I'm beginning to think of life day-by-day.
That is probably a good thing. I am more in the present in this crisis than I usually am. I usually am thinking days, weeks, months ahead and missing what is happening 'now'.
Tomorrow I go to Waterbury Hospital to get the two shots I get every two weeks. They've kept me healthy and asthma free for four years now.
They called today to ask if I had any symptoms. I don't.
The front door will be locked and they'll take my temperature before they let me in.
They'll take my temperature again in the Outpatient Therapy Wing before they let me in there.
I don't mind. I like that. Hospitals are dangerous places to be in the best of times, now, even more so.
Bern made us washable masks from dinner napkins. Mine is white and has colorful ties to put it on.
Bern 'makes' things.
She 'makes' me something, usually art, but once a table in the shape of West Virginia and once a winter hat that looks like a Puli dog--which we had at the time.
I always write her a story.
Here's the one I wrote one Christmas ago.
So, they took me, these people who have cared for me since my long trip from wherever I was to wherever I am now, to somewhere else. It was a scary place, with lots of people and lots of cars, which I fear greatly. People came and took me on a leash to walk around. Young people bathed me and I hated it and I saw a man watching me be bathed and hating it. He looked at me softly and I wondered who he was, but then was distracted by the water and the young people and forgot about it because I was unhappy.
Then that man and a woman took me for a walk. The woman walked me and the man stayed just behind, watching. I was very hesitant to be involved with them. Then they took me back and I went in a cage—I know cages well. The woman walked my ‘kennel-mate’, a rowdy black dog, but the man stayed mostly around my cage. Very few people walked me and I remember seeing the man and woman go to their car and sit there for a while.
Then they came back and talked to the head woman of the people who had been caring for me and did some other things and then I got a new collar and lead and my picture taken and the man and woman put me in their car. The woman sat in back with me and we drove. They talked softly on the trip and then she helped me out of the car and we went into a building like nothing I’ve ever seen. Stairs on both ends and lots of rooms. They fed me and took me outside and told me it was alright to be on what they called ‘the big bed’ and then, besides rubs, left me mostly alone.
I couldn’t quite understand what this was all about. I’ve been moved around to different places with different people for a long time and this just seemed to be the ‘next place’ before whatever the ‘next place’ will be.
They’d take me down both stairs on my lead. They were very quiet and gentle. The house has a yard in back. I looked around for a way to get out of the yard and the woman spent two days making sure there was no way out. I had no idea where I would run away to, since I don’t know where I am, but ‘running’ is what I’ve had to do a lot. Running is what kept me safe.
I’ve been here in this place for a long time now. I mostly stay upstairs—on the ‘big bed’ or on a couch—except when they take me outside to ‘do my business’. Someone in the past called it that, I don’t remember who or where, but ‘my business’ is what I do outside.
They talk to each other, these people. I can understand enough that I know they want to know what my life has been like. If I could talk, I would tell them, though I wouldn’t get it straight and they could never understand. They wonder why loud noises and cars and doors scare me. They wonder why I move away from my bowl if they move toward me. They wonder why I stay upstairs instead of being with them. If I could talk, they still wouldn’t understand. I’m just waiting for the ‘next place’. This is the nicest ‘place’ I’ve been—so quiet and still—except for the box the people watch and I’ve learned to watch—I’m a quick learner. But there must be something, some place that is ‘next’. Next place has been the story of my life.
Soon, it will be time to go there.
The food is good here and the people are kind and rub me a lot and talk softly to me.
But. I know, the ‘next place’ is waiting for me.
That’s just the way it is. The people here are trying hard—but I’ve known that before and it never lasts. Not once. Not ever. So, I’ll just wait for the ‘next place’.
Nothing else will do.
The people keep telling me that ‘this is your home’. I don’t know what ‘home’ means. I’ve started really enjoying my time here—however long it will be before the ‘next place’, but I know better than to become too accustomed to it.
Besides, I smell another dog here.
