30 Days of Thanks: Gratitude for Madeline
I’m one of those people who transforms into what I call a “crazy dog lady” when I pick up my dog Madeline’s leash and we head out for a walk.
You know the type. You’ll probably hear me talking to my dog. I’m more likely to know your dog’s name than yours. I’ve been known to kiss stranger’s dogs, too.
The other day, my son said to me, “Mom, you can never get enough of dogs.”
And he’s right. I really can’t. I point them out constantly to my kids and my husband. I’m grateful they know this part of who I am. I’m also grateful I’ve given them a love for animals, too.
As a child, I longed for a dog of my own, but my parents didn’t really want the responsibility of a pet. So, I had to wait until I was an adult. I think it’s interesting how expectations build up over time. I had this idea of what an ideal pet would be, and let’s just say it didn’t really turn out that way.
Our dog, Madeline, is probably not what you would call Kennel Club-approved black Labrador Retriever. When we first adopted her, she made a very loud, high-pitched noise that caused people to cross the street. She pulled the leash so hard, I cried because my arm was so sore.
I fell down a man hole once because of Madeline.
She also ate a dead squirrel, caught a live rabbit, a duck, many birds and more rodents than I care to remember. Several trainers told me she was the hardest dog they had ever worked with.
On the flip side, she’s also the reason I know many of my neighbors. She’s helped me train for several running races and is the reason I am so disciplined about walking every morning.
I never thought I would be someone who would laugh while getting drenched in the rain or falling in the snow, but I do with Madeline. I also find myself stopping to revel in my surroundings during our walks, looking at the shockingly red and orange leaves on the trees and marveling at snow we typically need to climb over on our sidewalks in the winter.
I laugh out loud as Madeline buries her snout – and sometimes entire head – in the snowbanks, looking for an animal or a piece of sandwich a child left behind.
I’m grateful for many of the pet-specific experiences I’ve had because of Madeline. There’s one that stands out called the doggie dip. Imagine about a hundred dogs and their humans frantically running around a swimming pool, trying not to get trampled on or step in anything gross. I loved watching the dogs swim and play.
Madeline, being a Labrador, was in heaven. She loves to swim. And she doesn’t really understand what it means to take it easy. So, she jumped in hundreds of times until we had to drag her out of there. And she couldn't figure out how to get out of the pool by herself. So I had to pull her out by the scruff of her neck. So there I was, bracing myself at the edge of the pool, pulling her out, laughing so hard I’m crying. All of this, mind you, while I’m getting completely drenched. Then, I watch her dive exuberantly into the pool so many times that her nails bleed.
I’d love to have that kind of passion for something.
When my dad died recently, I found myself grieving the most honestly when I was with Madeline. I’m grateful she doesn’t need me to fill the silence with words. And then, there’s her fur – the tears just seem to melt right in there. Those Labradors are meant to be wet.
The other day my son said, “Madeline is magical. Whenever you feel bad, you just have to hug her and you feel better.”
I’ll take magical over ideal any day.
And for that, I feel so much gratitude.
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