While no expert in grieving, I am struck by the power of not merely reminiscing or viewing my memories through my current lens of loss, but allowing myself to “relive” a bit of the joy this creature brought to my life. Tonight, I reviewed a short memoir I wrote about Maisie’s impact on my life almost three years ago when we lived in Colorado. Written in the present tense about my daily life with Maisie, this brief capture of my daily life experience reinforced to me the power of jotting down the beautiful things in your life WHILE you are experiencing them. Rather than leave the storytelling for later years, I suggest writing down your daily joys and lived experiences that may serve as a reservoir of joy when days of loss challenge your vision.
This sprightly little dog served a key role in my life that relates directly to my learning to savor each day for the beauties and joys inherent in breathing, running, feeling the wind on my face, and responding to sincere, constant affection. I have felt the love, respect, and loyalty of many wonderful people in my life, but Maisie stands out as a beacon and example for the type of being I want to become for others around me. I hope that I can lift and love wherever I am so that others’ fears and concerns are allayed; that they feel safe and loved in my presence even without exchanging any words.
Perhaps, we have more to learn from all of God’s creatures (and creations) around us than we are currently expecting or appreciating. Please read on if you would like to know how Maisie changed my life even when I lacked any initial interest in her kind…
Maisie and Me: Overcoming Anxiety and Finding Joy in Daily Life
September 23, 2017
I don’t ever remember wanting a dog. Really. When I was a child, I was bit and chased by dogs while I delivered newspapers on my bike. One day, even a tiny chihuahua scared me as it nipped at my heels as I pedaled as fast as I could away down my neighborhood street.
I didn’t want to be licked with big, pink dog tongues or find long, white or gray fur all over my clothes. And, don’t mention having to pick up dog poop—that just sounded too gross to ever consider.
Even though I never wanted a dog, I want to show you how my Maisie has changed so much of my life for the better even though she can regularly be “Crazy Maisie.”
Yes, something in me changed when we brought our little Brittany puppy, Maisie, home from a small farm in rural Idaho last Thanksgiving weekend.
Originally, my husband and I had agreed that our oldest daughter would really love a dog, so we thought we would get one for her. But, once I became Maisie’s primary caregiver, she won me over.
You see, sometimes I wake up in the morning with my heart racing like I’m preparing to go on stage in front of 1,000 people. I try my best to tell myself that I am not anxious about anything, but my mind can get carried away and then the feelings in my body follow those anxious thoughts (or vice versa).
I try to exercise, pray, help others, talk with loved ones, read, and all other kinds of things, but my dog has a special gift to lessen those anxious thoughts and feelings that can sometimes be overwhelming.
Each morning, when my oldest daughter calls out: “Dog on the loose!” and my Brittany puppy comes running up the stairs to find me, I seem to forget about my racing heart.
When Maisie finds me, she leaps all over me with ever constant enthusiasm. One day, I even chipped my two front teeth when her head knocked against mine during our morning greeting.
Yes, my “jumpy love” puppy with all her bouncing, kisses, and encircling, can make me forget about my racing heart and anxious mind.
After the youngest kids leave for the bus, I am out running with Maisie, first across the park, through the park gate onto the sidewalk of Havana St. with all the cars filled with teenagers on their way to high school.
As we both run (fast), I can feel the soft sun on my face and a breeze. We are usually beating down the sidewalk towards the state park across the street at a steady pace.
Soon, we cross Belleview Street over to the fields of brush, thistles and a gravel path at Cherry Creek State Park. My heart is beating fast, but steady. My heart isn’t racing anymore, but filling my whole body with purpose as I keep up with Maisie’s ever constant pulling.
We finish our run back near the Bear Park and finally through the sliding glass door for her breakfast and my stretching. (Running with Maisie every day can make my body really sore!).
I warm up Maisie’s stew of dog food, peanut butter, and water in the microwave. Just 30 seconds or she will bark at how hot she finds it.
I wait for her to devour her stew, but she is picky and sometimes won’t eat right away.
