If Paul Bunyan had a dog, he would probably be a lot like Big Blake.
For those just joining us, Blake is our English Labrador of heroic proportions. Say the word “food” and he becomes an irresistible force. Say the word “vet” and he becomes an immovable object. Like a furry giraffe, he can steal leftovers straight out of the kitchen sink; like a canine billy goat, he has consumed everything from aluminum foil to baby wipes and lived to tell the tale.
And at night, it seems, he can kick with a speed and power worthy of Babe the Big Blue Ox.
My wife Heather has been the most frequent witness to these Leg Strikes of Unusual Velocity. This is due to a combination of two simple facts:
1) No matter where Blake the Mighty lies on the bed, his feet are invariably pointed in her direction.
2) I have apparently inherited from my father the ability to sleep through nearly anything, including the blows and lashings of a domesticated earthquake.
Still, I haven’t been entirely oblivious. ( A phrase that could apply to many a husband on many an issue, now that I think of it.) This has been going on for a few months and has become, as the King of Siam liked to say, a puzzlement to ourselves and our veterinarian.
We know it’s not a seizure, because we can wake him instantly from it.
It doesn’t seem to be simple doggy dreams, based on the length and the frequency.
Lab tests so far haven’t shown anything dangerous.
Medicines have slowed the episodes down – a little – without stopping them and even a surreptitious video from Heather’s phone has yielded no clues.
And of course, Blake’s wondrous gifts have yet to include the ability to speak English, so he can’t give us any direct hints as to whether this is the Labrador version of a senior moment, or a reaction to arthritis stiffness, or secret instructions from his masters on the moons of Pluto.
And so, the nightly screenings of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” meets “Chariots of Fire” continue. As do the bruises on Heather’s legs. And our general mystification.
On reflection, I suspect I’ve got a lot of company.
I don’t mean the regular bouts of Canine Kung Fu. (Though if anyone knows where I can get a cheap set of catcher’s shin guards, Heather would really appreciate it.) But the feeling of trying to understand an uncomfortable situation with few or no clues is something that most of us have experienced far too often. Especially when it involves someone we love.
It’s the feeling every parent has had when a young child is sick and can’t explain the symptoms.
It’s the feeling anyone with a nonverbal friend or relative has had when trying to figure out “What’s wrong?” from scattered clues.
It’s the feeling just about anyone has when staring at the news of an increasingly chaotic world and asking “Why?” without response.
It feels helpless. Even frightening. But in the midst of it, all of us are doing one thing right.
We’re paying attention.
Maybe we won’t solve the problem right away, or at all. But if we’re even trying to struggle or understand, then our attention is where it needs to be. On the ones we love. On the ones that hurt. On the problems that need solving and the people who need help.
We’re not turning away or making it someone else’s problem.
We’re taking it into our heart.
That’s where it starts.
And so, our own Saga of Big Blake continues. And with enough love, and attention, and bruise ointment, maybe this particular piece of the world’s problems will finally yield to us.
And that’s nothing to kick about.