On Sticks, Smiles and Being Stuck

She brought the toy back to me. Again.

Lizzy loves the game and is downright joyful when she gets to play. Rain, or shine, wet or dry, hot or cold, she will go find her stick and drop it right in front of me. She is aware of the weather, but it simply does not outweigh her happy chase.

I bundle up these days for our morning routine. I put on all the sweats I have, a couple coats over that and then trudge out in my winter boots, coffee in hand; a bit grumpy because I simply hate to be cold. Not Lizzy. The minute I release her to go out, she bounds into the yard and searches for her fetch stick. Once it is secured in her mouth, she nearly bounces to where I stand using my coffee cup to keep my already gloved hands warm. She drops the stick on my boots and sits down, tipping that beautiful head to mine and looking me right in the eye. I know she is saying, “Throw it, please.”

With all that I am, on days when the cold cools my mood, I want nothing more than to deny her and trudge back inside to my warm fire. But that face. She has not one concern about her surroundings. She is not tainted by the cold or the woodsmoke wafting around us. She is not daunted by the frost on the ground or the sight of her own breath. She knows its cold. She also knows it’s a bit uncomfortable for her wet nose and the bottoms of her feet. But the chance to do something that nurtures her inner smile is worth it to her.

I love that about her. Life in the mountains is not like life in the valleys. We will soon have snow and our already sequestered-for-our-health life will be sequestered even further for our safety. We have been on the road only twice this year, and twice is not nearly enough. Still, she sits there, every morning, asking to play a little. She has decided, I think, to have some fun right where she is.

I wonder—with all the chaos in our world; the fights over who is bad, badder and the most baddest in our politics; the conspiracy theories around an illness that is ever increasingly killing people; our nation that is economically devastated and not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel; communities who are polarizing and refusing to treat one another with even basic human dignity—I wonder if we might just learn a little from Lady Lizzy.

She is not mad at Shua because there is an illness keeping all of us at home. She does not hate the neighbors because they are stuck at home too or when they do, often, make the noise people make when stuck at home. She is not worried about how she will get fed but eats what she is given. She does not refuse to trust us as we keep her here, warm and quiet, until the problem of this pandemic is settled.

Rather, she is having some fun where she can. She bounces around the yard, chasing her toy as though we were at Yosemite. She is coping, and she trusts us to make things different when we can. I don’t doubt that my “You wanna go?” call would be answered with her sitting at the gate waiting to be leashed. But she is not angry because she can’t go. She is doing what she must, she is waiting till she can, and she is trusting that this won’t last forever.

Would that the world would be like Lady Lizzy.

I don’t hear her complain. Now, lest you say, dogs can’t talk so they can’t complain, let me assure you my dogs make themselves quite known when they are unhappy. That noise is not fun, and it makes their point quite clearly. But Lizzy is simply taking life in stride, doing what she can, and having fun at it.

With my coffee cup drained, I headed for the door. Lizzy dropped her stick where I instructed and trotted ahead of me. She plopped her bottom at the door and waited for me to open it. Once we were both inside, she grabbed a little water and trotted to her bed while I peeled off my layers and warmed myself by the fire. She curled up in a circle and drifted off to sleep. I knelt by her bed and petted that beautiful black hair. She snuggled into my hand and opened an eye, her inner smile looking up at me and saying, “I love fetch, mom.” I chuckled and went to my improvised home office to start my day.

As I sat down, I looked around and realized there are fun things to be done here, like writing and painting and listening to good music…things that will tickle my inner smile, and that one day, with my trust in God and my determination to have fun right here, I will find that, indeed, I am no longer stuck.

If you would like to see our dogs, go to bmgsd.com

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