offending or causing pain to those who already have children. Interesting predicament? That would be an understatement.

No, my reasons are not selfish. I’m not concerned about keeping my girlish figure or having time for a social life. I’m concerned for the health, upbringing and welfare of my child. I’m concerned about genetic defects that would seriously impair my child’s quality of life. I’m concerned about paying strangers to care for my child. I’m concerned that there could be trouble making ends meet. For myself alone, I could face uncertainties and difficulties. But I cannot in good conscience knowingly subject an innocent child to these difficulties, when that child has no choice in the matter and certainly deserves better.

So my cherished unborn, unconceived child will wait for me until I can give him all he deserves. In the meantime, I give of the maternal love that flows unendingly from my heart to those little ones I am blessed to know right now – precious treasures that never fail to bring joy and wonder to my life.

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* See previous post, A Woman Without a Child for more on this topic.

True Love

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“Love is long-suffering and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. … Now, however, there remain faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13

A profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
A feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
Dictionary

The above definitions of love – both the Biblical and the secular – are both accurate, though the Biblical definition is more descriptive and poetic.

Love is, without a doubt, the most important thing in life. I’m not speaking of just romantic love, but love on a grander scale, love that truly endures and never fails.

Love can mean different things to different people, but true love differs from passion, lust, or strong enthusiasm. True love makes a better person of us, gives us strength, and brings us joy.

In the Bible passage above, in the original Greek, the word translated “love” is just one of four ancient Greek words for love. Αγάπη (agape) is the word used. It differs from φιλία (philia), love between family members and close friends, έρως (eros), romantic love, and οτοργή (storge), affection or fondness. This agape is a principled love – selfless, altruistic, committed, and perhaps the highest level of love known to humanity.

It is possible to love one person with all four loves, most likely a spouse. But when troubles come, which of those loves will keep the marriage strong and intact? Not romance or affection, but the selfless, committed love. In a serious marital crisis, only a deeply committed, principled love will save the marriage from failure. What moves you to make sacrifices for the sake of the relationship? True love. As Shakespeare aptly put it in his 116th sonnet:

“Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken…”

True love is enduring. It is not flighty or unreliable, but constant, faithful, and steadfast. Sadly, it is also becoming rarer.

There are too many news stories of marriages breaking up, parents dumping or otherwise abusing and endangering their children, of “friends” backstabbing each other, of grown children abusing elderly parents, and the like. It’s downright depressing. What is happening to love?

Can you think of someone hurting an elderly person and not cringe in pain? Could you look into a hungry or endangered child’s eyes and not be moved to help in some way? Is there someone in your life that means more to you than life itself? Is there a person you know who can make any trial worthwhile? Is there a human being that you would die for, if it came to that? It doesn’t have to be someone you’re romantically involved with. You don’t have to be a parent to feel this love. But have you simply opened yourself up to the possibilities that this kind of love could bring?

The extraordinary thing about real love is that it always begets more love. It multiplies exponentially. You could find one love in your life, and through that love be connected to more love. It could be a spouse, a friend, a relative, a child. Before you know it, you’ve built up a network of love. But you must be willing to open up to it. People need people. Human connections are vital to our well-being, and we are all connected more than we realize. Make it count. Open your heart. Let love in, let it move you. Watch your life change because of it. Love never fails.

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