“If you go slowly enough, six or seven months is an eternity—if you let it be—if you forget old things, and learn new ones. Even a week can last forever.”
Rick Bass, Winter

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Part II: Day 64: More Inter-Species Encounters

On Wednesday, Zoe met a local Reiki master and shaman and photographer who poses by daytime as a bank manager.  In true North Country fashion, this woman has at least four strings to her bow, and she also lives on a hundred acres of land in a landscape that some would describe as the middle of nowhere but is truly the middle of somewhere alive and wondrous, full of creatures with tails and plants that sometimes murmur advice.

My friend Sandy did some Reiki on Zoe at Camp Baker and I saw how Zoe both perked up and relaxed as my friend opened up the energy between Zoe's heart and head and hind.  She looked both startled, as in, What is this odd, cool thing?, and relieved, as in, I was wondering when you were going to figure out that I need this.

Zoe leans right into the local Reiki master the instant they meet.  My shy girl presents herself to this woman fully, but with one exception.  She won't let her touch her throat.  I wonder about this.  These are the muscles on Zoe's neck that she uses to hold her head so high, earning her reputation as a regal dog, but perhaps it's with these same muscles that she braces herself and hides the pain.  The local Reiki master finds the pain anyway.  It's mostly in her hind quarters: the torqued hip and leg.  We'd been noticing how that back leg seemed weaker lately, and the local Reiki master thinks there's a hot spot there.  I wish I'd been getting Zoe chiropractic adjustments all along, since she became a tripod, like James and Glenn did with Milo.  The Reiki master works on Zoe's heart and lungs and feels the congestion there, but tells me that even though Zoe has to work hard to breathe in certain positions, she is not feeling pain in that region.

She closes her eyes to listen to Zoe.

A minute later, she says: "She loves you.  She doesn't want to leave you."  We talk about how I can find ways to communicate with Zoe to let her know that I'll be sad when she's gone and I'll miss her, but she is free to go whenever she needs to, and that it would make me much sadder to see her suffer.

"But the other thing is, I think Zoe likes it here a lot right now."  It's true.  We've had one of the best weeks ever.  And while we're having this conversation, Zoe and the local Reiki master can smell the lamb Kerry is roasting.  Later, Zoe will lick her plate and ask for seconds.

On Thursday Zoe fulfilled her lifelong dream to sniff the butt of a kitty who didn't retaliate by scratching her eyes out.  She even kissed the cat, both on her nose and on her ribs, but unfortunately, neither the cat's person, Rebecca, nor I had our cameras at the ready to film the closest of these inter-species encounters, so you'll just have to take our word for it.

I wasn't sure if Zoe would be up for this visit.  On Monday and Tuesday we'd walked through the neighborhood and she'd tugged hard, asking to go over to Rebecca's, but by Wednesday we were confining our walks to the acre we live on so as to conserve her strength.  But I just looked at Zoe and said, "Do you want to go in the car to see Rebecca and the kitty?" and she hopped in.

I think Zoe prefers the push-pull of the chase than to have the object of her obsession offered to her directly, as Rebecca was doing.  This fearless cat the size of Zoe's head loved provoking Zoe by scrunching down to places under low tables that she knew were too small for Zoe to follow her into, and Zoe loved provoking the cat by squeaking her mouse toys.  The truth is, Zoe is still a little afraid of this cat.  This was evident in their staring matches, which Katniss always won. (For back story on Zoe's relationship with Katniss, go here.  For more on Zoe with Rebecca and her cat, Webster and an evil cat Zoe met on the island of Corsica, go here.)

Zoe begins each visit to Rebecca's by devouring a greenie

Are you seeing the scale differential here between species?

I see you!

Zoe and Rebecca and the fearless, freakishly calm Katniss

Try getting under here with that big bootie of yours!  Ha!

Do you think they're going to make us pose with funny hats for a greeting card?

