In Retrospect: Lesson Learned

Summer for a teacher, like students, is looked upon as a time to get unfinished business done, start projects, read books in waiting, travel abit, take a class perhaps, or nap. Anyone in a ‘school’ profession knows that the school year is so often overwhelmingly demanding and exhausting, that the summer season becomes a time to regroup, rethink, relax.

But, if you don’t have a plan and you still have kids or pets around, then ownership of this ‘free’ time can go right out the door! Though my summer started out with energy and gusto, it has somehow meandered into days filled with running errands, dog watching, driving kids around, encumbered by working around the mayhem of remodeling projects, a diminishing bank account, and succumbing to the needs of others. It’s not mine.

The heat isn’t helping, either. As most of the country is experiencing the drought and excessive heat that we Texans have lived with for years, the fears and complaints about the changing climate add to the discomfort of rainless, sizzling, sun-scorched days. One wonders if it will ever end and the fresh smell of rain or crisp air of autumn will once again breeze through opened windows. It has kept those senstive to heat and sun locked inside, imprisoned in one way or other.

With the ducks arrival, my casual walks in the backyard with my dog have all but disappeared. Though the duck family has their pond and bush, my old dog Frank has given up his ‘freetime’ to the needs of others, missing out on his usual routine of sniffing his favorite trees, leaving his manly mark for the night visiters of opossum and cats, and the simple joy of just sitting in a shaded spot with his nose in the air catching the breeze. He takes long cemented walks, but ‘freedom’ in his own space must feel like a faded dream for him now.

So, we’ve cautiously been letting him walk about the yard, by our side without a leash, and generally he has done well. Yesterday, though, he forgot himself, heard ‘the call of the wild,’ and bolted away making a beeline for the ducks! Panic set in for every beast and mom in sight! He went straight into the bush where the ducks were hiding, ducklings came running out in every direction, squawking and peeping madly. The adult ducks ran out in a panic as they saw their babies go into a frenzy! They flew around the yard, up and down, squawking wildly, seemingly trying to get them all back. Meanwhile, my one-eyed yellow lab, now turn bear or wolf, had captured a duckling deep under the sharp-edged bushes along our fence line. A well-trained dog in general, but in this unleashed moment he would not respond to my commands to ‘come!’ I found myself crawling through the brush, trying to grab him without stepping on scattering ducklings, getting scratched and poked from head to toe. I got him away for the one unfortunate duckling, only to have him bolt away to corner two babies against the back corner behind the compost pile. Yes, I had to climb over the garbage heap to pull him away from those frightened babes with their little heads tucked under their crouch fuzzy bodies. Still, he would not yield.

I don’t get mad at my dog, much. He has been one of the best pups I’ve ever had, and he is getting up in age.  He’s an animal, and it was my mistake, in forgetting this fact, in an effort to allow him some time to reconnect with his yard. But, he simply would not obey or change course. When I finally got a firm hold of him, he would not follow me or walk. It was a slow frozen step-by-step, sweat dripping from my brow, arms scratched, heartbeating wildly, as I held his collar and prodded him back to the patio doors. He knew he was up shit’s creek! The tone of my voice, stern and low, sent up straight up the stairs into hiding.

The ducks recovered from their first brush with ‘the beast.’ After cowering under another bush in a foreign corner of the yard, one adult whistling wildly to the other who had taken off in a cowardly move; the grounded adult finally, cautiously walked the babies back home. I put on the sprinklers as a white flag, in hopes that they would feel comforted and safe again.

In retropect, I saw the error of ways. In attempting to fall back into our usual summer routine, I literally opened the door to potential disaster. I have had enough mis-steps in my life to know better, realizing that certain situations, alignments, people, and animals can’t always be trusted. They all have their own agendas. And though it is too late to undo a bad decision, I have learned from it. Freedom isn’t free, as we so often hear. There is always a price.

Frankie

By late evening, emotions were calmed, little ducklings were back in the water dippin’ and drippin’, the adult ducks perched and on guard, and old Frank was at my bedside. He looked up at me with his one sad eye as if to say, “I’m sorry. You gave me an inch and I took a mile.” I dangled my hand down to pet his soft velvet ears. No words, really, except the usual, “You’re the best dog, Frank.” Our bond goes beyond ducks. Our need for freedom is mutually curtailed. Though we both made mistakes in judgement, for I too have heard “the call of the wild” and have gone running after what I simply wanted or needed, we have come back down to where we are. Adjusting, as we all constantly to, to the restrictions in our lives and the choice to live with them…in hopes of a gentle pet on the head, a soft sense of belonging, and the gift of forgiveness from those who keep us close to their hearts.

Summers may not go as planned. They come and go. Old bonds, new bonds, adventures, simple joys and freedoms can’t be taken for granted. But the heart can always beat steady for those of importance, even after a flurry of heart-beating excitement. Perhaps in way I envy his bold run into the wild, his veins pumping with adrenaline, his spirited sense of wildness. Maybe he did it for me, to break up the duldrums of this long, boring season. Awww…love my old pup ❤

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