Thursday, December 27, 2012

DOGS AND THEIR MEMORIES

Memory is a powerful and confusing thing, and our dogs might not be able to access their memories without our help.  They live in the present - yet the past is always with them, too.  We remember them in their puppyhood - and what they have meant in our lives as time goes by.

And when Basil our dachshund was sitting beside us, watching the documentary "Sweetgrass" about sheep farmers in Montana,  his head turning back and forth, trying to understand the plaintive baas of the lambs and sheep on screen - this is why we decided to help him to access some memories of his own.

So..ool..." We called. It was the name of our tabby cat who died a few years back. "Ahhhh, Sol!" we cried - as Basil tilted his head back and forth.  The sound of that old cat's name was oh so familiar - and yet, what did it mean?
Sol, the amazing eternal cat

"No," I said. "It's cruel, Rozzie. We shouldn't be doing it."

"Why not?" she responded.  "It's his only way of remembering Sol. And look, it doesn't make him sad.  Look at him! He's only now remembering..."

Basil and Hannah
After that we called our labrador Hannah, who had died two years ago. "Hannah!" we called. "WHAT a good girl..."  and Basil's head tipped backwards and forwards with recognition, and I had to agree with Rozzie, it wasn't terribly sad. It didn't seem manipulative. We were helping Basil to access a memory.

Adam, Basil's new friend
Sometimes memories of those we love gone by, can be painful.  But if we don't remember them, how do they exist for us at all?  And yes, it pains me to think of my beloved father, and realize he should be here and yet  no longer is.  Or to think of my father-in-law or sister-in-law Kate, so present in memory, particularly over the holidays.  But painful though it is, we must remember them and keep them present in our lives.  They are part of who we are - not part of our futures perhaps, but certainly part of our pasts, and according to Ecclesiastes, that which hath been is now.

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