Here’s to a Year With Little Miss Sunshine

The date came and went, with barely a blip on the radar. My husband took her around the park and I managed to get myself out for a two block walk, but other than that, Maisie’s year anniversary with us was dramatically uneventful. That was not how I had planned things to be. At the very least, I was hoping to write a delightful happy anniversary blog for the little monster, but the world had other plans, in the form of both my husband and me being laid so low by a miserable, awful fever for a week. I’m actually still recovering, nearly three weeks later.

But in spite of the day going by without much notice, I still feel like I owe it to my girl to somehow honor the year she has spent with us. She doesn’t much care about anniversaries or holidays; she really just wants to be with her people, she wants to be outside in the fresh air, she wants the chance to chase field mice unencumbered by the blasted leash. But I care, because she has made the past year so much brighter than it ever would have been without her. And so, while it is several weeks past due, here is my anniversary tribute to the little Miss Maisie Monster, in the form of some of my favorite lessons I’ve learned from her, along with some of my favorite photos of her from this past year.

Stay present. The only moment there is is the very moment we are in and there is no better teacher for that lesson than a dog. Sure, sometimes she sits perfectly upright by the sliding glass door that opens to the deck and the backyard, staring longingly at the world outside. But mostly, she embraces the moment for what it is and if that means curling up by the wood stove or sleeping on the sunny floor because Mom is “working” again, so be it.

When are we going out?

Practice acceptance. Instead of crying over what once was or pining away for what could be, accept what is, because, really, nothing is permanent and whatever you are experiencing — good or bad — will not last forever. When your mother told you, “this, too, shall pass,” she was right. I had to repeatedly remind myself of that while I was sick but it was something Maisie practiced with perfection. She was getting little to nothing in the way of walks — and she is a seriously high energy dog — but she was quiet and slept by my side, curled up next to me through my fever and aches and chills and coughing fits. She never once became ornery because she wasn’t getting outside; instead she seemed to accept that this was just how things were now.

Maisie generally seems to extend this acceptance thing to her whole life; honestly she is far better at it than Henry ever was, as he would go into a panic when he sensed we might leave without him. But Maisie, she just gets a very distinct look in her eyes when we are getting ready to go out somewhere and it says this: “You’re leaving and I’m not coming with you, if I understand you correctly.” Sometimes she will sit in one place on the floor watching me with a zen-like focus as I do my getting-ready-to-leave-routine. Sometimes she just goes and curls up on the bed, completely ignoring us. Either way, she seems to accept that we are leaving and trusts that we will return. I’m working on embracing that kind of acceptance and trust.

Waiting patiently while Mom writes.

When you are excited and happy, shout about it from the roof tops. We’re so good at broadcasting all that is wrong with the world; maybe we need to be a little more vocal when all is right with the world. When I first brought Maisie home and I would get ready to take her for a walk, she actually scared me a little. She would start barking and barking and it felt aggressive and uncomfortable to me. I figured out, though, that she was really just communicating her excitement. “We’re going for a walk!! We’re going for a walk!! We’re going for a walk!!” In spite of what she is communicating, I still get her to quiet down — we live in a very resonant house with wood floors and healthy reverb — but I’m no longer scared when she barks at me like that. I’ve also come to realize that a lot of her barking at other dogs comes from the same place, but, apparently, she still scares some of them. Especially the poor, sweet, enormous golden retriever around the corner from us, who cowers when she barks at him. It is a piercingly loud bark.

Letting the world know how I feel. About everything.

Communicate with your eyes. Really, a smile that comes from only your mouth just doesn’t cut it and it was her eyes, after all, that first pulled me in. Make sure your eyes are behind everything you communicate. And if you really want something from someone, stop pestering them with your words. Just sit quietly in one place and stare at them. Really, really stare at them, long and hard until they finally realize you are trying to tell them something. Even if it just is that you have to pee and you’d prefer not to do it the house because you know they won’t like it if you do.

I am not sure what I think about this piano, but you seem to like it.

Never let too much time pass without showing your people how much you love them. They need it. They need the big sloppy kiss or the tail wagging or the running in circles because you are so happy they are home. And then they will return the favor, which for Maisie comes in the form of belly rubs and ear scratches and buffalo blueberry treats. There is nothing more important in this world than love and so it stands to reason that there is nothing more important than demonstrating that love.

She loves this man. So does her mom.

And finally, seek out the sunshine. Take a nap in it. Get outside and run and play in it. Let it seep into your bones and give you a healthy dose of vitamin D. Open the blinds and follow its path around the house. Sit outside and do nothing but listen to it speak to your weary, winter soul. Take advantage of it when it is there, because sometimes it hides for days or even weeks or months. If you store it up in your soul, it will help remember its goodness during those dreary days.

I will find that sunny spot, wherever it is.

Maisie, I’m sure, has a lot more to show me. She’s only been my teacher for just over a year now and I’m not always the quickest study. Sometimes we have to keep coming back to the same lessons over and over. But through it all, I have the gift of a tiny, little Buddha, who never fails to make me laugh, to give me love and support and overwhelm me with joy at her presence in my life. It’s a little late, but Happy Anniversary, little Maisie Monster. Thank you for coming into our lives and bringing all that sunshine with you.

Her very first road trip with us, down to Austin, Texas to see the bluebonnets.

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So dear readers, do you have favorite lessons from your animal companions? Do you celebrate anniversaries and birthdays — if you know them — with your pets? I always love to hear from you, so feel free to use the comment section below.