What Lies Within

Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”

Too often, I find myself going over and over in my mind something that happened hours, days, or even years ago.

Or I’ll get caught up worrying about what’s going to happen next year. Will I have enough? What will people think of me? Will I be doing what I love?

Then, I’ll stop and notice my dogs. Just the other morning, I was amazed by the absolute joy and abandon Ecko showed when I got down on the kitchen floor to pet him more on his level. Tail wagging, he gave me several enthusiastic licks across the face.

He isn’t generally a very demonstrative dog, and when he first came to me in October of 2004, he was downright aloof. He never wagged his tail, didn’t seek out people for petting. He often laid by the door of our apartment, just staring at it, as if he were waiting for someone to come and take him off to the next place.

By the following March, I could get one or two wags of the tail when he was guiding in harness. But his eyes still said, “I don’t belong here, and I’m only doing this because I’ve been trained to do it”.

In the spring of 2006, I was scheduled to fly to a conference in California. In preparation for the trip, I took Ecko to all different kinds of places to work: malls, suburban neighborhoods, downtown streets. This is when we discovered he was terrified of escalators.

That’s a bad thing to be afraid of in airports. He’d lie down at the bottom and refuse to move. The only thing I knew to do was convince him, by repeating it over and over, that going up or down one of these things wouldn’t kill him.

Ecko is a big dog, and there’s nothing heavier or harder to move than a very reluctant guide who is digging his claws into the floor and planting all four feet. If that failed, he’d sit, his tail so far between his legs it was pathetic. Finally, he’d lie down, and I’d have to literally drag him onto the escalator, then give him a treat and praise him, which always seemed kind of ironic to me.

We earned a reputation in our local Macy’s. When we went there one night and started practicing, a security guard came over after my third trip up one escalator and down the other. He asked Ted if I was lost and needed help. It took a bit of explaining to ease his mind that, yes, I really had a good reason for going around and around in circles. I was training my dog.

Well, the training worked. Not only did he take on every escalator and moving sidewalk on our California trip without hesitation, but whenever we went to the mall, Ecko would pull me toward the escalators. “You want to go on this, Mom? Are you looking for this?” He almost seemed disappointed if we didn’t use them.

And by the time I came back from my third plane trip in 2006, Ecko had blossomed. He worked now because he loved me, not because it was his duty. His eyes had lost their hard, inscrutable look and become warm and expressive.

And, as I was reminded that morning on the kitchen floor, his tail is almost constantly wagging now, and he will push Kiefer out of the way if he wants my petting all to himself.

I’ll usually step out of the shower each day to find Ecko curled up on the rug waiting for me. I always know when he comes into the bathroom to play sentinel, because I’ll hear his big body thump onto the floor as he lies down.

If Ecko has any memory of those first traumatic escalator trips, he shows no sign of it. And whether we’re in California, or Minnesota, or New Mexico, he doesn’t care. If “Mommy” is with him, then he knows he’ll get fed and watered, walked and petted, and all is right with the world.

Over the past two years, we’ve all gotten to watch as what truly lies within Ecko has emerged. He’s a “spirit dog” and will eagerly come lie beside me if I’m doing Reiki or any other kind of energetic work. He loves investigating crystals if I hold them down so he can sniff them. And he’s great at pushing my hand with his nose to direct me to where to hold a piece of hematite if he needs clearing, giving a grateful lick when he’s had enough.

So today, I’ll try to stay focused on today, leaving yesterday to pass into memory and tomorrow to surprise and teach me as it will.

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6 Comments on “What Lies Within”

  1. ombudsben Says:

    I like your story of Ecko’s reluctance. We had our own version recently.

    Almost a year ago we built on to our house. Part of our reason was the extra space, which has made three rooms more usable, but the most important reason was to add a circular stairwell down to our garage.

    Previously, if I stood in our kitchen and wanted the back-up coffee in our storage refrigerator almost directly below me, the only way into our garage was through our living room, out the front door, down the steps, around to the garage door, open it, and then back the length of the garage right under where I’d been.

    Not fun in the winter and/or rain, especially if still in bathrobe or sweats.

    So we were quite happy with our metal circular stairwell connecting kitchen down to the mudroom and into the garage, but the dogs were not. My wife was convinced they didn’t like the feel of metal; I think the sound of their toenails on it spooked them, too.

    So I would tempt them with treats, and they would stretch, tentative forepaws down the steps, with hind feet back up on the landing behind them. But no dice, they would take a treat if they could reach it, but they wouldn’t commit all 4 paws–the too-far treats were left on the step where they lie. We spent a couple weeks this way.

    I think Ernie was the chicken and Edie wasn’t going if he wasn’t–but I wonder if she might have been ready for it had she not seen his fear. (Well, if big brother isn’t going, I’m not gonna risk it.)

    Finally I came home one day and rather than going in the front door I came in the new side door, brought the dogs in, closed the door behind us, and went up the steps.

    Well, now it was either hang out by themselves down in the mudroom or deal with this new menace.

    After some hesitation, they galloped up the steps. Now they’re old pros!

    Good story of the escalators; i love how ready he now is. How do you know the look in his eyes?

  2. halfnotes Says:

    Ombudsben,

    Comments from my husband and other people. I raised goats with my family for many years, and my mother and I were real sticklers for animals’ personalities and their spirits. You can tell that by the eye, and she’s a master at this. My husband is also great with this, although he came to it later, only because I had animals, so it was either learn or …

    Anyway, sometimes our greatest lessons for life don’t come from other people but from our pets and other animals. We’d all do well to pay closer attention and follow their examples.

  3. ombudsben Says:

    Half notes, hope you don’t mind if I stray off topic, but thought I’d let you know. I just found the news on ESPN’s baseball web site:
    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2732682

    The all-star game is going to be played at Yankee stadium the last year it is open. I guess Yankee will be closed down after 2008 and the new stadium opened in 2009. So they’ll play the all-star game there in 2008.

    Someone told me once of taking the train through the Bronx into New York and seeing the stadium after they stripped away the exterior sometime around 1975, before re-opening in ’76. It was just steel girders, they took it way down. So it’s been a new park, in effect, since ’76–only 30 years ago.

    Surprised they are getting rid of it so soon; too bad. I’ve only been there a couple times in the late 80s–don’t know if I’ll make it back.

  4. halfnotes Says:

    Well, I guess I better get over my “radio-only” preference and go at least once before it’s too late! I’ll let you know when I get there; if I’m still blogging, I’m sure it’ll show up here!

  5. ombudsben Says:

    halfnotes, what do you mean “if” you’re still blogging? So far I’ve been impressed with you staying to a daily regimen–I’m doing well if I get three posts up in a week.

    You aren’t growing weary of it, are you? Would it help to pace yourself?
    (The old distance runner in me comes out.)

  6. halfnotes Says:

    Hi Ombudsben,

    I confess that I kind of cheat. Sometimes, I’ll write several posts so I don’t have to come up with something new every day, especially if I have lots of practicing or other things to do. I also think that, if you want people to read the blog, you’ve got to try to post every day or at least several times a week.

    As of yet, I’m not tired of it. Besides, baseball season is coming … the goats on my childhood home farm will be having babies … I’m goiing to Poland … hmmmmm, lots of possibilities there! Thanks for reading.


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