The Old Dog, Again

The old dog panting at my feet. She’s uncomfortable. She always is. We think she can’t really feel her hind legs, and we think she has pain in her spine in the rear, her tail bits. She can’t tell us this of course, we’ve tried to become canine mind readers.

She pants, and I reach down through my own back pain that grows and grows and grows and I scratch her shoulders, run my fingers through her thick white fur over her rib cage. I scratch her rear flanks hoping that I’m pushing through whatever numbness she has, but hoping also that I’m not touching too hard. I scratch that lovely pink belly of hers, the inside of her thighs, through the thickest fur over her chest. She sits up and pants. Maybe I’ve done something wrong. Maybe she just needs to pant.

There’s a point in time after which things seem to have gained momentum in life. Honestly, I could keep tracing back current events to my childhood if I really wanted to, but most recently there was the Truth and Reconciliation Summit at the Banff Centre. I wrote a huge piece about it right after while the thoughts were fresh, but they hadn’t percolated so it wasn’t worth publishing.

I broke down at that summit, publicly and in front of friends and colleagues, people I barely knew but respected, and many people that I didn’t know at all and haven’t seen since. They’ve likely forgotten about it. I carry it like a breath.

I recounted my own pain and guilt. I walked the thin line of taking their sacred wound away from them, misappropriating, fully cognizant of what I was doing but completely unable to stop it. My empathy for the underdog has always been strong. It’s something I embody.

After the session, an elder sharing the same table patted me on the shoulder from behind and whispered, “You have a strong spirit.” I couldn’t meet her eyes. And then after it was all over a friend from work that was at the table smiled at me and gave me a hug, said something to the effect that she was glad to get to know me. No one has ever said that before.

Driving home I pulled over and wept. I think about it now and tears well up.

There is so much we do right. There is so much. Those two people reaching out that day have had a huge impact on how I respond to my days. I wonder, months after the summit, how much of it actually stuck for others and I’m skeptical that much change is being worked on or implemented. But for myself, the ball is rolling. I didn’t notice at the time, but the things I learned about myself and others that day has been driving my motives ever since. I gained power from those experiences, and while it ebbs and flows, it’s a current gaining force. It’s given me more voice than I’ve ever had before.

I have things up my sleeves. And while I’m not entirely sure what they are yet I’m confident they will be big. I have power. I have voice. And I have love and empathy. That’s just about all anyone needs.

She’s asleep now and her paws twitch. It’s a subtle movement, something you wouldn’t even notice if you weren’t paying attention. But I am. My awareness is on point.

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