I missed that dog and writing about it only made me miss it more. So much so, that I ventured out to my shed to rummage through some old containers until I found my memories book that my mom compiled for me while I was growing up. I opened it up and to my surprise I found the name of my dog in one of my old school journals. His name was Sheba. I even wrote a story about my dog Sheba. “My dog can stand up on two feet and walk on two feet and do a somersault in the air.” No wonder I liked that dog!
I flipped the pages of my school journal. The next page simply said, “I can climb a tree.” This was followed by, “I got a hide out”, and then “I saw three dears”. The following page only said, “My bird is dead”. It was complete with a family illustration showing all of us crying. Well, shit. That was the fastest emotional roller-coaster ride I have ever taken. Before I read that my memory was vague. Just vague enough that I could concoct any bloody thing to make me feel better and move on. But no. It is out there. From my hands to my eyes. I now remember it all. I remember our bird becoming quite sick. It lasted for a couple of weeks. We tried to get it help but nothing could be done. Then one very sad day I came home and my mom met me at the door. They had graciously removed our bird, placing it to rest out of my sight but that did not stop the tears.
In a span of perhaps a week I am writing about my wonderful dog Sheba who is amazing me with his talents and then I am lamenting the passing of our bird. Pets mimic life. We bring them into our lives because generally speaking they create intimacy and connection. They love on us unconditionally, even when we ignore and neglect them. I connected to the animals in my life. They were very much a part of me. I celebrated with them but mostly I took all the love they gave me. I mean I really soaked it up. I craved the attention they gave me. I longed for meaning and identity and they provided that for me.
That’s what made Sheba so amazing. It was because in all of Sheba’s amazing-ness there existed the possibility that I could be amazing. But then, that is what made my bird’s death so horrible. It spoke of the temporary nature of life. Our mortality. Such things are hard for a young boy to comprehend. On one hand I experience the miracle of life through our cat and on the other hand the cruelness of death with our bird. How could a young boy navigate such things? A clue to how I navigated this is found in my memory box. In the first entry it lists my desire to become a police officer when I grow up but in the next entry I have now changed my mind and want to become an artist.
I am neither but it is what comes with that journey of discovering who one is that is important. Somehow in the midst of the life and death that surrounded me, that inter-weaved its strands with mine, those animals loved and were loved in the brief moments they were with us and I was better for it. I have grown from that place to where I now seek to embrace each moment, capturing it and loving on it as much as I can. I was loved when I was unlovable. When I didn’t love back. Such a gift should not go unnoticed or neglected but should be embraced, explored, and expressed.
Thank you Sheba. Thank you Cocoa. Thank you Duke. Thank you Seven. Thank you Sophie, and thank you to every other pet I have ever owned, for loving on me, unconditionally, unrelenting, and undeserving.