I love this photo. I am not sure who is more intense at this ball playing interaction. I mean, Nava is in it, you can see it. She is right there. But my husband. He is in it, too. His face, the position of his hand, his stance and his gaze. A gaze that goes deep into Nava's eyes which are, in turn, locked on him.
I heard once that dogs don't look directly into people's eyes. Nava never heard that. She stares right back into us. Always with love, frequently with excitement and, as in this photo, often with an intensity that borders on obsession.
What is so fun about this ball playing mixed with obedience and some mind games and often a battle of wills is that she focuses on him. My man. She certainly is aware of the ball but it is the connection to my Husband - or to me if I am the one playing the game - that is so amazing. She watched our eyes. And she takes in our body movements. She sees when we lean in, or take a step or turn slightly and she knows then, exactly where the ball will be sent. She runs before it's even left the thrower, unless we make her stay, her legs shaking in anticipation, until we release her to chase her prey.
Nava has always loved to play ball. We've been playing with her since she was an oh so cute and sweet smelling puppy. And always she was focused. She of the working breed is working at this ball game we play.
I went back through my old posts, to see when else I have written about...not my dog...perfect that she is I write about her all the time....but specifically about ball playing, and I came upon a post from two April's ago. About a fight at the dog park. That started with a ball. I thought I'd share it again today. It's intense. Like my dog. And scary.
We have evolved now from parallel play at the park, that is written about in this past post, to only being there if we are alone. There are two parks. One for the small dogs and one for the large ones. We use the small dog park a lot. The grass is in better shape and there are no deep holes left by dogs who's owners don't think to fix the damage before they leave (yes there is judgement here).
We go early in the morning. There is a white German Shepard named Travis who is often in the big dog area and he will run up and down and up and down along side Nava, on the other side of the fence as she works her ball chasing and catching and retrieving skills. I am basically exercising this other dog each day. He is obsessed with my dog in the same way as Nava is obsessed with her ball.
She honestly does not even notice he is there.
Ok, so here is the past writing - Fighting At The Dog Park
I knew the minute the ball left the plastic ball thrower that I should not have thrown it. It was not Nava's ball. It was Meng's. An awesome reddish colored dog that is as focused on playing catch as Nava is. They have played at the park together many times. Well, not played exactly. Both focused on their own game of get the ball rather than on each other, still they are great together. Leaving each other alone and working hard at their ball retrieval.
Men's ball is blue. A blue rubber ball that fits neatly into the chuckit that his owner uses to toss the ball the length of the green that is the fenced in dog park. Nava is partial to tennis balls. Once yellow but quickly a dirty brown that blends into the grass of the park. And wet with saliva so that they don't fit quite as well in the cheap chuckit knockoff that I got at target for $5.49.
I bought two of them. One is still in the plastic and hidden in the kitchen cabinet. The other - the one we use - is broken as of day one but still great.
I used this cheap chuckit wannabe to pick up Meng's blue ball, settled against my foot in the grass, and toss it for him. I've thrown balls for him before. But always with my hand and so Nava does not respond in the same way that she does when a ball is propelled from the plastic ball thrower that I throw the tennis balls from.
So I throw Meng his blue ball and Nava takes off. Meng close behind. I knew - before the ball actually left the thrower - probably before I even raised my arm to toss the ball into the air - that I should not be doing this. But my body did not catch up with my mind and the ball is sailing through the air before I can stop it.
Nava takes off. Meng close behind.
Nava gets there first, the ball quickly settles between her teeth only to be dropped in an instant when Meng catches up. And barks. And bites her side. Not quite a bite as a deep scratch, I discover later and see merely pulled hair from her skin and a raw red mark.
So Meng bites her side and Nava turns, fast in response. She is not a fighter. At all. Unless she is provoked. And this was provocation. And so she turns fast and they are in it. Hard. Teeth bared, deep barking from each other them. And in the time it takes me to make it across the park to where the ball first landed these two, once friends and now not, dogs are connected in an altercation that proves hard to break up. They are attached.
Both myself and Meng's owner are in it with them. Calling their names. Putting our legs and our ball tossing tools in-between them to try and break them up. I lean in to grab Meng's collar to see if I can pull them apart that way but they are too intent on each other. Nava has what I thought was Meng's neck between her jaws. Tight and hard. This is not good.
