Inviting a pet into your life is an exercise in being in the now.
When I was searching for my Jack, I read about different dog breeds, and there was one section I still find troubling—life expectancy.
Jack is a Brittany, and the average life expectancy for his breed is 12-13 years. That’s not bad for a dog, I learned. Brittanys are “hardy” and “healthy.” They’re bird dogs.
For some reason, I’m distracted by this limit being so openly placed on my relationship. I have never entered into any other pairing with a “life expectancy.” I’m not sure what I would do if a person came into my world and said, “Let’s hang out and do things, but barring some freak accident, it’s all but certain I’ll die before you.”
Sometimes I’m not sure why I did it, why I chose Jack. I don’t like being left behind. I want to be the one that leaves; I’m adamant about that.
And yet, even after all my research, in spite of the disclaimer, I picked him from his brothers and sisters and brought him home. Based on all accepted information, my sweet best-puppy-dog-ever will die before me. That’s heartbreaking. It was so stupid of me to open myself up to love another life that will spend years with me, countless snuggles and then leave.
It’s too late now. He’s all over my memories and in my heart. There’s no turning back; I tell myself any time my mind drifts toward sadness.
I was brushing Jack this morning because he likes to romp through the desert and collect things in his fur. He was sitting in his chair like a good boy, looking at me while I cleaned him up. There’s a vulnerability in animals that I find humbling. My eyes teared, and I realized something sort of profound.
Jack could outlive me.
Just because I wasn’t given a life expectancy on the AKC website doesn’t mean I have more than twelve or thirteen years either. Life doesn’t work that way. I could be gone by the morning or sometime next month. None of us, animal or human, know if we will get another day.
Maybe that is the look in his eyes, the calm, peaceful gaze he usually gives me when we are hanging out. Perhaps he’s trying to show me that right now is what’s special. That brushing his fur, the warm steadiness of him is all that matters, all that I get.
I have no right to declare myself the one that leaves or anything else for that matter. I’m not in charge of the way the world works.
All I get is today. The excellent, crisp bite of fall air when I let Jack out earlier than expected, or the unbelievable softness of his ears when I brushed him on this day.
For that matter, I’m only guaranteed Michael’s arms around me before the sun came up on this morning. I have no idea if I will be given another hug or the sweet smell of my youngest’s hair when she leaves for school tomorrow. Today’s spin class with my son may be the last and I may never get another text message or emoji from Katlyn again.
It’s incredibly hard to live life absorbed in the now, the moment, but maybe that’s because we don’t often read the small print for our breed.
All life is finite.
So, I can sit around thinking in circles, or I can bound off the bed each morning I am given. I can choose to dwell on the “life expectancy,” or instead turn my face to the sun, scarf down a good meal, try not to pee on myself, play, and get on with living. Jack is so smart.
That’s all from the laundry room. Alarm Off.