On September 24, 2021 Xander came to the schoolhouse for a temporary stay… and never left. Sometimes when we live a life touched by loss, some of those losses teach us lessons when we look for them and gives us things when we… weren’t. Xander came into my life four days before my 4th Wedding Anniversary without Kateri. He was by my side as I went through that anniversary crying in my bed, sitting on my deck pondering life, or doing whatever. I thought about how he was in a new space… with a new person… and not with Judy (even though at that point his stay was still just a temporary thing and we thought they would be reunited). I wondered what he was thinking about. I hoped he wasn’t sad, but felt he knew something was up. For almost a year now, all I’ve wanted to do was make sure he has the best life I can give him. I want him to have the easiest life I can provide for him. I want him to be himself. I want him to be a dog being a dog. I want him to be happy and feel like he’s home in a life which is so different from what he knew on September 23, 2021. I want him to feel loved… because I’ve got so much frickin’ love for the guy that I don’t even care about his love strings (hair) being all over the couch!… and the stairs… and the chair… and my bed… my fleece pants… and… and… you get the idea… it’s a lot of love… and love strings.
The dude that turned The Schoolhouse into a house in the 60’s also made a little path through the 6.5 acres so that he could harvest lumber for the woodstove n such. When Kateri and I bought the place, I cleaned up the paths since they had started to get overgrown by the lack of use. Since Xander has come to The Schoolhouse, we have walked the path almost every day. Well, nowadays I feel like our afternoon walk is more like me walking the path… and Xander walking, running, sniffing, digging the other 6.49 acres! It was on one of these walks that I recently realized that Xander has taught me a few things as we have gotten to know each other over the last year. Lessons and exercises that I learned while running up hills in the dark yelling, “Xander!” and “Come here, Bud!”… or standing for ten minutes while getting eaten by mosquitos as he tears apart a rotting stump… or simply walking behind him hearing nothing but the pitter patter of his paws on the pine needle padded path surrounded by the sounds of the woods. I realized I have learned a lot… staring at an 83 pound Pitbull’s butt as he trots along on the hunt for chipmunks. These are a few of those things.
- By the time I get home from work Xander has been cooped up in The Schoolhouse for 9 to 11 hours so when we go for our afternoon walk I want to give him… time. Time to run. Time to be outside. Time to be a dog sniffing, digging, patrolling, and playing in the woods and yard. On one of these walks I found myself standing there… for I don’t know how long… as Xander was tearing apart a rotting stump and digging deeper and deeper along it’s roots. It was hot… which in Vermont also means buggy… and I was just about over it. At that moment I recognized just how much fun Xander was having trying to get at whatever it was he was fixated on. I wanted him to stop so that we could keep on our walk and I could get to my evening tasks. And then I thought about how he spent the day surrounded by walls with only a view of the world outside the windows. So I took a breath and pushed my thoughts of evening chores to the side and took in the scenery and sounds of the woods while I waited… and waited… and let him be a dog.
- When Kateri died, I was thrust into this weird “Instant Independence” kind of life. I was responsible for only myself… and Kateri’s chickens. When the last three chickens (Lil’ Bitch, Chicken, and Chicken) got eaten by raccoons (bastards), I was the last living animal left at The Schoolhouse besides the mice, snakes, and other country creatures. The moment Amanda and I told Judy we would take care of Xander and he could live at my house, I assumed the responsibility of providing the best possible life I could for him. I was responsible for his health, his safety, and his happiness. It’s a responsibility that fills me with warmth every day when I come home and can see him through the big ol’ schoolhouse window sitting on the end of the couch with his paws hanging over the edge just waiting for me to walk past so that he can run to the door to meet me. Of course, sometimes I see him on the couch and by the time I open the door… he’s not there. Nope, sometimes when I open the door I can hear him in the dining room crunching away at the food in his bowl leftover from the night before. Yup… gotta say… sometimes it hurts just a little knowing that food is the bigger priority for him than seeing me at that moment!… but I’ve accepted it.
- There have always been dogs in mine and Kateri’s life, but we never had one of our own. We moved around a bunch… and were renters… and just thought it would be easier to pick up and start another adventure if we didn’t have animals. Once we bought our Little Red Schoolhouse, once we had our own land, once we had our own Home… that’s when things like pets, chickens, Hopes n Dreams would really start to take off. That first Spring in our first home is when those Hopes n Dreams started to take shape in the form of 8 chickens. And then two Springs later… Kateri died… and things like Hopes n Dreams turned into a cloudy and muddled view of life, love, and the world in which I was living in. Over the last four and a half years some of those challenges that come along with Widowhood have eased and some of those cloudy views have started to clear up a bit. Love is a complicated thing. For an emotion that can make you feel as though you are on top of the world… there are also circumstances where it plays it’s part in making us feel completely isolated… and alone… even when we’re surrounded by loved ones. A dog… Xander… brought life back to my Little Red Schoolhouse. A dog… Xander… has provided me with companionship, friendship, and love every single day over the last year. A dog… Xander… lost his person. Xander lost the life he knew and was thrust into an unfamiliar world… my world. Judy entrusted Amanda and I with the love of her life… and she gave me the opportunity to feel loved every morning as Xander nudges his way under the blanket for warmth an hour before my alarm goes off, every evening I come home from work to a wagging tail and the funny hoppity hop around the living room, and every night he makes his way up to the bedroom with that familiar clickity clack of toenails on wood floors… fashionably five…ish minutes after I have crawled into bed. As her life was ending, through her asking for Amanda and I to bring Xander into our lives, Judy gifted me with the feeling of Unconditional Love at a moment in time I needed to be reminded of it.
- Loss in life is simply a hard thing we all go through at on point or another in varying degrees, but we need to remember that we’re living in a world where beauty, love, and happiness still exists and hopefully we have people in our lives that can remind us of that… even after they are gone.