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  • Bonnie Sallans

Go Doggies! Into the Sun, January 2022

Updated: Jan 30, 2022

January is a strange month. It seems like the longest month of the year, yet as it comes to a close, I am wondering where it went. In January, we run headlong into sunrise, the sky stretches and yawns before drawing us into the day and then, before you know it, it's over.

In January my sense of the entire year that ran before seems to be just as elastic. 2021 took forever; it went by in a flash. Where did it go? Is it over yet? At the beginning of January I am always out of sorts, perhaps for looking backwards as well as forwards all at once. This year I am counting losses. We said goodbye to Benny December 15, Nordiclight's Arnavik Benny (2010-2021). It was a Wednesday. He's the big dog running beside Magic, our Greenland Dog, in the pic. It seems like it was only yesterday I brought him home, watched him fly across my front field, all ears, legs and tail. It wasn't. We had eleven years. Not a bad run for a big dog. But it's never long enough.

Grieving seems to have a way of drawing me back to the sadness of all the other losses, as well as the joys. I have had dogs all my life. If you can say that and are more than twelve years old, you probably have said goodbye at least once, probably many more times than that, too many times than you'd want to count. But I do count. Because I do remember them, and there is joy. Each and every one makes their own contribution to a lifetime of riches, the wealth that it is to have known each and every particular presence, a slow parade of soft faces fronting noble, grand and giving spirits. This I tell myself. It doesn't make me less sad, but it does make it more than bearable, for if there were no sadness, there would have been no love either.

This spring, for the first time I also had to put down a horse, my Pearl, March 24. March was another long month that suddenly fell short. Pearl was very unwell. Seeing her out with grace was the only kindness left. Horses fall hard. They are big and strong of body and heart. Magnificent. Invincible. Until they are not. When they go down the earth groans. I wasn't ready to say goodbye to her either, but life is not a thing we get choose, not in its coming or its going, the possiblity of miracles not withstanding.

No matter how often I do it, losing a loved one is never easy, I just get better at managing it. When my father died in 2018, I realized that this isn't true. I don't get better at any of if. I just learn that I can bear it, that the sun rises in the morning, whether I'm looking out for it, or not. He taught me that, my dad, many times over. Then I had to do it, learn it again, without him. I did, and I do. Each time, anew.

So we find our way.

Magic, the dog on the right in the pic, lies beside me now, her flanks rising and falling with her living breath, her ears twitching. She is quiet these days. She misses Benny. But she is a dog; dogs don't dwell in the past. Her rest is poised, not torpid, her attention pointed, not desultory. She waits, preparing for what comes next. She is expecting the sun to rise and readying herself to meet it. When she does, her eyes will glisten, her whole body rushing towards it. She will run it, run, with it, run ahead of it, run until it sets and once again, it is time to rest. She will know joy and take me with her into it. I miss Benny too. But I take my cue from Magic. I can know loss, I can be sad, and then I can go outside, play in the snow, seek the sun. It will come up every single morning that I draw breath, whether I look for it or not, even when the day seems dark.

Come spring there will be more dogs: a puppy, and - how delightful is this? – the puppy's very own grandmother, a retiring senior sled dog! That's a story for another day, another month – April, I believe. For today is to remember Benny, to spend some time tending the place in my heart where his gentle soul resides and always will, and to remind myself to draw on that gift when feeling impatient, or selfish. It might even make me a better person. Today is to pay tribute to his great strength, for he was a powerful pulling Malamute. Going forward, it is for me to channel that encounter with something fine and good in moments of weakness. Benny was the dog that gave it all to the load, then turned his head around and asked for more. If I do the same, I just might get whatever it is I am doing done, and done well.

Including this blog post. The January blog post, the one that looks backwards at a trail well travelled, while heading forward, into the rising sun.

Onward. Go doggies. Go Benny.

Nordiclight's Arnavik Benny (2010-2021)

Forever in my heart

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