The people call me “Brigit”, though my name, I thought was Annie. But they noticed how I reacted to “Annie” and call me “Brigit” now. I might get used to it except I don’t know what I’ll be called in the next place. Sometimes, obviously by mistake, the man starts to say “Bel…” but doesn’t finish and says “Brigit” instead. “Bel…” must be the name of the other dog I smell in this place and in the yard. I can smell better than I do anything. I smell the creatures with long, fluffy tails all the time, and the tiny dogs on each side of the yard, and the food the man eats during the day. The woman eats upstairs with me, but the man eats downstairs twice a day. I may go down and see what he’s eating soon, but not yet. I’m not ready yet.
But I smell that other dog, a ‘he’ dog, I’m sure, in the house and the yard. I’ll never understand who that dog is—I’ll be gone before I know, I’m sure—but he was here. That I know and I will wonder about him until I stop wondering. Which won’t be long from now. And by then I’ll be at the ‘next place’.
The Man especially worries about my fears. He walks me at night. We usually go down the steps near the big bed and out and across the street. I ‘do my business’ because I know I must, but the cars passing frighten me and I cower. He says, “everything is alright, Bel…Brigit”, and gives me a rub, but that doesn’t make it okay for me. When I first came to this place, he’d walk me when it wasn’t quite dark, but something happened and it is darker each day. The cars have their lights on and the lights startle me, and the noise they make.
The Man’s worry should make me feel better. But I know not to get to attached to the Man and the Woman, as good as they are to me. “Getting attached” is a mistake. I did it before and then went to ‘the next place’. I know better now. But I do appreciate the rubs he gives me when he tells me ‘everything is alright’.
OK, the longer I’m here, in this place, the less I think about the ‘next place’ I will be. I haven’t forgotten yet that there will be a ‘next place’, I just don’t think about it as much.
And then, new people showed up. A big man and a big woman have been the only other people besides the Man and the Woman who have been in this house. The big man was loud and laughed a lot and the big woman tried to make me her friend but I wasn’t buying it.
Then, today a man and a little person came. The little person was smaller than me and the man was a bit scary. I stayed away from them, but the Man brought the little person into the big bed to see me from time to time. She was very kind and rubbed me, mostly in the wrong direction, but I knew she was trying to be kind.
Her voice was very sweet and she seemed to like me a great deal. I was very still with her—I still don’t always trust the humans—but she meant me no harm.
The man went away the next day, but the little person stayed the night. It meant that the Woman slept with her in another room and I shared the big bed with the Man. I missed the Woman, but I understood.
What was amazing to me was being in the back yard with the little person—her name, if I heard it correctly, was El-e-a-nor. She laughed and laughed when I ran in the yard. I had almost forgotten running and how wondrous it feels, until I ran with El-e-a-nor. My body remembered running, even though I had mostly forgotten about it. And the laugher of the little person—a she, I think, gave me a joy I had almost forgotten.
Plus, she would rub me, softly and in much the wrong way, and call me “Sweet-heart”. I don’t know if that’s my new name or just something she heard from the Woman, but she called me that. Whenever she saw me, though, she would squeal, softly, “Brigit”, so I knew that was still my for now name.
The little one’s man came back and they stayed another night and the Woman was back in the big bed and I felt glad—though I should know better than to ‘feel glad’, since this is just the ‘place’ before the ‘next place’.
But the running and the little human’s laughter and being called ‘Sweet-heart’…I may remember that too long, so long that I will miss it in the ‘next place’ after this place. That will not, finally, be good.
I need to forget good things quickly or they will make me sad in the next place.
I don’t stay upstairs as much as I did. I’m not with the Man and the Woman all the time but I go down to look for them every once in a while. And when they watch the big, noisy box, I stay in the room with them. I used to lay on a funny couch but now I get on the couch where the woman sits. When she leaves the room, I sometimes move to where she sits, then she comes back and makes me move back—but always gently and smiling, not like other people have made me move in my life before this place.
