Thursday, May 7, 2015

All I Needed to Know About Connection I Learned from My Dog

It was cool fall evening, and I decided I would take my old hound dog, Calvin, for a walk up the street and back before sunset. Calvin was getting up in years - he had just turned 15, and his arthritis was progressing so bad that the anti-inflammatory medication he’d been on for the last 7 years was starting to no longer work. Still, and probably because of this, I pushed him to keep moving (within his ability, of course) so that he could maintain the highest quality of life as possible for as long as possible. 

I’d had Calvin since he was 6 weeks old. I had just moved into my first apartment away from my parent’s house when a man was giving away puppies outside of the photo lab where I worked. Hearing there were puppies outside, I decided to take my break and go look. Calvin was nestled in a little girl’s arms - a tiny brown pup with a black cap on his head, he wasn't any larger than a tissue box. I asked the girl if I could see him, and as soon as I picked him up I knew he was coming home with me (in retrospect I probably should have asked my roommates first, but luckily they were just as excited as I was). I brought him inside and placed him in a box in the back room until my shift ended. From that moment on it was Calvin and me, a constant companion who made a new life out on my own seem comfortable and familiar.

Fast forward 15 years, after 3 apartments and 4 roommates, college, various jobs, and now with a house and a husband, one constant remained: it was still Calvin and me. We’d grown up together, and in his case, old together. His muzzle and face had turned white with age, and his back bowed under the weight of his belly. I knew it was hard for him to get up and get going, but I also knew that once he did he’d be a happy dog. A cool breeze greeted us just as Calvin started to get into his rhythm and trot, albeit slowly, up the hill. He turned his head and looked back at me with those big brown eyes and his open-mouthed dog smile, as if to say “I love this - thanks, mom.” It was at that moment when our eyes met that everything became clear for a moment, and I thought “this is what life is about.” I was so happy in that moment, as I consciously recognized that the connection Calvin and I had was special. It brought me immense and immeasurable joy, and no doubt it brought him joy also. Over the past 15 years we’d established this connection where, with a glance, I knew what he wanted, and he knew what I wanted. We were so in tune, we knew exactly how each other felt at any given time. I felt grateful to have this type of connection, even though I knew it wouldn't last forever. Slowing to a stop, Calvin turned around, panting. It was time to head home - he could no longer walk the entire length of the street. I knew that I wouldn't have my Calvin for much longer, and I speculated that this could be his last walk. He wasn't exactly dying, but I was aware of his age and the increased rate at which he seemed to be slowing down. As a floundering writer who’d been picking up and putting down topic after topic for the last 5 years, I knew right then that I had to write about connection, I knew I wanted to share this story with you, and I knew I would dedicate any writing I did about the topic to Calvin.

Indeed this was the last walk up our street that Calvin ever had. He passed away just 4 months later. While it was one of the most difficult times in my life, I knew I had to keep the promise I made to myself that day and write about connection.

It’s my hope that by shining a light on connection - something already familiar to us all (and often taken for granted) - you’ll begin to see how forming and maintaining connections will improve your life and the lives of others. This blog is written as a wake-up call. Despite the advances afforded to us by modern civilization (and no doubt because of them), we seem to be isolating ourselves more and farther away than ever before. It’s only when we realize the importance of connection and consciously create and cultivate connections of our own that we’re realize true happiness and begin to heal the world.

For my best dog, Calvin. Thank you for teaching me that a life shared is more fulfilling and joyous than anything I could ever accomplish on my own. Alone, I am me and you are you, but together we are something greater. If I live 100 more lives after this, I hope you’ll be there with me in each one.  

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