Gus’ Side of the Story
A very odd thing happened. A few nights ago, just as I was reaching over the bedside table to turn out the light, our yellow-lab, Gus, stood up from his bed, walked a few steps and gave me a large, slobbery, wonderful kiss. And the thing is, Gus has never done that before.
I would love to be able to say that Gus is just that in touch with my needs and we are emotionally connected on the deepest level but Gus is still young and bordering on that- the world revolves around me- teenage phase, so I’m not going to kid myself by thinking this dog was able to pick up on my anxiety and wanted to comfort his fearful mom. But once that option was crossed off the list of- What the hell was that for- possibilities, I had to open my tired mind up to other options.
Had anything happened that day to make Gus extra thankful? Was he sleepwalking? Did I have any Oreo crumbs left on the table that he was trying to snag? What happened to make Augustus so- happy?
Ahh… of course. Quarantine.
A normal day for Augustus McCrae Rose is waking up, getting some of the sweet treats I have with my morning coffee, terrorizing Axl Rose (pug), breakfast, terrorizing Axl Rose a little more before loading up in the car to make the school drop off rounds before being dropped himself at doggie daycare. I’d love to be able to take Gus on long walks through the neighborhood but this 100-pound lab chases cats and he is strong as all hell so off to doggie daycare he goes.
After a half-day (I refuse to pay the full-day rate- even I have my dog-loving limits!), I pick Gus up so he can come home and take a nap on his comfy, memory foam doggie bed. The evening kicks off with a dinner that consists of the organic raw diet (supposed to be good for their coats), followed by a little more “playtime” with Axl Rose and ends with scraps (or entire plates if we aren’t looking) from our human dinner. Gus finishes his busy day with a deep slumber on his upstairs doggie bed, complete with a monogrammed all-weather bed cover and Tempurpedic padding. All in all, I’d say Gus has a pretty damn good life.
And I don’t think he’d argue that point. In fact, if you are reading this, high chances you could say you have a pretty damn good life. I can say that, too. We live well, very well. We live in safe neighborhoods, we are able to put food on the table for our families, we enjoy the comforts of central air and heat, we travel, and we live. For the most part, we do our best to enjoy the blessings we’ve been given. And yet…
When news of this virus broke, we changed our spring break plans from skiing in Colorado to a trip to the Texas coast. Our human kids were a little disappointed but our canine children were thrilled. Instead of a week with the dog sitter, they now got to come with and enjoy long walks on the beach in the morning and afternoon Chuck-it sessions into the waves. Gus and Axl played hard and slept harder. When the week was over, we packed up our car and left the coast with smiles on all of our faces- saving the biggest smile for Gus.
We arrived home to an uncertain world. No one understood what this virus meant or could comprehend the sudden changes. But what we did know is that I am in the high-risk category so had to get myself as isolated as possible. So, once again, we packed up our car and headed out of town. This time, the Rose family was heading to the lake. And Gus couldn’t have been happier.
Today is the 10th day of our social-distancing-quarantine-germ-avoiding-lake-hiding existence. In this time, we have gone on daily walks, watched hours upon hours of news, navigated the new virtual learning arrangements for Ellie and Tommy’s schools and avoided any other humans at all costs. Gus has taken this time to swim after numerous ducks, chase countless balls, build up enough courage to finally join us for the evening boat ride and has even made friends with the local raccoon. Gus has been by our sides for two and a half weeks straight and, instead of growing annoyed and irritated by the constant togetherness, Gus has leaned into this new situation and has never been happier.
For me, dogs are an absolute must in life. I love y’all humans but dogs are able to supplement in a way that only they can. Dogs are constant, loyal, predictable. You always know where you stand and you usually stand in a pretty good light. Dogs don’t need you to talk or to be strong. They allow you to be who you are and never ask for anything more. Dogs forgive, they accept, and they love. They love hard. And I find it is that constant and uncomplicated love I’ve always craved from them the most.
Dogs are incapable of living in any other moment but the present. Maybe it’s their concept of time but I like to think that one of dog’s main purposes is to remind us humans the importance of living in the moment. My soulmate dog, Riley, was the master of the moment and opened my eyes to living in the now. Today, even in his young and playful phase of life, Gus has taken over that responsibility and continues to remind me of the now. And that’s what I think that kiss from Gus was the other night. I think it was a kiss of the now.
I get it. This world is crazy. I’ve been terrified and anxious and sad and mad and all of the above. I think about my friends who have lost businesses or who are in real danger of losing their jobs. My heart hurts for those who have been affected directly by this virus and for those whose loved ones are battling for their lives. I hate that families are now struggling to provide the basics for their children or are unsure of their next paycheck. I am turned off by the politicians and the decision-makers. No one knows who to believe or what will happen or how long it will last. If we really think about it, it’s enough to drive all of us straight to the bottle (or maybe more so than we already are).
Hangovers and doom and finances aside, there may be another side to this coronavirus situation. What if we live on the Gus side of the story? What if we started waking up in the mornings, saying our prayers (as they are so desperately needed), and then, what if we made the real effort to turn our attention to the now- to the very moment. My guess is, you’ll find what Gus has shown me. I think you’ll see that when we slow down and take a breath, we realize that we are all okay. We are here. And we are healthy. We are strong. And we are together.
I thought Gus might miss his daily schedule of doggie daycare and naps and terrorizing Axl Rose but I think he is actually savoring the slowness. I believe there is a real value to missing the morning rush or the afternoon/evening hours spent in the car as we drive kids to and from their numerous activities. The kids love the more relaxed bedtime and Ellie is thrilled to not be woken up in the morning. I’ve stopped wearing a watch. Gus has stopped wearing a collar. And we’ve all started making better eye contact with each other.
Not what I would have predicted. I never thought constant togetherness in crazy stressful times could produce such peace. I would have never thought that this new unrushed and uncrowded schedule would produce this calm. And I definitely wouldn’t have remembered the importance of living in the moment because our busy lives don’t allow us to stop and slow enough to do what dogs so expertly are able to do.
But now, miraculously, life has stopped. And life is allowing us. So let’s take Gus’ lead and live slowly in the moment so we can savor what we’re often too busy to enjoy.
And if we stop resisting and start allowing, we just might find that at the end of the day, we are masters of our own moments and our now is worthy of a big, slobbery kiss.
In love and hope,