I also go down twice a day when the man is eating alone, to see what he has and to wonder if he might share some with me. The woman eats from time to time, but mostly upstairs in the room where the big, noisy box is. I stay close when she does because I can usually expect a little bite. Then when it is dark, they both eat in that room and I’m bound to get some!
And at night, in the big bed, I dream different dreams than I dreamed before this place. I dream of running with El-e-a-nor in the back yard and making her laugh. I dream of my meals and the treats for doing my business. I dream of being outside and running, running, running like I’ve never ran before. And sometimes I dream of just being with man and woman in the big bed. I sometimes whine in my sleep because I wish the dream were real and the woman touches me and I wake up. She thinks my dreams must be bad dreams, but they aren’t. Maybe I whine because I know all this won’t last. The Next Place is waiting, I know.
I wish I could stop having these dreams so I won’t miss them in the Next Place. I’ve learned over my life not to risk being secure or happy because it won’t last.
It won’t be like this in the Next Place, so I shouldn’t relax and pretend this will last.
But no matter how hard I try not to, I find myself liking being in this place more than I should dare.
I go much of each day in this place before the next place not thinking about the Next Place. I have let me guard down too low. I am in danger of having the Next Place rob me of all my joy.
I have to spend more time thinking of the Next Place and let go of what I’m feeling in this place.
And, that is getting harder and harder. These people are still so kind and good and sweet to me. Which is what they say to me about me!
They tell me, over and again, that Brigit is a ‘good girl’, ‘best girl’, “sweet girl,” “sweetest girl”, “kind girl”, “wondrous girl”.
It is harder and harder not to believe them. Is it possible I am all that, even after all the Last Places I have been? And what will it cost me in the Next Place to believe them?
I am still frightened by so much: opening doors, loud or strange noises, unusual noises, people carrying things, people coming near me when I eat, taking something from the Man or Woman’s hand.
But the fear is so much less from when these people first took me to This Place. I have begun to trust them more and more though my thoughts tell me not to.
I follow the Woman downstairs in the morning and she feeds me and takes me out and I run like I did for the little person. I can tell from what I hear when the Man is fixing my food in the afternoon and go down and try to show him how happy I am and how thankful for the food.
“Happy” and “Thankful” are new ideas for me. I am what I am not because I mean to be ‘good’ and ‘sweet’, but because I have learned how to be to avoid bad things happening as much as I can. Yet those words are meaning things to me.
“Happy” to be in This Place for as long as it lasts.
“Thankful” for the silence and the peace and the kindness of the Man and the Woman.
I am in danger now, I know, for the Next Place won’t be like this.
But it is so hard now not to let the thanks and the happiness be enough. Just enough. Just what is right and good. Just what my life is.
How wrong can that be?
Today was another mystery of all the mysteries of this place.
The Man took me outside this morning and there was cold, white stuff everywhere. I’d never seen anything like it before. My feet disappeared in it and though it was cold, there was something wild and good about it.
The Man told me it was ‘snow’ and though I don’t know what that means, I will try, in my dog brain, to remember the name. ‘Snow’ is cold like the air in this place. Where I came from, I can’t remember ever any ‘snow’ and very little cold. But this is just one more thing different about “this place”.
I wonder what the ‘next place’ will be like? Will there be ‘snow’ and ‘cold’ or not? And will I ever know a Man and Woman like this again?
I don’t expect so.
The Man and Woman are recovering from the last few days. I am too! I’ve never been around so many people at one time. Little El-e-a-nor was back with her man and a sweet, gentle woman I hadn’t seen before. That was good. Everything was quiet and calm. But then, the next day, the big, loud man was back and the air was full to bursting with the smells of food. Then another group—a man and a woman and three little girl humans, though not nearly as little as El-e-a-nor. And they made almost as much noise as the big, loud man, plus they had a big girl dog I wasn’t sure of. I growled once when she came to close and she mostly left me alone after that—but I had to eat in the big bed room because of her and whenever I was on the big bed the door was closed and I couldn’t come out. Somehow, that was alright with me for a while—quiet and alone is something I do well.
