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August 20th, 2013

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11:38 pm - The Prologue

I made a commitment to make at least one longer post a week. The face book seems much too fast and busy for me, anyway. So, here is the very first installment in the new series...


I still remember that day, the mid of January of 2007. My life? Mess and a struggle and a continuous up and down journey sometimes through mountains but more frequently through valleys. This particular one seemed deep, cold, dark, and uninviting. I was seriously overweight, seriously void of energy, and seriously lacking a vision of where all of this may lead. Seriously, nothing in my life seemed to go well and I was giving myself maybe 10 or 15 more years of living like this. But all things in, I thought, it might be best if I just moved on the very next night.

To be fair, not everything was going poorly. There were still some things I loved, for example, going to the beach to fly stunt kites, making a lunch or a dinner for a good friend, talking philosophy and poetry late into the night. And I do not mean just talking about philosophy or poetry. That's easy and not always too exciting. Rather, I mean sitting down with someone with whom you have a connection, writing together, trading ideas, critiquing each other work, finding a path through the mess and then making progress on this meandering path to discover something essential and insightful.

And this was a fine day. My little adopted sister-poet Emily invited me over for a lunch and a writing session. Emily always had a way with me, including a pretty good tolerance for my quirks and neuroses and also for my sometimes way too harsh critiques. It was going both ways. We loved it when we were able to hang out together chatting, chilling, and exchanging ideas. So, we finished our vegetarian burgers (both of us abandoned eating meat long time before), sat on the floor (her neurotic dog Vita on my lap), and started to write. We finished, talked about it for a while, wrote some more and then it happened.

Emily raised eyes from above her page, looked at me, and popped the question: "Stef, how come that wherever we go you play with animals, especially dogs but whomever it happens to be, and they always play with you, too, and yet there are no animals at your home?" Frankly, the question floored me. The answer to the first part was easy. I have always liked animals. In fact, I liked them enough to stop eating meat, for the first time, when I was about 4.5 years old. My parents bought a fish several days before Christmas. Where we lived, sometimes you had to do this sort of things if you wanted to eat at all. It was not too long after the WWII, our city was in ruins, and there was a shortage of everything, including fish, and especially right before Christmas. There was no hot water at our home and no opportunity to take a shower or even a good bath -- a frequent condition in Warsaw due to the destruction caused by the war. So, we filled the bathtub with water and that's where the fish lived for a while, me and my brother playing with her each and every day. Then, right before the Christmas eve, came what I called the "day of execution". I begged my parents not to do it, I prayed to God and all Saints to stop it, and I made every promise I could have possibly made trying to spare her life, to no avail. My father killed the carp while I witnessed it crying my eyes out. And then I refused to eat her body or the flesh of any other animal. It took them many lies, lots of coaxing, and at least 2 or 3 days to make me to abandon my resolve to follow my new vegetarian path.

Animals always liked me, too. There is a saying that they have a "knowing" about whether someone has a good heart, they feel our vibrations and energy. I do not know about it and I am not too sure what is in my heart. The fact is that animals have always gravitated to me and this included even Emily's neurotic dog Vita who had chosen to rest in my lap, probably the only lap, other than Emily's, where she liked to rest. I explained it hoping that this would settle it. But she just nodded her head and continued, "Sure, but how about the second part of my query? You know, how come there is neither a dog nor a cat nor even a mouse living in your house, you know?" "I don't know," I shrugged it off, "there just ain't". But this was not good enough for her; she knew me way too well to accept such a crappy answer. "Hm! Maybe you have buried it deep in your subconscious or maybe you are not telling but I have a feeling you know", she said with this little twinkle in her eye that I have learned not to ignore. So, I dug in deeper, look around for a while, then for even longer while I looked for how to put it all in words. Then I told her about that night when I was maybe 3 and a half years old and my father beat my mother so badly she ended up in a bed for weeks. I tried to stop him and failed. And since then I frequently felt like a total failure unable to fulfill any of my responsibilities. This is why I have never ever made any voluntarily commitment to any sentient being, human or animal. For how could I possibly made a commitment to anyone when I knew I was about to fail again. She smirked and said, "Well if you were to take a dog or a cat from a shelter, then you would not fail even if you occasionally miss on something. Just think about it, how badly can you mess up when you have already saved someone's life?" I had no good rejoinder to that. So, I just asked her to come with me and show me around and watch my back just in case. "Sure, let's go tomorrow," she said and that's how it all began.

