Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Spirit and the Red Tail Hawk

It's hard to believe it is already November, with Thanksgiving and the holidays right around the corner. Time just marches on, and Dad and I do our best to get through the days, the weeks and months. There have been many times that we sat down to write an update to our friends, but either nothing was there or I would get distracted, mostly by those pesky squirrels, but sometimes just by one of my toys. I do my best to keep Dad occupied, so I encourage him to take me on lots of walks when we have the time. I think it has really helped him. I know he has told me on many occasions that I am the best four legged therapist he could have hoped to find. I never thought it would be possible for Dad and I to be closer than we were from the time he and Mom picked me when I was just an 8 week old puppy. However, we have grown closer these past 9 months than either of us could ever imagine. Our bond today is unbreakable, and I know that it will stay that way.

Motivation seems to be the hardest thing for Dad to recapture. While I have seen improvements in him, he continues to slog through the days, like he is on a long uphill march. I still greet him excitedly when he comes home in the evening, and he always smiles when he walks through the door and sees me with my tail wagging. I get so much joy seeing Dad come home from work, and it's not just because I know we are going to go for a walk. It's because I miss him during the day, and I know I will put a smile on that otherwise gloomy face when he sees me. There is an element of power in being able to provide a moment of spontaneous happiness out of the routine.

It was on one of our many walks together a few months ago that something so ordinary would affect Dad in an almost transcendental way. We were on our regular evening walk on a particularly beautiful New England early fall evening with the setting sun casting a burnt orange glow across the sky. Frequently, we meet several of our neighbors and their dogs during our walks, but on this occasion it was just us. Dad often gets lost in his thoughts on our walks, and he becomes almost meditative sometimes. I, on the other hand, am on a mission of course, and not just to take care of my personal needs, but to also investigate new smells and chase the squirrels and rabbits that trespass on my playground.

What was also noticeable about this evening was how quiet it was. It felt as if the entire neighborhood had gone away on vacation and we were the only ones there. When we got to the playground area, Dad as usual let me off my leash to run around with my ball and smell all the new scents on the trees, in the bushes and in the grass. It's never boring because I find something new every day. Dad seemed especially contemplative - he said even less than his usual few comments. I just assumed he was taking in the beauty of the evening, which is his wont at such times. I don't pester him to play when he is distracted in thought like that.

Since I already knew that Dad was not in a mood to throw the ball, I just walked up next to him and sat by his side quietly. No sooner did I look up to see what Dad was looking for when the most majestic Red Tail Hawk swept low above our heads and landed on a nearby oak tree. Without losing site of the hawk, that was now perched on one of the high branches of the tree, Dad said to me, "Harry, your mom is with us. She's come to let us know her spirit is present." And then he said, "I love you, Dena, and I miss you so much." I immediately felt Dad's mood change from somber to calm. I sensed a settled feeling in him that had not been there since Mom was with us. He continued to stare up at the hawk until the sun set and it was too dark to see anymore.

Now as a dog, I am more acutely sensitive to Mom's spiritual presence than Dad. I feel her with us much more frequently and easily than Dad, but on this particular evening, I could tell that he felt the strongest spiritual connection to her at any time before or since then. Some of you may think these are the ramblings of some New Age Golden Retriever who was influenced by his mom from California, but many Indian tribes associate the spirit with elements of nature. Those who knew Mom know she had a powerful, beautiful and warm spirit. She touched the souls of so many people in her short life through her infectious personality and selfless ways. It only seems natural to Dad and me that Mom would make her spirit known to us through the Red Tail Hawk.

When I think about us
I see the picture that we made
a picture to remind us
true love will never fade
  - Mark Knopfler