But once, the littlest of the new girls startled me and I did my business inside!
It’s the only time that’s happened in this place and I was sure I’d get sent to the next place or be punished, but neither happened. The Man took me out and cleaned up my water and spoke gently to me about it all, telling me, “you couldn’t help it, Brigit”. Nothing like that has ever happened before. As kind and good as the Man and Woman are, I was sure I’d crossed a line and would have to pay in some way that would hurt.
(All ‘hurt’ is not pain, sometimes it’s rejection or shaming or not being fed. I’ve known all those things and expected some of them to happen. I lay on the Big Bed and thought about that. How nothing bad had happened though I’d been bad. It made me think it was safe to be out of that room with the people a bit more.)
But then, just as everyone seemed to be ready to eat, the Woman came to the Big Bed room and laid down. I was with her much of the rest of the day. I could tell she wanted to be with the people but felt very sick, so I mostly stayed with her. She would look at the things they hold a lot and then listen to the other people in the house and smile sadly. I wondered what she was thinking about as we laid there in that dim, sad room. But I learned long ago that there is no way for me to understand what people are thinking and it is sometimes a big mistake to think you know
The next day the big group and the loud man were gone for a while. And so were my Man and Woman before the other’s left. But the dog stayed. I let her smell me outside and even smelled her too. I began to think she wouldn’t hurt me, but I was cautious.
(I realize I just thought of the Man and Woman as “mine”! I shouldn’t do that! It will make going to the next place even harder. I have to be more cautious….)
Then everyone but the loud man was back and I went into the big box room with them all for what seemed like a long time. The little one who startled me into doing my business inside is named something like Tee-an and she rubbed me on the funny couch for a long time. Everyone rubbed me and were kind and I almost didn’t mind the noise they all made. And the Woman didn’t seem as sick anymore. That made me happy. Sickness is not good, not good at all.
El-e-a-nor’s man had left that day some time but El-e-a-nor and her woman stayed another night. The next morning the big group with the dog all left. But El-e-a-nor and her woman stayed a little longer. El-e-a-nor never stopped being good to me and calling me ‘sweetheart’ and her woman was gentle and good as well.
After they were all gone, it was just me and the Woman and Man again. We were all tired from all that had gone on and the woman still wasn’t feeling as good as she has always been around me, but things were back to normal.
I never thought I’d admit anything like this, but I missed the people and, a little bit, the dog. I’ve never found groups of people or many dogs that I didn’t find threatening or scary, but this was different.
So much is different from all that was before this place. I should guard against liking it too much—but that is getting harder and harder. I’m too used to ‘enduring’ to find ‘liking’ easy. But ‘liking’ is becoming easier to feel. That’s probably dangerous to do, but I’m doing it.
I find myself not thinking about ‘the next place’ nearly as much as I used to. And I no longer feel nearly as bad about that. Some days come and go and the ‘next place’ doesn’t occur to me. I should be more cautious, but I haven’t been. Not for days and days.
Then, this morning, the Woman woke up and held me and rubbed me and kissed me for a long time. Then the Man rolled over and joined her in all that.
The Woman went into the little room off the Big Bed room like she does ever morning and the Man kept holding me (with this thing that sometimes whines like I do over his face) until the woman went downstairs and I followed.
Today the woman was gone for a long while and then the man. But they both came back and when they took me out when there was still light, I did both my businesses—which I never do then, not once before—and I ran and ran with them in the back yard and came back and sat on my rug and could hardly contain myself until the woman gave me my treat. Waiting for my treat I put my front leg up and the woman said, “shake hands with me”. I didn’t know what that meant, but I’ll try to find out, try to understand because the Woman wants me to.
Today I realized for the first time that the ‘next place’ I’ve been dreading is never going to happen.
“This place” is the “only place” I need to think about. There is no “next place”.
I am here. I am in “my place”.
I am—what is that word I’ve heard but never understood? Home. HOME. HOME!!!