Breathe on

Do you ever worry that communicating one of your darkest fears may somehow make it come true?

I fear death. I am not sure if I fear my own so much as those of the beings most dear to me. I find the concept both mysterious and disturbing, particularly that it is something we know so precious little about.

In the middle of the night last night, I reached out to feel my wolf dog by the bed. I felt a stillness in his body, and a dark night in January flashed through my mind when a husky exhaled and all was still. I knew somehow that breathe was his last, but I still expected his body to have life in it. When I reached out, it was already stiff. It happened to so quickly, and once it happened, there was no way to change it. How life can change so irrevocably in one short breathe I still do not understand. How is a being alive one moment—warm to the touch, breathing—and then suddenly gone?

No no no no NO. I turned on the light and was instantly by his side, my body filled with dread and a sensation of falling.

I felt his stomach. It was warm. At first, there was nothing. Then came a familiar, gentle rise.

Recognition flooded through me. What I felt beneath my hand was life.

But how fragile it was. Such a slow rise and fall.

I brought him water and an ice pack, which I tucked beneath his armpits. He felt warm to the touch, and my sweetie suggested placing an ice pack under his warm chin as well.

This seemed like the extent of my tangible healing powers. I crawled back under the covers, my entire body tense.

When all was quiet, I pushed back the covers and placed my hand on his abdomen.

Rise.

Fall.

Rise.

Fall.

Whe he began panting, I worried that his temperature was rising.

Can you imagine if I had a human baby? I whispered into the darkness. I would be a mess.

This is his path to follow, came a reassuring voice beside me. You have to let him follow it himself.

Still I could not fall asleep. I would periodically dip my feet below the covers to rest on his back haunches. Somehow, feeling his fur between my toes felt like some kind of promise that he was still alive and would still be so if I rested my eyes for a few hours.

In the morning, I awoke with the sense that I was being watched. Two amber eyes looked back into mine. I got out of bed and replaced the covers. I followed the eyes to the front door, slipped on sandals, and walked out into the morning.

My amber-eyed wolf dog knew the way. I followed him across the porch, down the stairs, and across the way to the creek that runs beside our house.

Once his paws touched the water, he was transformed. Light shone in his eyes. He dipped his muzzle to the water and began to drink. In the water, he was so very alive, so very full of life. My heart lifted. My body, which had only moments before felt heavy and clumsy as it stumbled over the uneven, sandy ground, felt refreshed and buoyant. I could feel a lightness, however fleeting.

I was not ready to allow my heart to completely open. I felt hope, but the many tears that had been shed triggered a silent alarm to take heed.

As I write, the darkness has once again fallen over our little corner of the world. My wolf lies on the floor beside the bed. I stop typing to take careful ?? of his state. His body continues to rise and fall in rolling waves. His breath is quiet, with a periodic deeper inhalation that is reassuring and calming. His head is lifted.

Another deep breath in, and on the exhalation, legs stretch out, paws tensing as they lift off the floor for a moment before settling back down again. His head lowers to the floor. His chest rises and falls.

A few moments later, he lifts his head and begins to pant. I reach my leg over the side of the bed to place my foot on his abdomen. He lowers his head to the floor, and I can feel his body relax, the tension gone once more.

All things must come to pass. This I know. But I am thankful for this continuation of life. And in this moment, I cannot imagination that there is anything else that really matters.

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