And then I pour my hot water on their heads.
It is hot water and lemon. With some cayenne pepper and stevia for sweetness. It is delicious. I had brought it with me to the park on this morning because my husband was with me and so I was able to enjoy the sweet warmth rather than have to be the only one tossing the ball to Nava. But I had taken over on the ball tossing, the carry cup of hotness still in my hand. And I had not dropped it throughout this dog fight.
And so I poured the hot water and the dogs separate. Both wet now, with the water and the remnant of each other's mouths on their fur.
Another dog park friend checks out Meng. He has a new collar around his neck this day. A thick, brown leather piece that Nava had sunk her teeth into. Deeply. You could see the marks made by her bite. It was this collar, not Meng's skin that my dog kept hold of for the entire interaction that these two had. A good thing as the marks in the leather were deep and defined. Meng was unscathed. And within seconds they are both over it. And chasing their own balls once again as if nothing has happened.
Meng's owner and I stand together and talk through the event until we are ok, too.
I only go to the dog park in the mornings. With only a handful of other dogs there who don't pay attention to her as she works hard at our game of ball. I know these dogs well. And sometimes, when we have worked the ball, for quite a while, she will play with them the way dogs play where they know each other and understand each others personalities. And whenever the play escalates - even though it is still only play - I pull her away to our ball game again. Though the other dog owners are fine with that intense interaction, I do not want her engaged in a way that riles her up.
It's not fair to her. Because she is so powerful. And because she is a Doberman. And so can easily be blamed if something does go wrong.
I text Meng's owner the day after the ball fight. Is he fine? I asked. And he is. As is Nava. And I will make a point of having them play at the park together again. Parallel play. Each chasing their own ball. Focused not on each other but on the task at hand that is their job at that moment.
This is a mommy and a baby heartrock. I found them both yesterday morning when I was walking my perfect Doberman. I was thinking about babies - I had just babysat the past two days for a quite delicious baby on one of the days and a now one and a half and running around and oh so cute toddler on the other - and I looked down and there they were, nestled right next to each other among many other, non-heartrock rocks. I picked them up and put them in my pocket and then added them to the collection of heart shaped rocks that I have on the window sill in my kitchen. And that was it.
Until later yesterday when I was driving home from a really lovely day in Santa Barbara where I first got my new computer fixed. The operative word here is new. The space bar and the period were not working on the keyboard which I learned has been a problem with the new - and thin and sleek and light - Macs because, to make them so light and sleek and thin means it is very difficult to protect the keyboard from dust and grime. Hence a small bit of said dust got under the spacebar and alas, it did not work. Nor the period. But it got fixed with a bit of forced air from a can which the Apple Genius said I must purchase of my own for future needs.
Funny story, I was dictating to Siri about my space bar and my period not working and she kept making a space and putting in a period rather than writing "spacebar" and "period." She's funny.
So, I did that, and then I went to this amazing consignment shop where I actually sell a lot of my clothes and instead - just to shake things up - I bought these quite extraordinary Alexander McQueen pants. And a few other things that I need.
And then I met my middle daughter and a friend of hers and we spent the afternoon at Earth Day. We ate yummy food and listened to good music and sat in the sun and walked around and held a HUGE boa constrictor and met some great people.
I came home and rearranged the clothes in my closet to make room for those necessary pieces I just acquired. And then I started this writing, the night before the Monday morning that my writing is shared with you, because it was on my mind.
So, the Golden Trimester.
I want to say it is a lie. But that is not true. There is such a thing as the Golden Trimester, but I remember, and this could just be me, that it is not a trimester in length. It is much shorter. And I do not think it came right when I entered the second trimester. Which is what it is. The Golden Trimester is the second one. The first one is the: I am newly pregnant and - as was the case with the same middle daughter I just had this lovely day with yesterday - I spent a lot of time "coughing in the toilet" as my two and half year old son would call it while I struggled through my morning sickness.
Trimester number one was also the trimester of being really tired. Like really. And achy because things are stretching that have never stretched before. Like a uterus. And breasts. Like pre-period achy breasts but more because they are also growing. So they are heavy. So achy and stretchy and heavy and tired and possibly a bit of toilet coughing. And hungry.
