Our thirteen-year-old dog passed away. She was the last “family” dog, one of the pups in a litter of mutts. It was Elizabeth’s turn to have a dog, so, she made the choice and picked a cute little black puppy with a white face and a “waggly tail” and named her Baja, a curious and strange name. I do not know where the unusual name came from and I am not sure she does either but, at twelve years old, that was the name she chose. Through the years, Baja grew comfortably into the odd name; she grew up to be odd, quirky, loved, and now, missed, very much missed.
She was always there in my peripheral vision. She watched me in the mornings as I fed my chickens, she sat at the door and waited for me to come home, and she barked when a stranger came. She contributed much to our family and all she wanted in return was food, water, and someone to rub her stomach and call her name.
I walked through the woods this morning, her domain, a place she commanded, to think of her, to feel her presence somehow. I remembered how she sometimes chased wild rabbits and sat relentlessly with her nose down a rabbit hole until some action occurred, tail wagging and chops licking, determined and patient. She was ailing these last few weeks but through it all, through her discomfort, when the sun painted a patch of glorious rays on the grass in the middle of the afternoon, she found it and laid on her back, four legs in the air soaking it in. I would watch her from my kitchen window as she lay there in complete rhythm with the world helping me to understand that moments are precious, too precious to waste and, maybe, we should capture life as it presents itself for, like the warm sunbeams, it is fleeting. I also learned about forgiveness from Baja. I learned that even though she made me mad when she buried bones or bagels in my just-made flower bed, and I fussed at her sternly she soon after would stand in front of me with big brown eyes that told me it was okay that I got mad at her and said those awful things; she still loved me and we would “move on”. She held no grudges.
We learn a lot from our pets, children learn a lot. They learn about responsibility and compassion, and they come to realize how fragile life is and how ephemeral the moments are. And when they die, they learn about love and loss. I hope all of you have had a “Baja” in your life at some point, a pet to remind you of the innocence and purity that exists amongst the darkness that sometimes tries to dominate our existence.
I am drenched in summer by now and I feel the world slowing down, getting gentler while the afternoons linger, and the nights are a spectacle with the waning Full Strawberry Moon dangling like an ornament in the nearly summer sky and the June bugs here with their sturdy shield reminding us of the sultry nights that will soon come to be. The green and blue dragonflies skim the water of the pool and settle on the wire of my clotheslines as we wait for the Gulf to, perhaps, deliver its wrath. In the meantime, amongst all that is unhealed and uncertain, we can still be kind to our neighbor, love our dog, plant a garden, take in the sunbeams, and remember, we all are what we learn.