Last week we lost Big Ellie.
She and our Australian shepherd, Lady, stay outside most days until I get home with Cole in the afternoons. So when we arrived home last Monday to only Lady waiting at the gate, I knew something was amiss. My first instinct was that, given Big El’s recent cancer diagnosis and her bout with bronchitis, the hound might be somewhere toward the back of the yard, sick. Or that she had run away to die. I guess dogs do that.
Hours later, we received the phone call that brought her back home. Until yesterday, we hadn’t figured out how she was making the grand escape. Walking around the fence yet another time, searching for her route out into the great beyond, I wandered and Big ‘El ambled with me. And against the side fence, the once that divides our property from the house with two other fool dogs, El made her move. She crouched. She shimmied. She scurried as fast as a 90-pound, 9-year old fatty can scurry, under the fence. Halfway under, I pulled her back. And I saw the hole she’d dug.
El is grounded, banished to the life of an indoor dog or an on-leash dog until we can make the fencing secure. She’s unhappy about this, and so are we. But she managed to escape again today, straight through the front door and across the street. This time, I caught her before she slipped out of our lives again.
I don’t know why she wants, so badly, to get out into the world. But she wants to. She simply must. She’s willing to brave busy roads and unkind strangers and the uncertainty of her next meal to get a taste of freedom.
I wish I were a little more like that. Motherhood has made me cautious. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I am no less happy today than I was seven years ago. I’m more content right this millisecond than I’ve ever been. I am comfortable with myself. It’s cozy in my own skin. I’ve grown up. But in that growing up (and growing wiser, let us hope), I’ve lost some of the spontaneity that drives growth. Is that possible?
Does getting older mean getting complacent?
There seems to be a difference, however subtle, between complacency and learning to find contentment with what you have right now. Right now, I don’t much want for grand travel or some childhood remembrance of freedom. My want is more internal, more about finding what I’m here to do (other than to parent, which has proven to be my greatest calling in the most delightfully unexpected way). The wild streets and endless possibility and exhilarating uncertain aren’t really just outside the front door. They’re here. All around me. And the simple matter of throwing off the quiet, slinging open the door, and getting up the street—it’s as easy as deciding.