And as you get close to that twelve week mark you can see the outline of gold in the distance. And it is beckoning you along to what is promised to be the best trimester. The Golden one. But alas, it does not come at quite twelve weeks. If I remember correctly it came at more like fourteen or fifteen weeks.
And then, at sixteen weeks it was gone. Poof.
This could Just be me again because I was one of the biggest pregnant people that I know. Truly. I am not kidding here. Short waisted and small boned (not tiny boned, but small) my babies showed up on me quite early. Like first trimester early. And so my theory is that I was a second trimester baby carrier in girth during my first trimester and so became a third trimester baby mama at about week sixteen - right in the middle of what should have been the Golden Trimester.
Let me take a bit more time to talk about how big I was... in my belly. My feet did not swell, my rings still fit, my face stayed thin (I'll skip the keyboard analogy here) but turn me sideways and I could not fit through a door. I got stuck in bathroom stalls because the doors open inward and so I had to face towards the back as I opened the door. I did not fit under the desks at my law school and so they had to bring in a special table and chair for me at the back of the room. I was stopped in the street at around six months with a well you certainly look like you are ready to pop! Nope...three more months to go. The entire third trimester actually.
So you can see that the Golden Trimester (notice I keep writing this in capital letters - to give it the reverence it deserves) well, it was fleeting.
This is not to say that I did not love being pregnant. I LOVE being pregnant. Truly. I mean, a life is in my belly. With a personality that comes forth even before they come forth. It is, by far, the most amazing experience of my life being a mother to these first in my belly and then babies and then children and then adults of mine. And worth ever bit of every thing that went along with it.
Well maybe not the clothes.
Because back in the nineties the maternity clothes - they sucked. At least they did where I lived. There were bows and bears - on clothes for me!?!? And god forbid you were able to find a diaper bag that did not have little animals on it. Cool, trendy, good looking maternity clothes were not easy to come by back then. And, considering the fact that clothing is my art form, well, this was not good.
But everything else, worth every second.
This is our cat. This is his I will tolerate you taking a photo of me face. He is really my son's cat but he is our cat because he lives with us. But he is so my son's cat. His personality is my son's. Except without any worry or anxiety. Like just a really chill version of my son who is really chill in his own right so you can imagine how laid back and easy going this cat is.
Phoenix is now fifteen. We got him when he was just a kitten. We thought he was a girl. A friend of my son's brought him over and said he was a girl so we just assumed that he was. Then my kids went off to camp and while they were gone our sweet girl kitty's balls dropped. I wrote to my son at camp Phoenix has balls! It took a while to remember that he was a boy after that...
Speaking of balls, we had a pet rat once, too. Well my daughter did. The daughter who, after we got her the rat said wanting a rat is more fun than having a rat. This rat was one of our last pets. Except for the three other dogs, a snake named Scratch and Phoenix.
Well this rat, he was very sweet. She named him Sweetie. And she would play with him a lot. Then one day his balls dropped, too. For anyone who does not know this, teenage boy rat balls are about the same size as their head. My daughter wouldn't hold him anymore. We had to get him neutered. It costs double the cost of buying him in the first place.
Many of our pets ended up costing us - it was worth every penny but still worth noting.
Scratch, our snake had a respiratory infection. That was a huge vet bill. I didn't realize he had this, I thought he was making noises when I came in to feed him because he was hungry and happy to see me. But then I was told that snakes don't make noise. I left the vet with a ten day supply of syringes filled with antibiotics that I had to inject in his neck - which looks just like his body but closer to his head. He got better but then escaped from his cage and got lost in the walls of our house. We found him a year later.
As I write this I am remembering that all of our pets were a bit quirky. Like our first pet, a Standard Poodle names Ruckus, he had a problem with drinking water. He drank incessantly and was really sloppy about it. I brought him to the vet, I was worried he had diabetes as a symptom in dogs was drinking a lot. The vet called me and said he's not diabetic, he's inefficient. Turns out his tongue was not attached correctly and he couldn't lap the water. The vet told us to let him drink our of the toilet. Which we did, and which all of our other dogs - and our two cats - learned to do, too.
