For those of you who have never read, and plan to someday read Garth Stein’s amazing novel, The Art of Racing in the Rain, probably skip reading this post. It’s about that book. There will assuredly be spoilers.
But this post is also, maybe obviously, about my dog. Again.
First, to leave the book fangirling and fantastic spiritual hope aside for a few moments, I want to talk about why it’s been a week and a half, and I’m still feeling sad about my dog, when I’ve moved past observable grief about human beings much faster in the past, and likely will in the future as well. I’ve spoken with J at length about it (he still feels loss too), and we are both grateful in a way that she passed when she did and how she did. It was quick. We didn’t really have any bad days until that last one. And it was right before a time when J and the Boy and I would all be together and close for an extended period of time. No one would have to call off work or school to mourn her…we were already free and together. So we wouldn’t have to deal with any assholes saying the phrase ‘just a dog.’ I am not a violent person, or even a particularly easily provoked one. Neither are J and our son. But I mean…’just a dog’ referring to my dog would tempt me to punch some teeth in. Just saying.
When and how she passed is enough to make even a non-spiritually bent, ultra-logical minded person like J wonder if there’s something…extra going on when it comes to her connection with us. It’s like she chose the time. It’s almost like she knew we’d need each other and we’d have the time together and even though there’d really NEVER be a ‘good’ time for her to go, she sorted it out and that was the best time. The time it’d be easiest for us to deal with the pain and loss and grief. I don’t know. Grief makes me ramble, I guess.
I still feel weighty loss because losing my dog is a daily loss. It’s a continuing loss. I love my family outside my own home, and I love my friends in whichever places they are. Dearly. But even my closest human connections, beyond J and our son…I don’t see them or speak to them every day. I had my dog every day for 13 years. J is the only PERSON I’ve had in my life for that kind of consistency and duration. The ONLY person. J. So that’s where I’m at with my dog. She was a part of my every day. She touched so many places in my life and was a part of so many things for me that I can’t just stop missing her…she was everywhere for me, all the time. I don’t have any human connection with that kind of strength and compatibility and constancy, except for J and our child. So losing her is hard for me, and it will be for a while. It’s hard to talk about the loss and explain it properly. Which I guess is a decent transition to talking about this book I read several years ago, but I can’t stop thinking about now. If any of you have read it, the reasons it’s been on my mind lately will be apparent, I’m sure. If you haven’t read it and plan to, PLEASE don’t read the rest of my post today if you don’t want potential spoilers. (I suppose if you don’t mind potential spoilers, keep reading though…it’s still a great book, and it’s not like I’m copying it here…I’m not even really summarizing it.)
The Art of Racing in the Rain is written in first person from a dog, Enzo’s, point of view.
He is very kind and loving and wise. Many dogs are kind and loving, but I guess a lot of people don’t consider dogs wise. Enzo was though, and maybe all dogs are. We just don’t know it, because they can’t talk to us in language we easily understand.
Here are some quotes and pieces of wisdom from Enzo…
“So much of language is unspoken. So much of language is comprised of looks and gestures and sounds that are not words. People are ignorant of the vast complexity of their own communication.”
“The human language, as precise as it is with its thousands of words, can still be so wonderfully vague.”
“Learn to listen! I beg of you. Pretend you are a dog like me and listen to other people rather than steal their stories.”
“The true hero is flawed. The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles – preferably of his own making – in order to triumph.”
“That which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny.”
“You should shine with all of your light all the time.”
“In racing, they say that your car goes where your eyes go. The driver who cannot tear his eyes away from the wall as he spins out of control will meet that wall; the driver who looks down the track as he feels his tires break free will regain control of his vehicle.”
I notice the gestures and looks and sounds that aren’t words, and I do listen like a dog a lot of the time. Maybe that’s why I’ve always loved and related so much to dogs. ??? Maybe…maybe…well, here are these parts of the book…these parts I want to believe are real. I imagine these things Mr. Stein wrote are real, and it comforts me about my dog. About this colossal void in my life now that she’s gone. About how unfair I feel it is that dogs don’t live very long when they are so kind and loving and good.
“He died that day because his body had served its purpose. His soul had done what it came to do, learned what it came to learn, and then was free to leave.”
“My soul has learned what it came to learn, and all the other things are just things. We can’t have everything we want. Sometimes, we simply have to believe.”
“We had a good run, and now it’s over; what’s wrong with that?”
“When I return to the world, I will be a man. I will walk among you. I will lick my lips with my small, dexterous tongue. I will shake hands with other men, grasping firmly with my opposable thumbs. And I will teach all people that I know. And when I see a man or a woman or a child in trouble, I will extend my hand, both metaphorically and physically. I will offer my hand. To him. To her. To you. To the world. I will be a good citizen, a good partner in the endeavor of life that we all share.”
“In Mongolia, when a dog dies, he is buried high in the hills so people cannot walk on his grave. The dog’s master whispers in the dog’s ear his wishes that the dog will return as a man in his next life…I learned that from a program on the National Geographic Channel, so I believe it is true. Not all dogs return as men, they say; only those who are ready.
I am ready.”
I want to believe our girl was ready.
I whispered in her ear.
There’s an epilogue at the end of this book where, about ten years down the line, after Enzo’s soul breaks free, his humans are in Italy and they happen to meet a young boy (who’s about 10) named…Enzo.
Our girl had a human name, but an unusual one too. Like Enzo. We didn’t name her after a famous racing driver like Enzo’s human did. When we rescued her, she already had her name, but I’m glad we kept it.
And I hope, someday down the line, I will meet a girl or a woman with that name by chance who is the same age as the number of years our girl has been gone. And she’ll shake my hand. And I’ll know. That our girl was ready.