18 Mar Chasing Gidget: You do what you have to do
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I went to surf at Zuma on Monday morning after what was probably seven months of not surfing at Zuma. Seven months! What happened, Gidge?
Life. Life happened and death happened.
It was not an easy day to surf. El Nino storms have shaken up our waters, and the waves were fast, hard and unrelenting. I spent the first part of my session with my awesome instructor Colin swimming against the current and getting nowhere. Colin’s a great swimmer; he just passed the swim test in the application process to be a county lifeguard. My swimming is not as stellar, but as Braddah Roy told me when we were surfing together in the gentle waves of Waikiki, “Surfing is the reward for good paddling,” so paddle I must.
We went back to shore for a quick debrief. That current I didn’t see from the sand? Yeah, it was hiding in plain sight in the spot I couldn’t paddle past for what seemed like ten minutes but was probably only two or three.
As we sat on the sand visually identifying the current and finding a better place to enter to catch waves, we talked about what would help me be a stronger swimmer. “Well, I started taking swim lessons,” I began to tell him, then paused with a sigh. “We had a rough year. My husband’s dad died, and then three weeks later my dog died on his 5th birthday. That’s the night I quit swimming.”
I’d forgotten the connection until the ocean reminded me.
You do what you have to do to be who you need to be to live the life you love. That’s how it works. It’s not glamorous, sweating through hours of yoga, baring your soul to your coach or therapist, sitting alone with feelings you’ve never felt, swimming infinite laps in the pool or saying goodbye to loved ones. You do what you have to do.
I’m doing all of it now. For a few months, I could only do a little. One foot in front of the other. Every step counts and it all adds up to this thing we call life.
I really really didn’t want a puppy. Our kids were just old enough to not feel like babies anymore. We had recently returned from a trip to Europe with our 6 and 8 year old adventurers and celebrated our independence. With the end of naps, the beginning of both kids in the same school, our life was starting to be easy and A PUPPY IS NOT EASY. And the responsibilities? The training? You’ve got to be kidding me.
What? There is a litter of rescued purebred Doberman puppies and they think they have a match for our family? Let’s go get the kids and see!
Of course we brought him home.
Indy. Indiana Jones Pery. Our Indian Red.
I didn’t know Indy was going to be my dog. He was supposed to be for Rafe, his 40th birthday dog. And he was to be a companion for Daisy, who at 11 (a sage senior citizen in dog years) needed something new to get her tired old bones off the couch.
But one day as Rafe was bringing Indy inside after a quick trip to the lawn, our little guy ran straight for me like I was the only thing in the world that mattered to him. Such love! Such loyalty! I’d always been around dogs, but I never had one of those dogs. He stole my heart. I was his and he was mine.
Oh, how I loved that dog and I loved being loved by that dog … even when he sent me to the emergency room with what I thought was a concussion from him leaping towards me over the arm of the couch, breaking a lamp, a wine glass, and but nothing more. I loved him when sent me back to the ER with a broken nose, resulting from another full speed run to meet me in bed for a cuddle. I loved him so much. We were inseparable. He was my baby.
I felt like Indy was put on the planet with one job: loving me. No one has ever loved me the way my Indy did.
I loved him when we spent his first birthday at the Emergency Vet Hospital after he’d stolen two pounds of grapes off the counter – and I hold a very special place in my heart for the vet tech who counted the two pounds of grapes after they’d induced vomiting to make sure he wasn’t poisoned from eating them.
I loved him when we spent his fifth birthday back at the Emergency Vet Hospital after his gums had suddenly turned from pink to grey and his mouth was cold. The cough we hoped would be cured with antibiotics was pneumonia, a complication of a genetic condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) which affects an unfortunate number of purebred Dobies. His heart was failing.
This is the last photo I took of Indy. He was looking outside at the rain.
We didn’t see it coming. He never stopped being his exuberant self, never slowed down, never warned us his time was up.
I loved him when the doctor said he we were counting our days together in weeks, maybe months if we were lucky.
I loved him when I gave consent for the vet to give him CPR if his heart stopped while they were monitoring him and treating him with oxygen overnight to see if he would stabilize and we could bring him home.
He didn’t come home.
Our sweet puppy left us a few hours after we said goodbye and told him what a good boy he was.
Indy, our dog whose job on Earth was to love, died because his heart was too big.
The stages of grief do not follow a linear progression with mile markers that tell you how far you’ve gone. Grieving is like being in the waves, back and forth and under and through.
Learning to surf, before we ever go into the water, Colin and I watch the ocean to see what there is to know. We look for patterns in what we observe – wind, currents, how are the waves breaking, right or left, fast or slow, any obstacles, who else is out there. We do this longer than I’d think necessary, but once you’re in the ocean, you are part of the story as it unfolds, wherever it takes you and every minute you can gather information on the sand is invaluable.
I think the most frustrating days of surfing, of life, are when you fight the conditions. If it’s flat, it’s flat. No waves, no surfing. You always have to be with the ocean exactly as it is – it doesn’t have an agenda, and whatever the waves give you, it’s certainly not personal. What you take away from the experience is always personal.
The worst place to be in the ocean is right where the waves are breaking. We think we want to go above them, so we can see, maybe feel like we’ve got some bit of control, but it’s actually easier to go under and wait until they pass, or paddle out just beyond the break.
In surfing, you catch the wave before it breaks, meeting the waves energy with the strength of your paddling. You have to be with the wave to ride it.
I think grief is like this, too.
I don’t know how this story ends. I still miss my sweet puppy dog and I still love him. I always will. Time heals, and since Monday, I’m back in the pool training again.