Ruckus also ate socks and underwear and tubes of diaper cream.
Then our second dog, Gabby, she was blind in one eye, which we did not know until she turned a year old. Weimeraner's have these amazing blue eyes when they are puppies that turn a golden color at around a year. So this first year both blue eyes looked fine and we just thought we had a goofy puppy who fell off curbs and ran into fences but then her eyes turned gold and one was not right.
We brought her to the vet to get her eyes checked. You may ask, how does a vet check a dogs eyes? Well, they cover one eye and drop a dog biscuit in front of the other eye. With one eye she looked down as the biscuit fell, with the bad eye, she just sat there. I called her breeder. She's blind in one eye, I said. This very strange woman offered to take her back and give me a new dog. I was like, what the fuck????!! No thank you, I said. I love my dog. Just pay for all the vet bills.
Then we had Ophelia, our Ragdoll kitty who we hoped to breed but she had a flipped uterus. She also almost died when she had her first rabies shot and we learned she was allergic to most vaccinations. More vet bills.
We had birds. We got a bird named Jill. She loved my son. But we wondered if she was lonely so we got her a boyfriend. His name was Buddy. Jill wanted nothing to do with my son after that. Our cat, Ophelia, would sit on their cage and swish her tail back and forth when we weren't home. They lost their feathers due to stress and we gave them to our babysitter. A much calmer life for them both.
And we had bunnies. First Calm who was this lovely black bunny that was so sweet and clean and well behaved and would hop around our house and never make a mess. Until he hit puberty and we HAD to get him a girlfriend. We named her Whore Bunny but called her Clover. They had babies. She taught him bad habits. They eventually went to live with friends.
We had giant goldfish. This was a miracle really. I never cleaned the fish tank. A massive fish tank. With cats and dogs and bunnies and birds and a rat and, which I haven't even mentioned until now, an aquatic frog and gerbils ...well, those fish just had to make due. They did more than that, they thrived. Their names were Conan and Raphamon. Every now and then we'd see a bit of orange swim by against the glass and then disappear again into the mucky water. When they died we finally got to see their size. They were basically individual salmon steaks. We kept them in our freezer until we could give them a proper burial. A whole separate writing.
Our first Doberman, his name was Mac and he was huge. His quirky thing was terribly sad, we thought he was just this easy going, didn't care that he was a Doberman kind of Doberman but, in actuality, he had a heart condition and died right before he turned seven. Broke my heart.
When he was one and a half he dated the girl next door and they had twelve puppies. She lied to him and told him she was spade. Bitch.
We took a puppy, A dog named Tank. I thought she was going to look just like her dad, my Doberman, because she was the biggest puppy. But she ended up looking like her mom - an Australian Cattle Dog. Except a much fatter version. My theory is that she was a Doberman in a cattle dog body. A big, massive Doberman stuffed into a small cattle dog body. You get the idea.
And of course we have Nava, my perfect Doberman.
But back to Phoenix. The incredible hunter-who-could-probably-kill-a-wild-boar if-need-be cat.
So his hunting. We have been feeling really badly about this lately because he has been bringing in a lot of birds and we realized that we are kinda helping him with this. You see, we have this fountain outside, a really cool one, very modern looking, square and low to the ground. And our cat, smart cat that he is, he crouches very quietly right next to the side of the fountain, his body pressed up against the concrete. And he waits. And the birds, they come to drink and play and flap their wings in our fountain because it is hot where we live and so this is so great for them and then my cat gets one. So basically we are setting up these birds for slaughter.
He hunts quite a lot. And not just the birds we are supplying him with. Mice and Rats and geckos. He is amazing at it. He sometimes brings them in dead. I do not consider them gifts and since he eats them pretty much completely, I am thinking they are not gifts as far as he is concerned, either. They are meals. My nephew believes he has a trophy room.
Usually, though, what he catches he brings in live. And then gets bored and we are left with a traumatized mouse running around our home while our now not interested at all kitty is sleeping on the couch or on the table near the salt lamp. He loves being near the salt lamp. Good chi I think.
This post is about a dog. But really it's about more than a dog. Still, the dog part needs to come first, it sets the stage for the message that comes later, in act two.
