poetry, prose, and image by Brittney S Holland

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Well, We Don't Have to be So Pissy About It

I am happy to report that our cold weather let up this weekend. We enjoyed temperatures in the sixties, and Simon finally got to go outside for a walk. He loves walks. He loves slowing to sniff and nibble, and he loves bursting forth until he reaches the end of his leash. He loves walking in circles around bushes and trees and lamp posts, winding the slack in his leash around each new object of his amusement. And he loves it when I walk around said objects trying to unwind his leash...because all the while, he has tracked my circling steps, rewinding his leash in the opposite direction.

Walking (and playing) in the park is a lovely pasttime for both of us. But getting there has become another experience entirely. Simon is now six times larger than when he first rode home in my lap, and he just doesn't understand why sitting between me and the steering wheel now puts both us and those around us at risk. Unhappy with his new riding arrangements and unable to express himself with words, Simon now expresses his bladder all over my cargo floor.

While I should be annoyed with Simon, I find myself waxing philosophic about how humans communicate and relate frustration. What if we ALL responded to life's irritations by hiking our leg? It is perhaps in better form than succumbing to road rage or hurling obscenities at grunt-level, customer service reps. And it would have been kinder than when my husband, waving his arms wildly, exclaimed with biting sarcasm, "Oh my God! The world's coming to an end!" (We couldn't agree about soup ladles...freakin' soup ladles, and while I was trying to map out a plan B in my head, he got pissy all over my feelings.) Today, as I consider the absurdity of all these situations, I prefer the puddle every time.

Human beings can be truly awful; it is in this that dogs are superior. We have opposable thumbs and command the spoken word, but dogs are far more civilized. We store up and unleash our worst behaviors upon those who love us most. Dogs know not to bite the hand that feeds. We are often calloused and petty; they are innately intuitive and loyal. Zen-like, dogs know how to live in the moment. They live for love and affection. And they don't know the first thing about biting sarcasm.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Small World

Not all dogs want to play fetch or curl up for an afternoon snuggle. Our other dog wants none of this. Part Border Collie and part Blue Heeler, Freckles's Blue Heeler blood would prefer the life of a work dog. Don't get me wrong. She's sweet; she loves us. But love and affection have historically been given and received on her terms. It has long been a family joke as to how quickly she would get up and leave if one of us sat next to her on the couch. I have even seen her cold shoulder the cats for daring to rub against her on a chilly day. Simon, however, seems to be winning her over. In fact, I'd swear that he's teaching Freckles the simplest joys of being a dog.

Freckles now enjoys chew toys and shares her bed. She steals their ropes, clearly so Simon will follow and play tug of war. And just yesterday, she jumped into my lap and licked my face while I scratched her ears and neck. We have had this dog for almost five years, and I would wager that I have pet her more in this past three months that Simon has lived with us. As for Simon...Freckles even allows him to stretch out down her back at times for afternoon naps.

I know. It's insane. Freckles is learning to be a dog, and my big burly husband is turning soft. Now don't misunderstand...he's a good man. But being a six-foot-one engineer with strong opinions about "do's" and "don'ts" can make him seem a little rough around the edges, a little gruff. Can you begin to picture him? Now imagine this stern, burly man in the floor on his knees, arms and torso stretched across the couch, petting and whispering sweet nothings into the ears of a sleepy-eyed weim. Imagine him assisting Simon by engaging and disengaging the foot rest lever, helping Simon onto THE recliner, my husband's recliner, a recliner in which no other pet has ever slept. (Don't feel too sorry for the other furries; the effects are trickling down just fine.)

For all this extra work and inconvenience since Simon came to live at the Holland house, he seems to be bringing out the best in each of us. It's more than just his puppy-ness, more than puppy breath and floppy, hound-dog ears, more than those colossal paws. Whether the others have realized it or not, I think they sense this same zeal for life that I see. Simon simply reels us in. I should try to be more like Simon, warm and bubbly and full of life. Perhaps my own world wouldn't seem so small.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chasing Rabbits

We haven't had a winter this cold in twenty-something years, so when Simon first came to live with us, he shivered and shook. He shivered until his little body could acclimate to our thermostat setting (I think my husband was a polar bear in a former life). He shook violently when he slept. I thought he was having a seizure the first time I saw this, but the shaking stopped when I spoke, and that put my mind to rest. Now Simon chases rabbits. There in the warmth of a favorite, furry blanket, Simon drifts into a deep sleep. His four feet flop. His nose twitches. His cheeks puff, and once again Simon is fast on the scent of woodland rabbits, barking and tracking them to their woodland homes.

