Animals, Love, and the Fear of Death

I grew up with a lot of animals. Dogs and cats, birds and hamsters, fish and guinea pigs. The animals in the family were revered, even though all the cats lived outside and the dogs were not allowed in “the back of the house.”

We loved them.

A couple of weeks ago I put a picture of my dog, Under, up on facebook. He was wet, just bathed. One eye glowed blue, the other green. It was not a flattering picture. Or was it?

I saw him as somewhat magical, with his weird eyes, cataracts from old age, his teeth missing. His hair (er, fur)reminded me of the way he looked when he bounded out of the ocean. My brother says he looks like a “beach rat.” It’s true. He does.

I saw a very large rat in the subway in New York. I didn’t say, “Ew.” Rather, I acknowledged how healthy and sizeable the rat was, and appreciated my friend’s noticing that it was, in fact, a very brave rat.

It takes incredible nerve to be on the tracks of a subway. Unless, of course, that’s where you were born. Imagine, to be a rat born in the subway, born in the sewer. Amazing, how different the world would be.

I once played perspective with my dog, meaning that I wondered what it’d be like to be him. “Here I am with this lady. I’m itchy. They don’t throw the ball enough for me. I love her though. I am her friend. I am the only one who has shared some things with her, and she with me. She doesn’t coddle me. She throws the ball way out into the waves for me. It is my favorite thing in the world.  There are these two children. The boy loved me when he saw me. When the girl calls me, I call back. “Wooowooowooorrrr”

I wish that I could talk. I always cock my head to show that I am listening. I smile a lot, because I am happy. She throws the ball out into the waves for me, even though I am old. She believes that I can do it. She claps for me when I run back to her.”

I don’t actually know if this is what my dog thinks. It’s what I would think if I were him. I’m not though. He is his own little creature, but I know him really well.

He is patient with me. That’s what makes him my friend.

He has seen the best and worst. He loves me. I love him.
I am going to start feeding him better food. I am going to start petting him more, even though he is old and has bad skin that won’t seem to get much better. Maybe better food would help?

I thought about seeing if I could find someone to adopt him that lived at Folly Beach, which is his favorite place in the world. I thought about maybe some well-to-do person that could afford naturopathic veterinary care and organic food who could take him to the beach every day and throw the ball for him and have him bathed in the finest hypoallergenic dips, someone who…


“He’d miss us,” the kids said.

“We’d miss him.”

Under is old. It occurred to me the last time we were at the beach that this might be his last time there, at his favorite place.

“Don’t think like that,” I tell myself, “he can live for a long time. He’s so sprightly and lively.”

Everything dies. Everything lives forever.

If you look at these archives, you will find that one of the major events precipitating my big final departure from consensus reality and subsequent fumbling into spirit was the unanticipated death of my other heartfriend dog, Shiny.

She was my best friend, possibly ever.

How can I still be mourning that dog?

Under and I are very good friends. I should be his best friend.

Why haven’t I been his best friend? I guess I was mourning and confused about wholly loving anything, because they die or otherwise go away…and I didn’t quite know what to do with that.

 

Actually, I do know what to do with that. I learned to think about death differently. I found a new way to conceive of it, one that makes sense to me and is a comfort and a revelation.

We just fly out into the atmosphere. We just join with the collective.

We aren’t exactly free, but we’re a little closer and we are, most definitely, a part of everything.

Forever.

That’s a big word, a long time.

I thought I had gotten over my fear of death. I had learned a few lessons and lost a few friends. Being a person who was medicated with chemicals known to potentially increase or bring about suicidality and being a person who was very inclined toward existential despair and self-loathing in a tragic world that makes suicide seem not-entirely-a-bad-option in some forms of woefully distorted thinking…well, let’s just say I’ve done a few rounds with death.

I won…sort of…

Winning by points (quantitative or thought-based conclusion: “I’m not scared of death because we never die. Our souls are made of patterns in electricity. The world is full of electricity. We rejoin the world in a big way.”) and winning by knock out (qualitative understanding: “I really, truly believe that we never die and I am not scared like I once was.”)

…are two totally different things.

I am, as I am in regard to most things lately, in between. It’s an in between sort of time.

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