Life moves in some strange and unpredictable directions. Mine certainly has. I’m grateful for many things, especially friends and family. Two other things have touched my life at important times.
Seven years ago I started this blog. It was a great creative outlet for my writing, but it was more than that. An introvert, I usually kept my life wrapped pretty tight, and the older I got, even tighter. Naturally, turning inward is not the healthiest reaction, especially for close relationships.
I found that writing this blog created an outlet for expression and it helped to loosen the binding that was keeping my feelings and life turned inward. Five years ago, my stepfather died and that only made my situation worse. It was difficult to process his passing and how he was the touchstone in our family. I turned to some grief counseling to help sort all of this confusion and better understand the family dynamics that he had impacted.
The blog afforded me the mechanism for writing about life and my perspective in poems and “think pieces.” I didn’t publish everything I wrote, just the writing process had a healing effect on me. It also uncorked a serious writer’s block. In the nearly five years since his passing, I’ve published about 1200 blogs.
Writing kept my head above water at a time when I was drowning. Researching and writing the wide variety of blog topics was therapeutic and even returned a sense of joy and satisfaction. I write every day, multiple times a day. Keeping my brain busy and challenged is very important. I’m now at an age when I fear neurological diseases. My stepfather died of it, and a brother-in-law was ravaged by it in his mid-50s. Brain stimulation is important.
Zeus is his name. He’s a 12-year old black lab. He’s the gentlest, most affectionate dog I’ve ever been around. I started dating his mom and he gradually warmed up to me. Actually, that happened pretty quickly.
He loved openly and completely. People take time to feel love, and it travels through various personality filters before we bravely announce it. Love scares the hell out of most of us. Animals don’t usually have that problem. If there is a feeling of trust, they’re in.
It was easy to love Zeus, and then I fell hard for his mom. I didn’t even realize I was beginning to love this dog. He won me over so completely. When I would come over, he eagerly helped greet me. Licking and pressing up against me. I learned those were hugs. He began this routine of jumping up on the couch to sit between his mom and I. We took him for walks around the neighborhood and to the park. Eventually, I got to start holding his leash. I cannot describe what a thrill that was for me.
I recall when Zeus’ mom first said that Zeus loved me. I thought she was just being nice, because he was very affectionate towards me (even when I wasn’t feeding him under the table). But love? How could that be? I saw the way he was around his mom and his human siblings who raised him – that was love.
Zeus was a shelter dog. I don’t know his history, but for the majority of his life, he has been in a loving home. I refer to it as “the house of love.” I saw that love firsthand. Zeus has had his share of challenges, his hips were both rebuilt, he has arthritis and allergies. He gets bladder infections and has lost some teeth. Even when he injured his back legs serious enough for surgery, he never complained. He now walks with hitch in his get-along, an amble that reminds me of John Wayne.
People love Zeus. We are frequently stopped by adults and kids who want to pet this lovable soul. He has never met a stranger. He attracts people; he’s a people dog, stopping to watch each person in the neighborhood as we walk. We wonder what he’s thinking.
A few months ago, I was sitting on the floor rubbing Zeus’ head. He gave me “that” look, the one which turns you to mush. Something very strange came over me, I became very emotional. Zeus’ mom noticed and asked if I was okay. I was embarrassed and tried to hide how overcome I was, but she saw through that. The more I tried to brush it off, the more emotion surfaced. She touched my shoulder and the tears broke loose. Zeus was licking my hand. I realized how much this dog meant to me, and how he found in me, what I often kept bottled up.
In the past two years I’ve been rebuilding my life, which required a tough, outer shell. Zeus saw through my facade. He punched a hole in it. He showed me a kindness and acceptance that I needed. And unconditional love. He knew.
I often post pictures of Zeus on social media. It’s no lie that he’s my best pal. His mom asked me if I’d be his dog-walker during the week. She used to pay someone to walk him around midday, while she was at work. I’m newly retired, have a lot of free time, and she saw how close we had become. I thought she was going to ask me last winter to walk him, but she didn’t. I have to admit I was disappointed. It might have been awkward or she didn’t want to impose on my time. At the end of the summer, she asked if I could consider walking him. I was delighted inside. Her expectation was for three days a week, but I walk him five days, unless I have a conflict. He has taken to waiting for me at the kitchen door to arrive. Today he was standing at the window looking for as I walked up, tail wagging.
Last month, Zeus became very ill with pneumonia. He required a trip to the ER and hospitalization. He was such a cooperative patient. It was scary for his mom and everyone who loves him. We visited him in the hospital every evening, sitting with him, feeding him and walking him. Leaving him at the hospital was heartbreaking. The day we picked him up was a good day. He was still very sick, but at least he could come home. The past couple of weeks we’ve seen remarkable improvement to where he just now seems normal. I can understand how important Zeus is in his mom’s life. I see it and I feel it.
Why the long story of Zeus the dog? I think you can tell how attached I am to that white-faced dog. He’s a senior, like me; certainly a factor in our relationship. He will climb up on the sofa with me when I visit, usually on my lap and the hand-licking begins. He must like my hand soap. Simply, Zeus and his mom have transformed my life.
The house of love is where I visit. Hearts are always open and love is the language spoken there. It is never too late for dreams to come true. And with this blog, I get to write about it.