This post about a dog is not about my dog. Though this photo that I have included is my dog. I love this photo. It was taken this past Saturday when my husband and I went to the beach to walk our beautiful and perfect Doberman. I love how alert she is. And focused. And him, too. They both are so into this game of ball that they play together.
It is a different game than my ball game. My game consists mainly of throwing the ball with my ball chuck thing. But my husband, this is an art form for him. He has Nava so focused in and so intent on working. He has her sit and stay and long down stay and circle around him to the left and then the right. She high fives and low fives and goes through his legs and then he'll have her wait and he'll place the ball down on the ground a ways away and then call her to him. She comes and sits right there in front of him but you can see that, though her head is facing up at him, there is just the slightest pull of her eye to the right where the ball sits on the ground. And after he lets her get the ball and bring it back to him for me he will throw it so far down the beach and she will run with such grace and sometimes pull the ball from the air as she soars above the sand. They are awesome together.
But this post is not about them.
It is first about this other dog that we found on the beach a week ago. We were there with Nava and as I sat on this great shaped-like-a-bench-with-a-back-and-all rock this sweet dog came over to say hi. He had a harness collar and lots of tags. I expected the owner to show up next but no one did. And so we looked around. And asked around. First this couple who had just showed up in their camper for a day at the beach. Standing with them we called the numbers on the tag and got the dad of the guy who owned the dog. He didn't know where his son was but would try him and call us back.
Then we talked with this other guy a ways down the beach who said this sweet pup - his name is Kona - had been at the beach since the day before. He said that a surfer girl had tried all the numbers and left messages and no-one called back and so this kind man took Kona in over night for a sleepover. They ate hotdogs and Balogna together.
We tried the dad again to let him know that his son's dog had not been with his son since yesterday. And while we talked, with dad and with the sleepover man and with the couple with the camper, Kona stayed right with us. Playing a bit with Nava and standing close for love. And then jumping into my car and curling up in the back seat. My heart was full.
And then camper couple said they wanted him. That they had been wanting a dog and obviously this owner had abandoned his dog and so we gave them some food from bags we had in the car and left Kona with these new people.
And then on the way home, the owner called me.
How did your dog get lost on the beach last night, I asked him. And why did you not stay to find him? He answered that Kona ran away a lot, searching and hunting and doing dog things and he could not find him and needed to go home.
And I felt uneasy, it was already almost 9:00 in the morning and he had not been back at the beach looking for his pup. Who came when called for me so would have come to this man, too. Right?
But I did not know this man and I did not know this dog except to know that he was a loved dog and a well-trained dog and who was I to judge even though I was.
We had to leave the beach, I said. Kona is still there, someone else is watching him and I believe will take him to the humane society when they leave. It was a white lie. A partial lie. A not wanting to tell the truth but not wanting to really lie lie. Because I wanted Kona to stay with this new couple. I was mad at this man on the phone who made excuses. I didn't want him to have his dog but - and this is what this post is really about - it wasn't my place to make that decision. To control this.
I wanted to. And I still question if I should have. Should I have said that we had to leave and someone else took Kona to the humane society already? Should I have said that so that this man would not even go to the beach to see if he could find his dog?
I struggled back and forth, after the fact, for days. My husband said it will be what it is supposed to be. This man either went to the beach and found this couple and got his dog, or he went to the beach and did not. Or he deciding just not to go to the beach.
And now it is nine days later and I still think about this. On two levels. I think about Kona, sweet and scared, and I wonder where he is and is he safe. Because of these moments he was with us, I love him.
And I think how are we to know, in these moments when the story is unfolding around us, when we need to step back and let the action take place unencumbered verses when we need to play a leading role in the story?
It is a judgement call. And for me it is an energetic reaction that sits in my stomach and tells me where to walk next. And usually it tells me the right way to go. Though sometimes I don't listen and head down the wrong path despite myself. But then, every once in a while I get stuck in the crosswalk, not sure which direction is the right one. My intuition tells me two things. Always for a reason, but I cannot uncover the lesson that is being taught and so I get stuck.
I am stuck there now, after the fact. For nine days I have been standing right in the middle of the intersection replaying my choices over in my mind. Just as I played them the second I got off the phone with this man.
