Get a grip: a painful lesson on when to hold on

Grip

Image courtesy of Flickr

The outside temperature had cooled from volcanic rim to a more comfortable Amazonian jungle as I embarked on a walk around the block with Her Royal Highness, my dog. Within seconds of exiting the house, the soles of my flip-flops were slick from the trapped humidity. Still, it was a beautiful day for a walk and HRH was happy enough to trot along by my side.

As we rounded the corner, I noticed a group of teenagers on bicycles approaching. I raised my hand in greeting. As one of the girls passed, she politely said hello. I was thinking to myself what nice kids when WHAM! The next thing I knew I was experiencing the joy of flight. My arm was nearly pulled out of its socket while my feet simultaneously left the ground.  Unfortunately, my air time was only short-lived as I found myself next lying on my back in the grassy area that separates sidewalk from street looking up at a blue sky.

Super hero dog

Able to pull trains and leap buildings in a single bound, it’s Wonder Dog!

Whimper… *blink blink* Owie… It turned out that HRH, having noticed me greet the teenagers decided it would be a grand idea to introduce herself to them as well. Without delay. So what if they were now already several yards away? HRH typically has impeccable manners and so now and then I forget that she also has the natural strength to hoist the remains of the Titanic off the sea bed floor and the speed of a cheetah running from a bee sting. She was kind enough to remind me. She’d taken off at full tilt, ignoring the minor detail that we were still technically attached.

As feeling began to return to my arm I realized that the leash somehow remained gripped firmly in my hand. I had remained strong even though the same could not be said about gravity. I felt the grass by my side as attempted to sit up and had to wonder at my luck to land in the soft earth when my head could have, should have come in contact with the concrete of the sidewalk.

One of the girls shouted from up the hill, “Are you okay?” I guess they’d witnessed my amazing aerial acrobatics and pulled over to assess the situation.

“I’m fine,” I replied as HRH returned to my side and began licking my face. “But she may not be,” I joked as I rubbed HRH’s head with my good hand to assure her I was okay while attempting to look stern and scolding. I turned the leash over as I regained my footing. I realized that hadn’t been a polite response. Though there was still a dull ache in my arm, overall I was okay. Why wasn’t my skull now cracked on the ground much like Humpty Dumpty?

I hadn’t let go.

If my hand had only held the leash loosely and I’d let go at the initial snap, I might not have lost my footing, but HRH could have successfully reached those polite kids on their bikes and who knows what sort of injuries might have resulted. If I had let go the minute I realized my feet were parallel to my head I may well be writing this from a hospital bed. But I hadn’t, and because we were still attached, the momentous force that is Her Royal Highness on a mission carried my airborne body just far enough away from the sidewalk to land in the grass with only a minor scrape to show for my experience.

Of course, I would have preferred not to fall at all, but HRH was a stray up until February and the occasional mistake is still to be forgiven. Although, even if she’d been with us since a pup and had years rather than weeks of training, I know a mistake could still happen. No path is without the occasional ill-advised temptation or other misfortune. The point is, that when these speed bumps happen, you have to keep your grip on that which matters most. While your world may, for a time, seem upside down, if you hold on long enough, you too might just find yourself landing safety.

A letter from Her Royal Highness

Her royal highness

It has come to Our attention that one of Our staff released a statement to the public regarding the early days of Our initial residence. While We believe this should have remained a private matter, We can no longer ignore the continued calls for additional clarity regarding this ongoing transition and have decided to release this first State of the Realm.

First, while We would enjoy more pillows, and certainly disapprove of this breach in protocol, We harbour no ill will toward the original letter’s author. In fact, We have adopted several programmes specifically designed to increase the health, security, and happiness for her as well as all resident staff. For example, We have instigated not one, but a minimum of two mandatory walks around the grounds and extended estate daily. This exercise regime has not only increased the sense of community but is on track to decrease their bottom line as well. Similar programmes have also been devised for the younger staff within Our estate and we have no reason to believe that their results will be any different as their responsibility grows.

We have increased security throughout the premises. Just this morning, Our finely tuned alert system sent a potential intruder, cleverly disguised as a delivery man, on his way with minimal confrontation. We can speculate all too clearly what foul deed this person might have performed were it not for Our high standards and Our rigorous process of background checks. Additionally, a scourge of local ruffians, commonly known as the gang of squirrels, have since been placed on the highest watch lists. Though it has been less than ninety days since We took Our residence, We are pleased to say that their villainy is on the decline as reported by all measures of nearby squirrel based activity.

We have also commissioned several renovations throughout the estate. While some of these changes may appear drastic to the untrained eye, they were all designed with the greatest consideration to the needs of Our staff. These changes primarily involved increasing the quantity of natural light as well as open air flow within the palace, both of which have been proven to have a positive impact on the human brain in its attentiveness as well as its ability to ward off disease. These changes also created the added benefit of promoting continued adult education and development of useful trade skills such as carpentry.