It's a dance

The kitty's paw eventually was draped along Zoe's head, but my camera was in the case then

But finally, after they'd been in close(ish) proximity for nearly two hours, the two creatures were friends.  I think if we'd had more time a bit of snuggling might have ensued, but a sniff and a kiss were such milestones that it would be greedy for any of us to ask for anything more.

Zoe celebrated this inter-species love-fest with ice cream at Morgan's.  Afterwards, she walked around the park, marker-peeing and saying to anyone who was interested that she was having a great day.

Last night the local Reiki master came over again, and this time she worked on me for a few minutes first and taught me some Reiki moves I can use on Zoe myself.  Zoe ran right up to her when she arrived, picked a spot in the shade for us to begin, and waited while we talked, announcing her interest in the action to come by chewing a stick.

"She feels good today," she said.  "Definitely no worse than Wednesday.  She's tired, though."

"I don't think she's sleeping deeply enough," I said.  "It's hard for her to sleep on her side now, whether it's the aching hip or where the lung mass is located, and when she sleeps on her side she sleeps her deepest and best.  It's the only time she completely surrenders."

Toward the end of the session, Zoe was looking off toward the river.  "It's either like a portal for her, what she's seeing, to the beyond.  Or she just wants to go down to that river and get her feet wet to cool off."  We followed Zoe's gaze.  Later the local Reiki master suggested that I explain to Zoe that leaving this life will be like floating on a raft down that river she loves so much.

But here's the thing:  I believe what the people who can talk to animals tell me when they say that Zoe is afraid to leave me, afraid that I'll be heartbroken, and that it's my job to tell her she's free to go.  But at the same time, whether it's the prednisone giving her a last boost, or the fact that our days this week have been so peaceful, she has seemed very happy lately and still her same old graceful, haughty, dignified, occasionally cuddly self.  She is living her life exactly the way she wants to.  On her terms.

And besides, there's meat.  Last night Kerry cooked three rib-eye steaks for dinner.  Zoe was in the grass and we were on the deck, and she whined and cried until we invited her to join us at the table.  She ate more steak than I did, with asparagus and chard, and I swear to dog I've never seen her look this ecstatic--not since she caught and ate the bunny.  Afterwards she wanted to run down to the river she'd been staring at earlier, and while Kerry and I stood on the flat rock together and hugged, she leaned against us.  Then she went in to cool down her paws and get a drink.  I wanted those few minutes to last forever.

I always want our moments together to last forever.

I forgot to say that just when the session with the local Reiki master had ended, Zoe took a nap.  She slept on her side and slept deeply.  And last night I woke myself up a few times to watch her sleep.  She usually is aware of me no matter how quiet I am but last night she only got up once when I did.  I scooted over to the wooden floor to lie beside her, and a minute or so later she was asleep again in that position of surrender.

This morning since we climbed the balcony we've seen the robin patrolling the yard looking for seed, and a squirrel, and then a moment or two ago the great blue heron swooped down to say hello.  There's so much life around us and we have the best seat in the house.

Am I bribing her to stick around a few more days with steak and ice cream and cats?

Don't feel compelled to answer.  I'm working this out myself.  But I will say this: for whatever reason Zoe has rallied these past few days (and the prednisone is magically playing its part), she has blessed me repeatedly with that eager look I've known and loved these past nine years.

I will never think there's enough time.   But trust me, I'm content hanging out here with my dog right now on our back acre in the here and now, and when she says it's time to get on that raft, I'll find the strength to help her go.


  1. Such nice words, and such calming events.Peace today.

  2. and now I will chow down on a slab of meat myself! You are giving us solace and a good appetite!

  3. Thank you so much, Sara, for your kindness here and always. And bon appetit!

  4. Hello Natalia! Just caught up with the last week; what a rich and intense time. I feel like I've gotten to know both you and Zoe in such a deep way in the last few months. Thank you for letting us share in your journey. Now I'll take Abbe on our morning constitutional and bring Zoe with us to see the black squirrels, the wild honeysuckle, the trail of messages in the tall grass....

  5. Lovely message, Brenda. Give Abbe a little tummy rub for me. Thanks so much for reading and sending this note to us.