We went to one of the local shelters next day. I knew I'd rather have a dog than a cat, and I liked someone on a medium to large side, maybe a boxer, or a German shepherd, or a lab. So, I started to slowly hover from a cage to a cage focusing on bigger and medium size breeds and trying to connect with each and every dog. There was a havoc and a commotion beyond imagination, all of them barking, yelping, wagging their tails, jumping on the wiry doors and generally trying to attract my attention.

All of them, except for this one white lass laying alone and completely calm in her cage. She greeted me politely but without exuberance, no barking or jumping, which I liked a lot. Just to be sure, I narrowed the whole pool to about eight or ten and visited with each and every pup one more time. More barking, commotion and chaos ensues again except for her. She slightly shifts her body, raises her eyes, looks at me, and moves her tail even so slightly as if saying, "Didn't we just go through it, hu-man? What do you really want?" Yeah, she had me at hello but now she found her way even deeper into my heart. For, frankly, why should a dog go out of her ways to impress someone like me? What is so special about some dude who has never taken a voluntary responsibility for anyone? I loved her sort of strength and independence. She must some kind of royalty, I thought, a lost princess perhaps. And I felt it deep in my bones, she is going home with me.

Still, I had some jitters. Not that I had any doubts that we were connected. But even a strong connection is not always enough. I still needed a certainty about the strength of my resolve. Besides, the next week I had a short trip out of town; it would have been stupid to take a dog just to leave her alone under someone's supervision when I was gone. I needed to go home, meditate on all of this for a while, find out how I really feel deep in my guts. I decided I'll return in two weeks with cash, time, and certainty about whether or not she will be my dog.

I did not sleep well that night, woke up a few times. As soon as the morning came I went on the internet to check whether she is still available. The same thing the next night and the next day, then again. Then she visited me in my dreams. Then again a few night later. Then again. Then the weekend of the great decision came and I was scared to death, literally paralyzed by my worries and uncertain of anything. And then I told myself, this is the day of the Great Decision. Either you will continue the way it has been recently, fat, depressed, and without hope. Or you go to this darn shelter, take her home, and start reshaping your body, health and life. Then I sat down on my meditation cushion for an extra long period of zazen, took an extra long shower, shaved twice (after all I was about to see a royalty), and hit the road.

She was not in her cage and I freaked out. For a moment my heart fluttered and my soul took a diving position on my shoulder, ready to fly away in case things start going really poor. Someone has taken my dog! Just to be sure, I asked around, and all hens returned to the coop. Nobody has taken her, bigger dogs are sort of cursed, not adoptable so easily, people prefer smaller breeds that look like toys. She was right there, outside the window, in an exercise area with a volunteer taking care of her. I looked at him and without any further hesitation announced, "she is coming with me". He smiled and cleaned her up while I finished the paperwork and absorbed all the feeding and walking instructions.

And then I took her home.

Here is what she looked like when I was adopting here (a photo from the shelter's web site) and another photo I took a few months later (one of the very first photos of her that I have taken and still one of my favorites). They told me she was about 3 but I had a feeling she was about 2 or 2.5. She surely was super skinny and still acted like a small puppy, too. Very quickly she put on about 12-15 pounds:

For the even measure, here is what I looked like then and what I look like now, 6.5 years and about 80-90 pounds later:

(1 comment | Leave a comment)


Date:August 21st, 2013 04:22 pm (UTC)


I love how she visited your dreams! Your transformation is inspiring! Love to your four-legged soulmates!

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