Dogs: A case of Conflict Avoidance
The older I get, the better I get at knowing, and understanding, myself. Foibles and flaws? Got tons of them. And, I am aware of almost every one. You might think I am oblivious to them, but I’m not. I am painfully aware, and have analyzed every single one – over and over again.
For instance, I not only know I have a problem with the Big C.A., Conflict Avoidance, but I can actually admit I have a black belt in it.
Oh, I don’t avoid every conflict, I’m actually quite good at dealing with them sometimes, but if it involves something I am afraid of I can avoid it like nobody’s business.
I can pretend not to see it.
“I can’t SEEEE YOUUUUU! I’m covering my eyes now!”
I can pretend not to hear it.
“Nah! Nah! Nah! I’ve got my fingers in my ears! I can’t hear you!”
I can even pretend that it will go away if I just ignore it long enough.
“POOF! All gone!”
Fear and me? We don’t do well together. In fact, I think I boarded him up behind some hidden room in my house. Much easier to avoid him that way.
Of course, the downside of avoiding all the things you are afraid of is that it eventually has a way of coming back to you. Karma. It’s a bitch. Or maybe it’s just a boomerang? Anyway, life has a way of making sure you cannot ignore that which you fear indefinitely.
Ignore a bill long enough and the bill collector will come a’banging on your door. Avoid the fact that you cannot keep growing your business if you don’t hire someone and eventually you get burned out. Pretend you don’t see that warning light in your car dashboard and eventually it WILL break down and leave you stranded on some deserted road.
You can’t live in denial forever. Fear will hunt you down and make you look it in the face.
I am starting to realize that living this way, avoiding that which I fear, has impacts that go beyond me.
In an attempt to avoid that which I fear (losing someone or something I love), I have placed two of my dogs in the uncomfortable position of trying to keep up, even though their bodies were clearly telling me they cannot. I have been acting as if they are still young and vibrant dogs in order to avoid admitting the truth, they are getting older, and as they get older they getting closer to saying goodbye. (God, how I would like to avoid that.)
Daisy is starting to slow down. No. Not just slow down. Her body is starting to show her age in all sorts of ways (she will be eleven in November).
Her eyes have become cloudy with cataracts and her sight is causing her some trouble when it comes to going outside at night. Her sense of smell seems weaker too. The super sleuth, the master of sniffing out the smallest piece of food in a pile of leaves, now struggles to find the one I just placed on her paw.
Instead of running off to explore the woods, she now stays within sight of me, afraid to wander too far away from me and worried about trying to keep up.
She has a little sway to her hips now. The kind you see in older dogs whose back legs have become weak with arthritis and over use. Her legs are definitely not as strong as they used to be. Jumping up on the couch is no longer as easy as it used to be either. There is a slight pause now, as if her front legs may not be able to pull her body all the way up and onto the couch.
Naps and cuddling are much more preferable to her now too. She still loves to go for rides and go to the dog park, but her stamina is not what it was a few years ago. Taking three-mile walks tires her out. Two miles or less are more to her liking.
And it’s not just Daisy, Cupcake is slowing down too. Dog park jaunts are not as thrilling for her. She has been happy to stay home from time to time. On those days, she doesn’t even bark in protest when we leave her behind.
When she does go to the dog park, she often lags behind, stopping to sniff or to saunter along at her own pace.
Hills are something she dislikes now too. The steep inclines at Minnehaha Falls Dog Park are too much for her ankles. They have been known to give out from time to time, causing her to stumble and sometimes fall. Rimadyl is her friend.
Like Daisy, Cupcake is also more affectionate and cuddly than before. She prefers long naps and hanging out at home versus gallivanting around town. Old age suits her. She doesn’t seem to mind it much.
I wish I felt the same way.
I remember when Sharon from Grouchy Puppy would talk about the beauty she saw in her aging dog, Cleo. I would marvel at how well she handled it all. How could she stay rooted in the moment all the while knowing she was getting one day closer to losing her?
Conflict avoidance can seem so much easier than truth sometimes. That is, until you realize that your inability to see and hear is not just impacting you, it is impacting your friends too. Old age and death are hard to deny. They come whether we choose to see them or not. So I am doing my best to NOT avoid seeing what is really happening and to acknowledge it. I am trying to REALLY see what is before me so I can enjoy our time together, at whatever pace that may be.