Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Irony

“Oh, Pep,” I said with a sigh, placing a hand on her head. Pepper looked up at me dolefully. She was getting old, this girl of mine. I could see the greying around her eyes and down her long snout. I hadn’t looked at her closely for some months, distracted as I was. Yet here she had still been, ready and attentive and by my side at a moment’s notice. All I had to do was look at her and she knew, like an old friend, when I needed her. Pepper, our quietly unassuming one-time stray who had firmly and appreciatively asserted a place for herself in our little family, had brought me through so many times when I felt like I had no one to lean on. The love and devotion of this dog had been unwavering throughout my trials, all without uttering a word to me. If only more humans could be like dogs, I mused. All she had ever given me was loving, silent support.
I deduced that a great many overwhelming and emotional episodes of life—where people didn’t need more words or opinions or advice or any sort of support other than a simple, unassuming presence, an ear to lend and some gentle displays of affection—would be much better dealt with if our supporters embodied the devoted loyalty of dogs in those moments.
How could it be that my furry friend had given me far more than most people during these past years, while never having spoken a word? This was something that I did not allow to go unnoticed. Pepper had taught me much about being loyal to myself as well. And now, I was about to inflict a huge change on my “doggy child”, introduce someone else for her to accommodate as she naturally slipped down a rung in the hierarchy of our pack.
- An unedited extract from "Into The Bliss: Having & Holding Ellanor", by K.A. Whatman

If only more humans could be like dogs, I mused. 
All she had ever given me was loving, silent support.

This moment of the book was from 2006. It was the day I went in to hospital to have the LGBB. In fact, it was only about an hour before we left.

I realise, retrospectively, that Pepper was attached to the Me who was pre-LGBB. She was never meant to last this long. I looked out the window at her over a year ago and heard, in a flash, "She forgot to die." I hung onto the statement for it was like a bolt out of the clear blue. And it was true. I honestly believed from that day forward that this dog had sort of .... well, just simply forgotten to slip away. Her To Do list was quite short in the end. I think much of it was forgotten. But one thing she never ever forgot was, "Look for my Master."

That'd be me.

It seems to me that everything that came to pass during 2004-2006 went exactly as it should. She supported me through my greatest trial. She saw me through the next full (and to date, second only successful) pregnancy. She carried my lonely heart through three more pregnancies in between the two girls. She was by my side for every one of those pregnancies and their varying outcomes.

Sometime not too long ago, I put to rest my desire for three children. We had borne two. We now had just one with us. My desire for more had waned and given over to the acceptance that I have all I need (and am meant to have) now.

That was supposed to be it.

She wasn't supposed to stick around for anything much of the LGBB's life. I'm sure of it. She stayed for me. And she forgot to go. I had to tell her to go. I will write a post one day about that, for it is - quite simply - profound what happened last Thursday and she deserves the honour of her passing to be a separate entry.

By the time she went, she was Lolly's "favourite". She had also enabled our daughter to witness what it is to care for an ailing, aged animal. Sure, I lost my temper sometimes over it - it was very stressful managing her in the final year, especially - but ultimately, what Lolly has been gifted with is the opportunity to understand the profound importance of ALL life. Even that which is often deemed at a brief glance to be unworthy/wasted time, resources and reserves.

The irony is, Pepper was always terrible with people. Children and men, specifically. Women she was fine with. So I had to watch her like a hawk for her entire life with us. That's a long seventeen years of scrupulous herding, shielding, fencing-off, instruction, training. And tolerance.

There was no WAY, in her younger years, we could ever keep her and have a child. I've never said that in writing before. I guess I've never had to. Because it simply didn't happen. The two realities never overlapped. By the time Lolly was born, Pepper was already losing her grip. She wasn't as fast or responsive. She was dropping catches. She was easier to manage, we could slip more things past her unnoticed. And I also knew her inside and out by then.

So there it is. The dog who could've possibly been cast as the sinister villain (okay, granted, she'd never have been in one scene) in an even more awkward telemovie remake of Evil Angels was actually my saviour during the period where I was trying to bring a child into existence. And even after Lolly was born, for the first two years at least, as Steve and I see snippets of home movies this week while we catalogue them to preserve her memory and her prominent place in our lives, she remained duty-bound to me. In one scene, Steve is playing with a 12-month-old Lolly on the patio outside. I am behind the video, walking through the house to the door. And there is Pepper. Sitting guard at the door, waiting for me, minding the entrance to the house, casting an eye over the scene before her but still on duty. For me.

I knew she was loyal when she was on her game. I just forgot for such a long time because these last few years she'd been so slow. Perhaps I took her for granted.

Ah, death. The great equalizer, huh?

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