We grow up on stories, we create stories, we share them using lines like, ‘you’ll never believe this…’ or ‘it’s like something out of a movie!’ Yes, life can be stranger than fiction. And when it comes to love, even more so.
Paulo Coehlo said, ‘when one person leaves us, it is because another is about to arrive!’ There is even a tribe in Africa who celebrate when a heart is broken! Why would they, you might ask? They are celebrating the person who is about to arrive. In rescue it is often the case when a rescue dies, another one arrives nearly immediately, and I’m sure it is the case for many who lost a pet, well, as I know from stories shared, just when the doors of one’s heart is closing, there is a heartbeat that nudges the door back open. Yes, when it comes to love (whether love of life, human, animal)there are those of us who will love again and again, some will never let love in, and some will pretend. What ever happens after we fall, there is always ‘the day before you’. We need to remember those days more to appreciate the days that follow.
Life’s experiences and expectations sculpt these jagged-like spaces within us. And love, tends to smooth the edge’s at first, life feels less like ‘something is missing’ until there is a sense of fulfilment: the space has been filled. And yes, it can become undone – sometimes often and sometimes never. It can be filled again. But no love is ever the same, it’s still love but different. You still have that vacant space within being filled in a different way. The space, the needs and expectations change too. Is there one true love? Like leaves to trees? I’m not sure.
I do know this, animals have a unique way of loving us. It is not comparable to falling in love, because when we fall, we can hurt and when we hurt, we often become suspicious and wary of what feels like the L Bomb. It can leave you feeling you are in bits. But, I’ve never known a person let down by the animal in their life. The language of love between a human and an animal does not include: ‘ifs or buts’; it is a language of purity and mutual acceptance. It is love. Unconditional. And sometimes it is so amazing that they become ‘irreplaceable’ and words like ‘never again’ appear. The loss is too big to ever fully overcome. But then, as happened Kerrie and her family – their Biscuit, the cat in their lives passed away. He was very much loved and what felt like ‘forever irreplaceable’ but then a smaller Biscuit appears, his eyes looking out from a rescue page into their homes. And just as the drawbridge to their hearts is closing, there is something about this kitten who survived against the odds, that has halted the heart-felt decision of ‘never again!’ Yes, the photo was quickly shared to the other adult in the house, John, who immediately replied, ‘Oh,go get him!’ They knew, he was meant to be part of their family. And so began the application to adopt, the house check, where days passed in between. They were a family getting ready to welcome a kitten – unsure whether ‘they appeared too eager!’ or all the other lines we feed minds that are giving up. And so Kerrie asked Biscuit to send this tiny kitten to them. And just like that, they heard, ‘Dillion was coming home!’ I asked Kerrie what was the day before like and she replied, ‘ Oh my goodness, so many emotions. We were still very raw from losing Biscuit. We needed Dillon, he found us so randomly, it weirdly felt like Biscuit was with us in our decision making. No regrets no dilemma.’
There are many animal stories that imprint on us. I’ve so many to tell that have been shared with me down through the years. But I guess Paddy and his Dog and their story is very vivid as if he is here and I’m listening again.
Paddy and his Dog (no name) were best friends. He was all she needed; she was all he wanted. A collie who knew that it was just the two of them and she had a job to do. Paddy had a small farm, and it wasn’t the best of land and every morning and night he would cross the rough terrain with Dog to check on the cattle. The years passed and always ‘on duty’ and age were taking its toll on his collie. He often tried to sneak out on those unforgiving West of Ireland, Winter nights, to leave her by the range. But she was having none of it. He noticed how there was a time, she would nearly push him on but he was now beginning to wait for her. ‘Good girl, good job,’ were words she would never understand but the sentiment and tone was her payment for a job that never felt like work. One night as they returned home, and as Paddy went to open the gate, she once slipped through, only one of them walked through.
‘She didn’t want me to have to go to any bother, so people said she did that last job for me,’ he told me. The next morning word spread through the close knit community that Paddy’s dog never made it home and the fields and ditches were searched but Dog was never found. Then came the offers of collie pups and terriers to keep him safe in his small house nestled amongst mature trees down a meandering grassy laneway. But, Paddy just waved the offers on.
Paddy had ‘a day before you’ he remembered well. He told me he was ‘fierce lonely’ as it was his mother’s anniversary. He missed his Mammy. Every adult has that child within that just wants their Mammy to mind them. Ironically, he said, ‘loneliness is company and it’s always there for me!’ He laughed but it was a laugh like wallpaper that covers the cracks. You hate it but taking it down would reveal too much.
Anyway, that day, he went out to fill a fertiliser bag with turf and something moved in the corner of the old, stone cattle shed. ‘It was nothing that would give me a heart attack,’ he laughed. ‘Not a bit afraid!’ I never asked why! But as he moved away, a collie came out and followed him to the door. He went in and said not a word, but left ‘a saucepan of dinner’ down. As he finished his story quickly as his niece was waiting for me, I took in his hand patting the collie looking up at him with complete adoration. ‘You ate up your dinner that night, didn’t you, Dog?’
Yes, some stories are stranger than fiction. I told Paddy that day, ‘there is a book in you!’ I just wish he could read his story he shared that day. The day before you.