J.O.Y.

Saturday

Ann called today.  She is a friend from my days in Virginia, including the time when I ran a small personal services business.  Ann worked with me in that business for a while, but we knew each other primarily from church.  A few years ago, she and her family moved to south Florida.

Today Ann was passing the exit for my winter campground on her way to Georgia.  She thought of me so she gave me a call.  We had a nice chat as I lay curled up in my bed with Dawny, who hasn’t been feeling so hot lately.  Today she has had a particularly bad spell.

Ann and I chatted for awhile about this and that.  Then she mentioned that their family recently lost their beloved dog, Skipper.  Rather than crying and moaning about his death, Ann happily told me how they gave Skipper a roaring send-off, complete with a doggy bucket list.

It was a bucket list to die for.  It included chocolate and beer.  I think that if Skipper asked for it, they would have provided him with a smoke.  He enjoyed a day with Daddy on his boat and a walk in the woods without a leash….  That last one was a little scary since he got a bit away from them and poor Ann was afraid they would have to call the vet to cancel the euthanasia appointment because Skipper got himself lost in the woods.  But he came back.  And they made their appointment.  Talk about irony on top of irony.

Ann said that what has gotten her through this time–in addition to fond memories of Skipper’s life and his final days–was the acronym J.O.Y.  She explained the “J” is for Jesus, the “O” is for Others, and the “Y” is for Yourself.  If you look at the world through this kind of construct, it can help get you through some of those challenging times.  You put Jesus first, others second, and yourself last.

Jesus.  Well, I sure didn’t want to go into it over the phone, or even in person should we meet later this month as planned, but I have a real problem with the whole organized religion thing.  So let’s not even get started on that.

But if I think of what the person, the concept of Jesus means to me in a spiritual sense, it does carry a particular meaning and weight.  Simply and purely put, Jesus is Love.

Ok, I can go with that.

Others.  In the context of losing a loved one, Ann explained that you look only at what is best for them.  Ann and her husband knew that Skipper was in pain and was suffering.  They had the power to cut that suffering short, releasing the little fellow from his time here in this world.  They gave Skipper a few super special days celebrating his life and their life together.  Then they released him.

Yourself.  Putting yourself last allows you to let go of your loved one.  The only thing that matters is what is best for them.  And you give that to them with love in your heart.  It is not about you.  It is all about them.

Until they are gone.

Then it can be about you.

Ann sounded very joyful on the phone today.

As I sit here with a listless Dawny at my feet, however, I weep.  Mostly for me.  Selfish, self-absorbed me.

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Sunday

Oh, joy!  Dawny woke up hungry and ready for her morning walk.  She did a loop and a half around the park with no problem and when the workampers’ golf cart drove by, she tried to chase it down in hopes of catching a cookie or two.

Love, except in its purest form–attainable only by God and Dog, in my opinion–is based on self-interest.  That doesn’t make it bad.  Just human.  And this highly imperfect human is grateful for every day with her nearly perfect Dog.

Today’s post is dedicated to Miss Ashley (Texas ranch dog extraordinaire), Missy and Benji (beloved canine companions belonging to friends at this winter campground), and, of course, Skipper.  Rest in peace, and bless your sweet souls for your faithful love and devotion to your respective humans.

Looking Up

Mom says to never forget to look up.

It is really easy to forget.  As wonderful as I am, I still am not perfect.  I get wrapped around the need (a driving, pounding, persistent NEED) for cookies.  Now.

Mom takes me for lots of walks.  And I get lots of cookies in this campground we are in now.  My nose pulls me towards the promise of cookies.   And I often get them . . .  by ones, twos, threes . . .  and when I am exceptionally lucky, by the fours (oh, Uncle Joe, thank you thank you thank you).

But you know what?  If I slow down enough to ponder Mom’s advice, I find that the world is way bigger than I knew.  And a simple cookie does not define its limits.

You see those doggies over yonder?  They don’t mean me any harm.  I don’t have to strain at my leash and try to run them out of town.  Even if they get cookies, too, it seems that there is plenty to go around.

Do you want to know what the craziest thing is?  Good, simple lovin’–a scratch on the butt, rubbing of the ears, massaging the bark-sore throat, a meandering conversation on a balmy afternoon–it turns out that those things are just as sweet as a cookie.  Who knew?

Maybe that’s what Mom means about looking up.  I need to find some distance, a perspective longer and broader than that granted through self-gratification–aren’t I smart to use such big words!–to see the bigger picture.  The wider picture.  The deeper picture.

Mom likes to read what she calls history.  She says that when you look at an immediate problem (like the need to be alpha cookie dog at all times, no matter what or who or wherefore) through the perspective of a big, sweeping picture (like the one at the top of this post that shows a timeless, blue sky free from the grasp of winter’s gnarled, dying branches) it can boost your faith, trust, and confidence to do the right thing.

Translation?  Well, in my case, I would do well to appreciate the lovin’ I get from our neighbors as much as those cookies.  To allow other doggies to enjoy their cookies, too.  It turns out that what they enjoy does not detract from what I enjoy.  It actually multiplies all of the joy.

It brightens the blue of the sky for every one of us.

Nothing wrong with that.

Just sayin’.  As a humble little doggy.  Just sayin’.

One Insomniac’s Good Fortune

Boy, am I lucky!  It was a bad night for sleep last night.  I finally surrendered to the insomnia, made a cup of tea, and started channel surfing.  First came a Christmas episode of The Love Boat, which was charming enough when viewed through the early morning groggy haze.

That was followed by the most touching Christmas story I have seen in a very long time.

Twilight Zone’s December 23, 1960 episode, “The Night of the Meek,” is magical.  Beyond magical.  Art Carney does a magnificent job playing Henry Corwin, a down-and-out drunk who gets fired from a seasonal job as a department store Santa when he arrives late and drunk on Christmas Eve.

Henry agonizes over the poverty in his neighborhood.  His heart is pained by children who are likely to get little to nothing on Christmas.  By neighbors just trying to survive.  There are some great lines and great moments.  My favorite is Henry talking to his boss, Mr. Dundee, after getting fired:  “I can either drink or I can weep and drinking is so much more subtle . . .  Just on one Christmas, I’d like to see the meek inherit the earth.  And that’s why I drink, Mr. Dundee, and that’s why I weep.”

I don’t want to spoil the story for any who would like to see it, so I won’t describe much more, except to say that watching Henry made me feel like the Grinch (my first reaction was Sheesh, this is cheesy) . . .  My heart grew three sizes by the end of the story.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find a free video of this on YouTube.  I found the 1985 remake of it on YouTube (starring Richard Mulligan), which I watched to compare the two.  It’s OK, but it does not possess the magic of the original.  If you have Amazon Prime, Hulu, or Netflix you can likely find it.  Just be sure to get the 1960 original and don’t settle for the remake.  It will be worth the effort.

I will take the liberty of closing with words from the immortal Rod Serling:  “There’s a wondrous magic to Christmas, and there’s a special power reserved for little people.  In short, there’s nothing mightier than the meek.  And a Merry Christmas to each and all.”