A little love goes a long, long way, and reminds me of what I really want in life
The morning started out misty and moody. At Heceta Lighthouse Beach at 7 am the tide had pulled out so far that I was able to get acquainted with parts of the sea floor I'd never walked. Always on the lookout for a sneaker wave, I wandered, photographed, and waited...
For the Yachats Mercantile to open. That's another twenty miles or so north. When they open, or at least when the bakery delivers fresh bread, it disappears fast. This time of year, travellers who know the area converge on the mercantile early and the bread is gone in minutes. My neighbor, Julie, loves this bread, as do I. Her husband was just placed in hospice and I was determined to get her a steaming hot loaf.
Okay, okay, AND one for me, despite the fact that bread and I don't get along. I'm going to buy it and freeze it. Good chance Julie will get that one, too. Just saying.
As it happened, getting there when the place opens was too early. Joyce, the owner, told me to come back between 10-10:30, when the mercantile would be redolent with the marvelous smell of fresh-baked sourdough.
I wandered off to the Yachats Beach Road, where lots of high-end homes look out to sea. There people walk their puppers this time of day, and I can usually talk someone into letting me play with their doggos.
This Wednesay morning just before the July 4th holiday, a few folks were out and about, looking out to sea.
Yachats is a lovely small town, not easy to buy here for a lot of reasons. I love visiting. I pulled up near this woman, and stopped. The next thing I knew another woman about my age walked by with a lovely tan pit bull with fascinating grey-blue eyes.
I opened my car door and asked if I could pet her pittie. Smiling, she said yes, but warned me that her rescue baby, about a year old, was terribly untrusting and might not respond.
I love that kind of challenge.
I knelt near her baby, who had just been spayed. Joy investigated my face, sniffed, and I gently scrubbed her shoulder with my nails, and spoke to her in my "animal language," which is my own gibberish. It's the tone that counts, not the words. They don't care about the words so much as how you sound.
Animals want to know who you are and if you are safe. They have reason to want to know. Joy in particular.
The woman explained that she had rescued the puppy, who had been severely abused and lost all her hair. She'd almost died. Now, a year later, Joy was just starting to come out of her shell. Her coat shone with good nutrition.
"I cook all her food myself," her owner said proudly.
I stayed still and let Joy come and go. Each time she came close I let her feel what I would do with my hands. I never tried to touch her head, which clearly was scary for her.
In about two minutes, Joy was nosing my hat and presenting her body for a rub. The way I use my fingernails releases the muscle fascia. Only severely abused animals are scared of it, but once they are given to trust, they lean into it.
The owner was gobsmacked. "She never lets ANYONE do that," she said, wide-eyed. "I've never seen her do that with a stranger before."
I get that a lot. Her beautiful face poked into mine, leaving a nose print on my glasses. I scrubbed her butt lightly, then the inside of her legs, then close to the healing scar on her belly. She was in heaven. Her tail wagged slowly, then with more enthusiasm.
The tone of my conversation with Mommy, asking permission, being still and being very, very cognizant of Joy's body language all help build trust.
I'm not a professional. I have spent, however, a great deal of time with very large beasts ranging from elephants to horses to tigers to donkeys to camels as well as untold dogs all over the world. I don't approach without permission, and then I gain permission from the animal. If it's not granted I back off.
Those skills earn me trust. Trust earns me the right to work on the animal's body, and that gives me untold joy.
Joy, in fact, was pretty happy. Soon, without warning, she bent into a play bow and leapt around happily with too much energy for Mom, who is worried about Joy's stitches. I got up, scritched Joy's head lightly now that I had permission, and bade them both goodbye.
People make pitties mean.
I have never met a pittie I didn't love, and I am sick of the stories that "prove" how dangerous they are. I am far more wary of Rottweilers, who have indeed attacked me without provocation. That said, I always get permission and I always act with respect. I don't fear animals; they smell that as a threat, as it most certainly is.
A fearful human is a stupid human, by all counts. Just read the headlines.
Why does Joy matter so much?
About a year ago, my book coach asked me what gave me pleasure. One item I listed was doing just this: working on animals. Few things give me more joy. He asked me a very hard question:
"Why aren't you doing more of that, then?"
I had moved where having a dog wasn't easy, and owning an animal would be problematic. I am about to move where I can share ownership of a dog with an old friend who can take care of it when I travel. And where I plan to rent a basement, a huge hairball named Karl does zoomies like an 80-lb cannonball when he sees me at the door.
The goddess is giggling at my expense. As I let go of all my stuff, I am starting to build the life that I really want to live: full of travel and animals. Why not do more of that, indeed? It's all about permission. I didn't realize I was building a pretty prison when I moved here, but I am happy to take that lesson and run with it.
Four more big trips to consignment today. Four more loads of ballast. It's starting to feel pretty good. I want furballs in my life. Lots of them. And that means lots of love.