New Souls for Old

Dogs are soulful.  Whether they indeed possess souls, I leave in God’s hands. I know what I know from my life.

I considered Sherlock, my first Seeing Eye dog, an old soul.  He possessed wisdom beyond intelligence.  He wore life like a loose garment.  He flowed rather than walked, considered rather than reacted, observed rather than looked.  To me, Sherlock had been around the cosmic block a few times.

I retain the imprint of sorrow left the day Sherlock died.  His eight-year-old body surrendered to cancer.  His goodness was, and remains, energy which cannot be destroyed, only transfigured.  This truth, this law of nature, is my consolation.

Short weeks after Sherlock died, I met Randy.  From the first, I found Randy to be a new soul.  He is, literally and figuratively, the new kid on the block.  He lurches and lunges, senses and reacts, gobbles, nudges and prods.  He has no guile.  He is refreshingly candid and forthright.

I have loved both dogs, I think equally.  There is a season for being laid-back; there is a time to forge ahead.  Sherlock was born old and died young.  Randy will stay forever young, regardless of age.  Their differences are ingrained at the molecular level.   

Today I found how this essential difference manifests behaviorally.  From it, I conclude that even without his harness, Sherlock knew that I needed care. Randy, unharnessed, is mindful only of where his own nose leads us, which, this morning was into a bush and a fence post. Not that Randy is uncaring.  He has boundaries which he creates and respects.  Harness means work and no harness means play.  Randy acts like a twelve-year old boy and, as such, is aptly named.  Sherlock acted like a middle-aged man, and so was aptly named.  God love ‘em both, and protect me.

Jeff’s Note:  I am in residence at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT, thanks to being awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Access Writing Fellowship.  We caught half the Nor’easter that hit the East Coast.  Sherlock would have made snow angels; Randy excels as a trailblazer, in harness, that is.

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8 Responses to New Souls for Old

  1. Judi says:

    I love your story and its title! Insightful and matter-of-fact. Each dog is different; like us, he has his own personality. Now, I’m getting a glimmer that working dogs, too, have their idiosyncrasies.

    I didn’t recognize “Randy” as a familiar name . I’m very sorry to learn of your major loss of Sherlock.

    Of course your young soul Randy will learn. Let’s hope that in the future he’ll keep you out of the bushes! Sorry – I’m chuckling, but assume you’re not badly bruised.

  2. Jenny T says:

    Hi Jeff, congratulations on your fellowship. Your story touched me so much, because it has been the same for me with my to guidedogs. I lost my first to lymphoma shortly before his ninth birthday, which was Christmas, and he was, in so many ways, an old soul, quiet, introspective and with a regard for life that was wise and serious, as if he already understood all of the universe’s secrets. But, Blazer is a different story. Although my first guidedog was an uncle to Blazer, they share so few characteristics that I can hardly tell they are related, and after some years together, my Blazer still acts as crazy and energetic as the same day I first received him. I think maybe we were put together to learn together. While my first was here to teach and guide me, Blazer and I are supposed to figure out life together, yet I have and will continue to enjoy the journey with both. Enjoy playing in all that snow. We have had so much where I live that I’ve thought about simply skiing across campus. Happy writing. Jenny and her amazing guidedog Blazer

    • Jeff Flodin says:

      Dear Judy, Beth and Jenny,
      Thanks so much for your comments. Three years with Randy and ten years with guide dogs, what an abundant experience. Even in the dark of night on a lonely street, I can sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” reverently and enthusiastically. Hope you all feel the same.

  3. William (Colt) says:

    Jeff,
    First, thank you for your story. I really like what you said. All your stories are good, and I hope my earlier comments and this one don’t bring you or any of your readers down. But selfishly, commenting is helpful for me, if only for the time it takes to write it. But I’ll take that right now.

    I wish I was a dog. Maybe they don’t get depressed or optimistic.
    At this moment, for days and now weeks, nothing is more depressing than optimism. I get some relief by stewing in self-pity about RP, and it gives me an excuse to be angry. Yeah, maybe dogs don’t get depressed. I hope not.
    They get everyything else though. My dog Jake died of cancer one week short of 10 years old in 2001. He was perfect in all ways, and he was soulful, like your Sherlock and Randy.

    Tomorrow I go back to my eye doctor for my annual progression check on RP. I expect she’ll tell me that my RP is worse, because I know that I’m not seeing what I could see 12 months ago. It’s subtle. But it’s changing nonetheless.
    I’d like to put down my depression. I’d like to not pick it up anymore, and hear nobody tell me it’s normal to be depressed. And I want to stop complaining. When it really comes down to it, nobody wants to hear it. I’m betting I I come through the other side eventually. Until then it’s like I have a body double. There’s me the self-pity guy, and there’s me the observer. I hope I don’t stay the angry RP guy, No, I hope not. Nobody wants to watch that.
    One day, when I’m feeling better, I”m going to get another dog.

    • Jeff Flodin says:

      Hello William,
      You are right-commenting helps. Not just for the time it fills, but for the expression of feelings and getting perspective. Nothing’s better left unsaid. Keep reading and keep talking and writing and don’t worry about bringing anybody down because we can all get down so easily on our own, right?
      You’re right-self-pity gets old fast for everyone involved. But being vulnerable is not shameful-it’s being able to express what you need, feel and want. I thought vulnerability was weakness until my wife said she finds my vulnerability attractive. And nothing reinforces behavior like a wonderful woman saying she finds it attractive.

  4. You are a brilliant writer, Wish I could write even half as good.

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