Wednesday, October 8

Walking in Gold: Finding Healing in Nature

Walking in Gold

Yesterday, Sam and I took a hike through the Montana gold -- that ecstatic autumn aliveness when aspens turn and skies stay clear blue even as temperatures drop below 50F and there is new snow on the peaks.

We walked along a meditative runnel through aspen and chokecherry groves, marsh grass and spent wild iris seedheads. The sage pumped it's heady volatile oils into the breeze. Rabbitbrush brightened the dry, grassy hills with pillows of yellow-white, backlit seeds.

We found "our" redtail tree -- an ancient aspen tucked into the creek bottom where a pair of hawks raise their brood each spring on an ever-expanding platform of twigs and limbs.

I half expected to find a redtail feather gift, under the abandoned nest. No such luck. But I did have the luck of a whole hour lying on the gold with my companion and best friend ... Sam taking in all the sights and smells of grove-wetland-autumn-turning. And me, absorbing healing rays of sunlight and marveling at the trembling frame of sky leaves above me.

Saying Goodbye to the Gold

Sam is going to be 20 in March '09. He is really slowing down lately. We think it might be canine Cognitive Dysfunction. He has most of the signs now. There are times when he walks into the kitchen or my office and just stands there looking a little lost, as if he is thinking, "Now, what did I come in here for?"

Routines are much more important to him than ever -- yet he often refuses to sleep on either of his two comfortable beds -- he prefers to squeeze himself into small complicated places like under our kitchen table between all of the chair legs. If breakfast is delayed, or I don't take him for his morning walk right away, he may stand in one place for an hour -- literally -- just staring, waiting for the expected promise to come true.

Sam sleeps alot, like most elderly dogs.
An hour for each year of life - 20 hours a day.
The remaining 4 hours are divided like so:

  • 1 hour walking slowly, rationing his pee so he can leave as many business cards around the neighborhood as possible.
  • 1 hour lying with chin on floor watching me without moving anything but his eyes
  • 1/2 hour sitting on the front or back porch watching the world go by, smelling its' enticing fragrances and savoring the breezes in his coat. Sometimes this involves staring at one or more deer as they wipe out our vegetable harvest. It would be too much trouble to get up and bark or chase. heh.
  • 1/2 hour pacing
  • 1/2 hour either waiting for his meals while panting (I often can't tell if the panting is from enthusiasm or anxiety) or working on a cooking pan or mixing bowl project (meaning, licking it clean of all molecules of taste/smell)
  • 1/2 hour lying next to me on the bed in the morning. This is coffee-newspaper-cuddling time for Sam and me after Tim gets up. :-)
Twice a month we have a slight change in the routine: those are the days we mix up his homemade raw food in a huge bread bowl. Sam knows when I get out the cuisinart and cover every inch of counter top in our tiny kitchen with vegetables and nuts, that eventually he will get to lick that bowl. Yummmm. He watches me the entire time I'm cutting, chopping, stirring and scooping. This is doggie heaven! (do you remember getting to lick the cookie dough out of the mixing bowl when you were little?) It's like that.

His coat is shiny and smooth. His zest for life seems strong. His breath stinks and that ear infection still gives him trouble. He has more cysts and lumps and warts as time goes by. But overall Sam is still chugging away happily. His vet said yesterday that when Sam makes it to next March, she will be having a champagne party for him at the clinic. He will be there for the toasts to a very very old gent.


My head knows Sam is not really immortal.
But my heart wonders ...