I love rabbits. I love their long ears and fluffy tails. I love to watch the wild ones venture from our woods to nibble on the tender grass. But I think I mostly love rabbits for the memories they bring, memories of a once-close friendship. Beautiful in spirit and authentic in Southern charm, Sondra was one of those people who made my life brighter. And...she loved rabbits. Throughout her house, there were elegant rabbit statues and fine rabbit paintings. Still today, I cannot venture into specialty stores and what-not shops without being drawn to their rabbit-themed merchandise. These things remind me of my long-lost girlfriend.

But I don't have Alice's tenacity or courage. Marriage and family and all Sondra's burgeoning family activies pulled her into a life of charity balls and European vacations, and I could not follow. I last saw Sondra in a dream after my father passed. Oddly, I dreamt it was she who had passed and I was attending her estate sale. That morning, I awoke with fresh, hot tears on my face, having wandered from room to beautiful room, having touched all of those precious rabbits with my fingertips, having found none I could afford to buy. Perhaps it was foolish of me to let her slip away. But if anything, I have learned to value my present friendships more. I am fortunate to have found two good girlfriends, gals with whom I can laugh and cry and rant and rave, friends who live and work and play on my side of the rabbit hole.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mornings at the Holland House

Mornings at the Holland house come early, 5:30 to be precise. And while Simon is not our only pet, he is the one who has upset and reshaped our morning routine, sounding his anticipation well in advance of the alarm, galloping through the house toward the yard, sending walloping vibrations through the floorboards, through the bedposts and springs and mattresses and pillows to the unsuspecting ears of all who dare to eke a bit more sleep.

Thankfully, my husband has been a good sport about all of this. My appreciation grows daily because I can't help feeling sorry for him, head buried beneath mountains of pillows -- his futile attempt to muffle those thundering, behemoth paws heard dashing from food bowls to chew toys to our son's discarded socks. Still, I'm beginning to enjoy these mornings. I enjoy witnessing the rippling surges and shudders of pure joy as Simon bounds wide-eyed and ready toward the day. It's hilarious! It's infectious. And it's gotten me thinking...

Shouldn't we all greet our mornings more like Simon, eager to discover what today has in store, rather than stumbling bleary-eyed toward our lime-scaled coffee pots, scratching our asses and grumbling about whatever we have allowed to steal our joy? Slowly but surely, I'm waking up to this idea.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

About Simon

Simon is a fifteen-week, blue weimaraner who possesses that perfect blend of tenderness and bubbling curiosity. He joins me on walks, cuddles with me on the couch, knows how to sit, and is learning to play fetch. His latest guilty pleasure is untying my apron strings while I cook. Yesterday, he got his first Rabies shot, a rite of passage in the life of a young pup, and at twenty-eight pounds he's already outgrown his first collar.

I've always wanted a weim, but humbled by the energy and demands this breed reportedly makes of its owners, I thought it best to wait until my children were raised and grown. Ha! One flew the coup. And though another's still here, I found myself blind sided by grief from a wayward child on the heels of a brother's sudden death and a father's lost battle with cancer. Then I found Simon at Beck's Grey Ghosts here in Georgia, sired by a silver and born to a blue. I just couldn't say no. Now I can't imagine my life without him.

Simon proves to be exactly what I've needed. Initially, he kept me busy chasing puddles and poops, leaving me little time to sit around feeling sorry for myself while neighbors put out jack-o-lanterns and harvest wreaths and Christmas lights. Now Simon is pretty well house broken, and I've made it through "the holidays" with surprisingly fewer tears than expected. And...somewhere along the way, I've begun to rediscover what I've always known. Life goes on, and that life is still good. Truly.