Ever feel like you’re out of synch with mainstream culture? That you’re marching to the beat of a different drummer but — here’s the clincher—you’re also not sure you want to be in this Thoreauvian (a real word) situation?
“Twas I, just a few evenings ago, on the 4th of July.
OK, so this is a social, boisterous holiday. Parades, picnics, fireworks: people get together all over the country, holding paper plates of burgers and hot dogs and potato salad; laughing with one another; playing softball; sometimes listening to recitations of the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence or Lincoln’s Second Inaugural; awaiting nightfall when the sky lights up with color and reverberates with explosions to the delight of viewers sitting on lawns and beaches and piers.
This year, however, I was not part of any of these festive tableaux, but driving up Interstate 89 with my four-legged boy in the back. I drove the bishop-mobile, since the bishop himself needed only a canoe while on the Connecticut River. Dogs haven’t been pilgrims on this journey, understandably. No way Rocky would’ve kept quiet in a canoe, anyway—he’d be swimming alongside, and since he just had some surgery and now has sutures, that would’ve been out of the question.
Here he is, next to some of Rob’s possessions.
Anyway, why was I driving? It’s embarrassing to admit, but I drove only for the sake of Rocky. I was on a quest to put some distance between us and the explosions that were soon to start, I just knew it, all around Concord and in our neighborhood too. Ridiculous? Perhaps. This dog, though — the one I love so much — becomes a quivering mass of anxiety with hunters’ gunshots, thunderstorms, or fireworks.
All of which happen with some regularity around New Hampshire. A-yup.
He tries to find safe, confined places to scrunch himself up in and just keeps panting.
It’s painful to watch an animal normally so confident, almost regal, like this…
be reduced to a cringing creature. I won’t insult his dignity by showing a picture of him in this fearful state, but I don’t think he’d mind this one, showing his softer side.
Anyway, I drove, and it wasn’t half-bad, actually. Ended up near a big pond somewhere to watch nightfall, where I had a long overdue conversation with my mother-in-law. She said how glad she was to hear from me, that she’d had a quiet day too. Considered calling up a few people to go visit them (of course they would all have had festive plans) but then realized that being just with Rocky was fine with me. It was enough; caring for him was enough.
That afternoon, wanting to do something to prepare for the evening, I’d gone to PETCO and bought one of these….
Ridiculous? Perhaps. But just recently when at the vet’s, I’d heard that in fact this product gets the thumbs-up from lots of dog owners– well, a certain subset of dog owners. It works like a blanket that swaddles a newborn baby: helps to bring about enhanced security. So I sprung for it. Rocky wore the grey garment handsomely on our car trip, just in case we’d encounter ka-booms even on the road. When I looked in the rear-view mirror, all I saw was his set of tall ears, ever alert. There was calm in the bishop-mobile, and I was grateful for it. By the time we got back home, the rumblings were distant enough to allow us to pretend this was a regular night.
The whole shift from full-on parenting, with clattering dishes and feet pounding down staircases, to empty-nesting is strange. The way I see it, having a dog (or some kind of beloved animal) helps immeasurably. Sure, with no pet I’d be free to take off at a moment’s notice, to join my husband at all kinds of special events, to see distant friends more easily. But coming home each time to an empty house? Missing the wagging tail, the immediate offering of a toy in mouth, the complete trust day in and day out? No, thanks. These are treasures that I intend to keep.
Besides, there will always be another 4th of July ahead. For instance, next time we could decide to head to Canada, as a family. If not, then I guess I’ll just rely on the fact that life provides opportunities for all kinds of fireworks, all year long.