My Teacher is Gone

Dogs live completely in the moment.  Reminding us to do the same is one of their greatest gifts. Atlas constantly grounded me in small precious moments.  I vividly remember the time I took this photo because I knew even then that Atlas was teaching me about how to live.  Stop and smell the grass.  And so we did… more and more. Life was stressful and I was becoming increasingly aware of the fact that our time together was finite. But we had then…so I watched, and I breathed, and I marveled at how happy the simple pleasures made Atlas. He was reveling in the glorious smell and feel of grass. It was a good moment. He provided me with so many good moments.

I’m cataloging them in my mind. I can never capture them all in writing. And though they are precious to me, I doubt they’d have value to others. It’s the compilation of idiosyncrasies and shared moments that make the relationship with a loved one unique. A private club with a membership of two.

I miss so many of Atlas’s ways…daily…hourly. I find myself struggling not to compare Halley, but I miss his endearing habits. Every morning the minute Atlas heard a change in my breathing, his tail would thump loudly on the floor. It always made me smile. It was a great way to wake up. We called him “Tail Wagger” and “Thumper” among other names.  I know not terribly creative, and a bit embarrassing, but many dog lovers probably relate. I know Halley is happy to see me, but she’s not as demonstrative. Also, Halley shows little interest in toys. Every once in awhile I can get her to play, but it’s just not her thing. I miss how Atlas would do his play bow and bark. Then he’d give me a look with his tongue hanging out “You game?”  I think he liked playing with me because he felt he had a chance of winning- a good one.

Here are some other memories I’ve been polishing lately.  I miss the way he pranced through the grass when it was time to eat: his tail straight out, his footwork like a horse performing dressage. I miss the way he pressed down on my arm with his muzzle to wake me up if he had waited long enough for breakfast or the bathroom. I miss how every morning and evening I cuddled up next to his large warm body and smelled his fur while he curled his toes, stretched his legs and sighed in contentment. I miss how he followed me up the stairs with a look like he’d won a prize.  Then he’d lay down on the landing next to me while I was on the computer. I miss the sound of him lapping water.

Those moments were countless.  Those moments were precious.  Those moments are gone.

I am fortunate in that I truly treasured them as they happened. I wish I could find comfort in that.  But I just miss them all the more because I knew their value.  I do not want to live in the small moments now.  They are painfully empty. My teacher is gone.

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