So, yeah. Rehoming a pet you still love deeply is a weird, grieving-not-grieving experience. Watching them thrive and be happy is amazing and wonderful and terrible and confusing. I find myself vacillating between desperately not wanting to be a creepy “your dog used to be my dog” stalker and longing to ask how he’s doing. Add to that the dismal feelings of failure and shame, add a dash of paranoid feelings that people you know and respect now despise you, and it’s all very mentally exhausting. So it’s not surprising, really, that after Toast left us I spiraled down into one of the worst depressive episodes I’ve had in a good long time. (Well I’m pretty good at faking it so maybe it is surprising to some people.)
Thank god for the other dogs, because they forced me to at least go through the motions even if I wasn’t enjoying things. It’s hard to completely skip activities and classes when you have a squirrelly polar bear in your face. They need stuff even when you don’t feel like doing stuff. So we marched on through the summer together. The weather (alternately blazing hot or pouring rain) kept us from mushing regularly, and then later in the summer a minor but nagging injury sidelined Squash from agility.
But the one vaguely positive thing about these episodes for me is that I develop a sort of not feeling, not caring, invincible recklessness that can pass for bravery if you don’t look too hard. In my younger days that led me down some questionable roads but acting out is a little different in my 40s so it looked more like this: After a few years of not trialing we returned to the ring and finished Squash’s RL1 in WCRL rally (and subsequently registered for additional trials), I bought some rollerskis after learning that my regular cross country ski boots would fit the bindings, and signed Squash up for a novice tracking class as an alternative to agility until he could return.
The potentially most dangerous of these was rollerskijoring. In retrospect I kind of wonder what I was thinking. I’ve only done it with Maisy so far, at first because even I wasn’t reckless enough to go with both dogs right out of the gate and later because of Squash’s injury. It was hard to get my rollerski legs under me; it’s like and not like skiing. Once we get some momentum going it feels exactly like skate skiing to me but getting started felt so hard. Still, once Maisy decided the rollerskis weren’t going to eat her and got into it, it was fun. Like, really fun. It felt fun. I think that’s when I might have very first started to feel more like myself again, to feel like anything at all, after our first few runs.
I was really missing agility when I signed up for tracking, and it was mostly a way to keep Squash engaged in an activity while he was taking a break. But I’ve come to not only like it for itself, but love how it has changed up my sleeping habits and typical morning routine as well as re-energized my interest in and enjoyment of a number of everyday tasks. Most days I work an afternoon/evening shift, and traditionally I was a stay up late, sleep late person. Now, on my mornings off I typically get up early to take Squash tracking, stop and do an errand on the way home (grocery shopping, pet supplies, whatever), do some chores when I get home, +/- take Pip and/or Maisy out, and take a short nap before going to work. I feel better. I’m cooking more. Chores are small tasks here and there rather than dedicating a day to them all. I’m writing a blog post for the first time in forever. All because I found something enjoyable and reinforcing enough (tracking) to get up early for.
I barely know what I’m doing here. We’re doing very short, young, heavily-rewarded tracks for the moment. But it’s fun and we’re doing it together and it’s getting me out of bed and back into the world. Into enjoying the world. As Squash’s exercise restrictions get lifted we’ll probably shift back towards mushing again, but for now we’re having fun.
Ain’t dogs and dog stuff grand?