During the course of this move, if I didn’t know how to feel, I looked at my dog.
He has known something is up for about a year. When my husband moved to Ann Arbor, my dog claimed the empty space in my bed. He snuggled up close, keeping me warm and (in his mind, I’m sure) safe.
Over the past month, he has followed me around the house as I have packed boxes, carried bags out to my car, and sold our furniture to strangers. He has kept a close eye on me. I have noticed. In fact, if you’ve been in my house in the past year, you may have noticed I talk to dear Chester, the golden retriever, as much as I talk to any human. If you follow me on Facebook, you have probably noticed that Chester is often featured in photos. He plays a pretty important role in my life.
This past week, Chester helped me understand the gravity of the transition we were experiencing. You know me, I was busy doing, not feeling. I had lists to check off, and tasks to complete. I had no room for feelings. But Chester did.
When I was helping my daughter pack her room, he found a spot in the middle of my bed in the middle of my empty room and pouted. When friends showed up to claim our mattress and box spring, he greeted them excitedly and followed them around the house. When the truck was late arriving, he watched us watch out the window, and seemed worried. As they carried our possessions out the door and placed them on the truck, he hid under the built-in desk in the office and pretended it wasn’t really happening. Finally, when every last item was on the truck or in our car, he found a corner in our dining room, and curled up against the wall, as if declaring, “You can take all the stuff, but I am staying.” I will admit, that was the most difficult moment.
Before we got in the car, I gave him a double dose of Benadryl. He really isn’t one for traveling, so I thought I would help him ‘pass the time’ in a more sedate fashion. He wasn’t having it. He parked himself between the bucket seats, breathing heavily between us for the full four-hour trip. He wanted to watch exactly where we were going. “This ride is important,” he seemed to be screaming at me! The second leg of the trip was no different. Even though he was clearly exhausted, he refused to sleep. Instead, he kept constant vigil, peering out the windows and sniffing every surface at each pitstop.
When we arrived at the new house, he investigated every corner while we unloaded the car. He inspected each room before he was willing to get a drink, take a potty break, and curl up, at last, for a rest. As I write tonight, he is zonked out. For today, he has accepted that he is here.
I like to tell myself that everything is fine, that I am ready, that this move is great. And, mostly, I think those things are true. But Chester has reminded me that change is difficult. It requires emotion, and grieving, and rapt attention. To be honest, I am not always ready to deal with all of that. I’d rather press on, keep moving, keep doing.
When I move so fast, I miss not only the emotion, but the meaning. I am like the people Jesus spoke about who were “ever hearing but never understanding;… ever seeing but never perceiving.” So, God gives me a parable, a symbol, in the form of a dog. He has provided my own personal object lesson. So, when the movers come tomorrow and I don’t know how I am supposed to be feeling, I think I will look at my dog.