I wish I had said that Kona was no longer at the beach, I think. But then I circle back to was it my place to decide if this man deserved his dog? And I think no. But then I get mad at him again and I am back where I started. It is a tricky thing knowing when to step in and when to step back.
But here's the thing: if we assume that it is not our place to control the outcome of something that is outside of ourselves do we lose our humanity?
And as I write this, my lesson becomes clear. The word I am using is wrong. Control is the wrong word. The word is participation. This is where I was stuck. Because we really can't control anything can we? We think we can, we want to, but we can't.
What we can do is participate. Show up. Be in it. This is the lesson I needed to uncover. That we need to participate but that the outcome is not a sure thing. The outcome is out of our control. Yes, I think this is what this was about.
And so now, though I still will think about Kona and hope that we see him on the beach, perhaps with this couple that wanted him so much or perhaps with his first owner who loves him in his own way, I am feeling a bit less hard on myself. I participated in this dog story. In the best way that I could in the moment I was in.
I missed last Monday's writing. I realized this on Wednesday morning when I was sitting in the shower. I love sitting in the shower. I make the water really hot, much hotter than it would be if I were still standing. And then I sit. And I lean forward to let the hot water hit my back and then I lean back against the tiles. And I do this a few times so that the hot water is pressed from my back against the surprisingly-cool-considering-the-temperature-of-the-water tiles. And soon they are finally not too cold for me to lean against. The heat off my back warms the tiles just enough. And I sit. For a long time.
So there I was. And I started to think about my next writing, thinking that it was coming up soon, but quickly realized that it was not, and that the reason why I thought it was is because I hadn't written one in a while. And then I thought fuck, I forgot my Monday morning writing.
I had missed writings before. Not very often, five times I believe in all this time. And when I did miss it, I always wrote as soon as I remembered. Like when I first starting writing this writing and it was a Sunday morning writing and then it became a Sunday night writing and then finally settled into Monday morning as those Sunday times were just not working out with life and my children were around a lot and there was weekend stuff to do. When I missed my writings back then I wrote right away and acknowledged the delay
And a few times I forgot the writing altogether, not because of anything like a weekend event or a conflict in time but just because I forgot. My most recent time doing this, before this time this past Monday, was six weeks ago.
And again, each time I forgot, I wrote right away to explain why I had missed the writing. Each piece explained the delay and re-committed to the process once again because the intention was still very clear to me, in that energetic way, that it was important to adhere to the structure I had created.
And so I wrote a Monday on a Wednesday, or a Monday on a Tuesday, or a Monday morning on a Monday night writing and all was good. I was back in my groove.
Until this past week. This time I did it differently. Because this time, it was different. I could feel it. It was not just about missing the writing and then going and doing it. There was a message in this one. And I needed to sit in it and listen to it.
And so I did.
In the still hot water of my shower meditation, I sat in the discomfort of it. And then over this past week, as the urge to write something pulled me to fill up the space that held my Monday musings, I sat in it still. It was hard. I had this burning, well not burning but very strong, desire to write something and put it out there because I was worried. About not doing what I had committed to doing. And about whether anyone would wonder where I was. And about whether I would lose you by missing a writing. Because even though I write for myself, I write for you, too. For this connection with you. And so I worried that I had disconnected. And so I felt badly, too.
I sat in the discomfort of all of this and I sat in this worry. And in my sitting I took the time to reflect on what was really happening. And question what I was to learn here. And figure out what the next best step is. And this is what I figured out.
I love my Monday morning writing.
And the plan is not working in the way that it was. This is not to say that I will not write my writing each Monday. It is a Monday morning writing after all, and I likely will write each Monday still. I've got a lot to say.
But if I don't write, this is ok, too.
Because what this is about is the awareness of what I am doing. It is about being present to the choice to write. The structure that I created, that commitment to have to write each week, it worked for as long as it worked. This structure, it created the rhythm for my writing and was the foundation I built my words on. And was right for me for quite a long time. But not now. Now what is right is that I write, but if I don't, well that is right, too.
This is the mindfulness of it that I am noticing and honoring. There is importance in this. This is a message from the universe that I need to pay attention to.
Mother, Wife, Friend, Sister, Daughter, Dancer, Rower, Runner, Dog and Cat lover.