...rare and pure and perfect
The farmer cut his paw open on something sharp, Brigit knows what, out in the woods. For several hundred—and a dozen generations of owners—this piece of land has seen a lot of living. Every year new glass, pottery, metal and nails spring from the good earth like a dreaded hangover. Gibson has been scratched and bruised before from his day job but never like this. This was an awful wound and I couldn't fix it myself. So after a week of too-slow healing and a limping dog I decided to have a professional look into Gibson's paw.
The Doctor said it wasn't infected but it wasn't healing either. The toe pad was in half, swelling, and he could not place weight on it. She thought something was embedded deep into the half-inch cut. Gibson was in a lot of pain and wouldn't let us pry it open, irrigate and remove any possible shards with forceps — so I agreed to have him medicated to allow the healing work to begin. It was a fifteen minute wait for him to drift off and here I was on a cold floor singing in a dead language to a dog I loved more than I should.
Outside there was a thunderstorm of large anger. It sounded like the cloven air was frozen and smashed open with a maul. The water poured so hard there was no rhythm to be heard, just volume. Gibson will square off with a horned beast three or four times his size but he is terrified of thunderstorms. The drug seemed to take it off his mind and some part of me worried about the newly free-ranged Cornish Cross back at the farm. Would the young broilers know to look for cover in a sudden storm? Would the hail, rain, and wind just tear them apart? I only half worried about them. I was with Gibson who matters most of all. We need each other and right now as he slid away the rest of the farm did not exist. Burn the whole place to the ground as long as I still have my dog.
Gibson was not in any real danger. I knew this but being alone in the dark without distraction brought up a lot of emotion. It was a meditation on love.
I wasn't sad or worried, just full of love for this animal. No other living thing has spent as much time with me in my life. None. Gibson and I have never been physically apart for more than four hours, not even in sleep. With gratitude and absolute love I sang and told him he would be okay and running again soon. My practical brain worried about the money of the vet visit, the fact I would miss another house payment, the stress of both of us being range animals without much of a net...but my animal brain - the wild and real part of me - didn't regret a thing. Beside this dog is where I belong. His feet were his entire being and they would be healed. Nothing else was an option.
Have you ever read Dave Egger's short story After I Was Thrown into the River and Before I Drowned? Read it.
We spent an hour and a half at the vet that day. When he came to he was too groggy to walk so I carried him to the truck, placed him in the front pasenger seat, and kissed his forehead. When we drove home I carried him to a cushion on the floor and brought him a bowl of kibble. It was not until he was content that I went outside to see if a dozen dead birds scattered the yard. (They did not, all birds were safe and dry in the barn). Then I came back into the farm house and lay on the floor next to him. I scratched his black and white mane around his tired smile and told him he would always have all the love he needed.
I know that sounds silly, saying such things to a dog, but I meant it the way that the storm meant it. I love him. And when I love someone it is never, ever, ever, a gentle rain. It tears open the sky and stops all rhythm. Love matters more to me than all other things and my loyalty is foolish and brash. It is my favorite and least favorite part of myself. This is why you don't read about boyfriends or bars on this blog. They do not happen. I do not understand this world of partial commitments and casual sex. It's a path to a mostly lonely life in a modern world where fluid is swapped as flippantly as playing cards. I don't mind being alone. I don't mind waiting a lifetime for substance. Direwolves mate for life, can wait a life.
I hope you do not think I am comparing my love of my dog to romantic human love. But at its root all love is the same thing - that tribal feeling of belonging, fiercely protected when had and savagely guarded from those who might abuse it.
Anyway, Patrick Rothfuss said it better than I possibly could in his novel, The Wise Man's Fear:
“We love what we love. Reason does not enter into it. In many ways, unwise love is the truest love. Anyone can love a thing because. That's as easy as putting a penny in your pocket. But to love something despite. To know the flaws and love them too. That is rare and pure and perfect.”