Eventually, after we say goodbye to the second set of kids headed out on their bikes to school, I warm up my own breakfast and say, “Maisie, park!”
I put on her electric collar so I have a way to get her back with her 25 mph running, and follow her down the stairs, across the basement, and through the sliding glass door and backyard gate to the Bear Park again.
I sit on the putting green and watch her race around and around the park at full speed as I eat my breakfast.
I keep my eye on her running just in case she starts digging under the fence as an escape artist. I have time to reflect, but Maisie keeps drawing my attention back to her; I don’t envy, but savor her sheer joy in running, sniffing, and exploring.
Once she is somewhat tired, I head back inside to do the dishes. With my husband gone to work, I allow Maisie to help me “wash” the dishes. I fill the dishwasher with dirty plates as she licks off any leftover food. We are a team putting away the dishes.
Sometimes, I work out in the front yard as she ventures over to Whisky’s house, or chases the many rabbits that live across the street in the Erlandsons’ yard.
By 9:30-10 a.m., she is finally tired and ready for a nap. Reluctantly, she follows me downstairs with my suggestion of “crate.”
During Maisie’s morning nap, I work on all kinds of things and sometimes leave the house on errands. But, between 12:30 and 1 p.m., I know that she will wake up ready to run again.
Most times, after her potty break, I say, “car” and watch with wonder as she heads towards the garage door, waiting for me to get my shoes on, grab my bag, and get her leash and collar.
I open my front car door and say “up.” She leaps onto my seat and walks over to her seat next to mine. I back up the car out of the garage and roll down her window just enough so she can stand up and poke her head out.
As we drive to the doggie park, Maisie is free with the wind blowing against her floppy ears. I think of myself sailing along on a Catamaran on the ocean. We don’t speak, but I feel connected.
At the entrance booth of the doggie park, I smile as I pass the kind old man at the doggie park entrance booth. Maisie knows just where we are and that soon she will be free to bound through open fields, a flowing stream, and chase birds with only the occasional call of “Maisie, here!”
Maisie impatiently waits as I park the car and gather my turquoise sunhat, her leash, and my keys. She pulls me towards the dog entrance that reeks of urine. Usually the sun is beating down hard at this hour, and I am hot with my hat and sun shirt on to protect me.
With leash removed, I open the gate so that she is free. Maisie immediately finds other dogs to sniff and bounds towards the open field in front of us. She stays ahead of me, moving from side to side scoping the area for smaller creatures and fellow canine friends.
Finally, we reach the tree-sheltered stream that seems like a different world. She heads towards the shallower part of the stream, rather than plunging into the deep end like she did on the first day we came here. (I had to quickly pull her out after her shock of not being able to touch the bottom).
Slowly, I walk down the stream with my flip flops gathering sand as we go. Maisie always stays ahead of me, but whenever I call, she comes racing back towards me. Occasionally, she’s able to engage another dog in play, but she still mostly wants to sniff out her own trail in this gently flowing water.
By the end of the stream area, Maisie is completely soaked. She looks so skinny and young, although she’s nearly a year old now. Today, she doesn’t try to snag and eat the tiny toads that try to get away from her on the edge of the stream.
Eventually, we walk back towards the car across the open fields where she is leaping, bounding, and doing what she does best: chase birds or even butterflies. I sense that she was created for this and that she has joy in it.
As I watch her leap and bound through the dry grass, I recognize my own purpose and meaning in life. I was also created for joy, for leaping in my own way.
When we finally return to the car, I roll down the window so she can enjoy the wind against her face as I cruise along Arapahoe Road towards home. No words are necessary to understand that we have really lived for a small moment. She is an animal, but she is a living creature that somehow understands and yearns to please me. I know that.
Never alone, I am learning to live with my friend, Maisie, whom I never thought I wanted or needed. But, with her constant love and contagious enthusiasm, she manages to steady my heart and mind in a way that helps me to find the everyday joy of living my daily life.