Renovations

Then there is the matter of happiness. Before We took residence, small bits known as LEGOS littered the ground well beyond the boundaries of acceptable use. We were told these bits regularly caused issues such as foot pain, quarrels among the ranks, and lack of sleep for elder staff at the end of a work day. This was not only a long standing problem, it was a problem the staff believed to be insurmountable as well. We sank our teeth into this problem immediately. It only took two instances of rendering these nuisances into unrecognizable lumps of plastic to convince the younger staff to improve their standards of cleanliness, and as it is said, cleanliness is next to godliness, or at least linked to a greater probability of happiness.

Lastly, as all great leaders know, it is not enough to put a matter in writing. Leaders should and must lead by example. We are quite content. We trust that all who appreciate and emulate Our regal bearing will be soon follow suit and are now looking most forward to a long and prosperous age.

We wish each of you continued similar success.

Sincerely,

HRH The Princess Royal V.C. Potts, the first of her name.

 

 

 

Please forgive me – a letter to the dog

We pulled out your crate this week, unused for the last three years, and brushed off the cobwebs, only we didn’t do it for you. Another four-legged creature joined the family and needed a place to sleep. I think you would have liked her. She’s a mix of Lab, like you, but Boxer too, which was always your favorite playmate. But she’s not you.

Then again, you might find her strange. She doesn’t chase after cats, or squirrels, or stare at a mysterious nothing in the corner of the room making my neck hairs rise. When we go on walks, I don’t worry my arm might be torn from its socket due to the strength of her pulls. She doesn’t jump on arriving guests, or feel the need to defend the household from the threat of the evil vacuum. Nor does she enjoy running in front of my shins as I attempt to descend the stairs just to ensure I’m paying attention.

People we meet keep telling me she is perfect. But she’s not you.

You would be proud of the boys. How well they’ve adapted to an animal in the house once again. They grin and tell me how happy they are to have her. They’ve helped me bathe her, comb her fur, and brush her teeth. They’re teaching her fetch and sit and shake. She’s so patient with them too. The boys have draped themselves over her body and used outside voices near her ear, and yet she still she wags her tail at their arrival.

We tried to make you proud of us as well. She is a rescue like you were once, but an older pup. We estimate she’s around four years old, but with signs that suggest those years weren’t always easy. When we met her, Kiddo announced proudly that we hadn’t found her, she had found us, echoing the words I once used myself to describe our first encounter with you.

Your dad tells me our family feels complete once again. But she’s not you.

She’s smaller than you were, but only just slightly. She is tall enough that I can scratch her head with my fingertips without bending over but light enough for me to carry when she is feeling particularly stubborn. She has a pink leash and collar, which would have appalled you were you not color blind, but she doesn’t seem to mind. She just seems happy to have found a family.

The other night, after the boys had gone to bed, she hopped on the spot on the couch next to me and laid her head on my lap the way you used to do. Soon I found myself growing tired as I listened to her rhythmic snore. I glanced over and saw tan fur where there once lay black and I had to blink away the tears of my surprise. In my weary state, I’d almost forgotten it wasn’t you. I thought I was ready, but it hit me so hard, just then, how much she’s not you. In that moment, I realized how different a brain’s readiness can be to one’s heart’s.

I felt so guilty. Guilty that I was enjoying her warmth by my side. Guilty that we couldn’t do more to keep you there longer. Guilty I am happy to once again see a bowl on the ground.

But she really is a good girl and I was the one to suggest we bring her home. In fairness to her, I am trying to remember all your flaws as much as I recall your virtues. How you could clear the room after a meal. The books of mine you destroyed. That incident with the bunny.

The trouble is, I loved you with your flaws as much as you loved me with mine.

I remember those early puppy weeks before you were house-broken and the pain inflicted on my arms by your needle sharp teeth and all the reasons we chose not to adopt a puppy this time. I remember wondering if we’d made a mistake back then, injecting your brand of chaos into our lives as I surveyed the damage that once was my living room. But mostly I remember how much we grew to love you over the years that followed. If the decision to bring you home back then was a mistake, it was the best mistake we’ve ever made.

She’s only been with us a few short days and is getting to know us as much as we are getting to know her. She’s not you, true, but she’s herself; a dog who is sweet and mostly well-mannered. A dog who deserves to be loved for who she is rather than considered somehow flawed for who she’s not.

So please forgive me if I eventually allow my heart to stop comparing, as difficult as that seems now. When I scratch her behind her ears or throw her a ball to chase, it doesn’t mean I miss you any less. It will just mean I’ve finally allowed my heart to grow more.

Boxer Lab Mix

Newest member of the family