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Unmeasured Love

by Patricia Wilson

Patty Wilson is a part time Art Teacher, proud resident of Buda, wife to her husband and best friend of 25 years, and mom to two wonderful teenagers and multiple pets. Buda has been home to her and her family for almost fourteen years, where she has grown her friendships, her family, her pets, and her love for the natural beauty and kindness of Buda. Patty spends her time keeping up with the busy schedule of her family, to include school events, dirt bike racing, volleyball, camping, pet appointments, football parties, church events, and time to just be a family at home. Through the crazy and chaotic schedule, she finds peace and balance through writing, running, and the occasional much needed date night with her husband spent in downtown Buda, or searching for the best barbecue. She is a wife, a mom, a friend to many, and of course, a pet lover for life. 

I would like to think of our family and our home as commonly unique. We have many common attributes such as a two story brick house, two dogs and a cat, a never ending grocery list, bills that need to be paid, the ever busy tired and always hungry teenagers, a cluttered kitchen table, pictures on the refrigerator, a bird house in the tree, a menagerie of plants, and the kind of love it takes to keep a family intact.  Common is good for the most part. It’s relatable, predicable, oddly comfortable, and mostly manageable given the occasional extreme and the “what were you thinking” explosion. Uniqueness however, brings its own standard of qualifications to an environment that would otherwise be, well…common. Within the commonality of our two story brick home lies the unequivocal uniqueness of one very special dog. Likely common by most standards, uniqueness became a gift.  

I believe that we have the capability to give and receive love at will, by choice, and in measures we see fit. I also believe we love sometimes through filters we cannot control. When mind body and soul connect so strongly to something as if we were one, choice and self-control are abandoned. We certainly don’t love all people the same, nor do people love us the same as they might love others. In that case, I’m certain that love is measured, by whom you are to one another, what you have done for one another, and how your heart has been changed or filled by those closest to you. Love is really the most natural of gifts, yet many times we qualify it, we tamper with it, we manipulate it, we hurt with it, and we in turn are hurt by it. Our capability to give love is fully unmeasured, but gets harnessed by the parameters we set and by those set upon us. Love is perfect in every way, beautiful and unique, and when left untapped can change the world.

I think if animals could tell us how much they love us, they simply might explode for lack of a way say it fast enough, deep enough, and long enough to relish the point. Animals simply love, with no boundaries, no measure, no hurt, no conditions, no filter…just love. Animals don’t love us because of who they are, they love us because of who we are. What they hear, what they smell, what they see, the sound of our cars, our voices, and the feel of our kindness. Everything they are amounts to how much they love us, how much they need us, and what they would give up just to have us. Their love is loyal beyond any and all definitions, yet can be communicated with a simple look or chin rested on our laps. The sheer excitement exhibited by the sound of our voices creates boundless degrees of love quite possibly untapped by the human heart. The emotional attachment felt from the heart of a connected animal when sorrow looms in the room offers to us the world’s greatest friend. Animals love, simply, with everything they have.

We have had the honor of loving and being loved by so many animals that have blessed our home. Cats, dogs, bunnies, and birds, we have nurtured and been nurtured by them all. We have raised feral cats, puppies, homeless dogs, adopted dogs, adopted cats, bunnies near death, birds separated from the nest, and whatever else has crawled to our door. It’s been hard, heartfelt, fun, always changing and full of laughs, difficult in the beginning, and unbearable saying goodbye. We would do it all the same, knowing everything we know and maybe even more of it if we thought we could. The love given by so many beautiful little creatures cannot be conceptualized by words alone. The millions of moments, the hours of care, the smiles created, the work, the diligence and perseverance, all created for the love of our animals. 

Now that love has been profoundly described, back to the “unequivocal uniqueness” of one special dog. Around eight years ago, give or take, I was finishing a not so fun round of treatment for cancer which had run the span of about 18 months given surgeries and treatment. Just getting on my feet, our daughter found an adorable puppy on line at an adoption event in North Austin. This puppy was the cutest furriest and loneliest looking animal I had ever seen. After 30 minutes of pleading, I conceded to the whims and wishes of an anxious seven year old and off we went to visit the puppy. The agency had already named him Grizzly, and he did in fact look like a little bear. Not having the time before we left to clear yet another animal with my dear husband, I called from the event, puppy in hand, to forewarn of our newest member.

No way would we have left without him! He was ours, we were his, and not to mention the possible cries and screams of the newly smitten seven year old. Grizzly would have a new home. We of course had a pretty happy house at the time, or should I say before the time of Grizzly’s arrival. We had our saint of a dog, a brown Lab named Knobby, and an orange and white cat name Precious who we had raised from a feral kitten. We had recently said goodbye to the world’s greatest retriever named Bud, who I had found sixteen years prior in a trashcan on a jobsite. He was our heart and the love our lives. He taught Knobby who we were to him and how special it was to be with us. He taught Precious to be, well to just be herself. She needed no help with confidence or any other animal attribute. Our house was good, so calm, so even, so “unpuppied”. But that’s no fun, so home we came, Grizzly in hand, the universe to be tested.

The first few nights home with Grizzly quite possibly broke the sound barrier. Never in my life had I heard a puppy yelp so loud, so helpless, and which such disregard of this clever thing called nighttime. You might think he was in some sort of a vice, or torture chamber, but not, just a padded little kennel at the end of my bed so I could keep him safe though the night. I even tried laying my hand in the kennel with him, which only seemed to make it worse. What in the world had I done? How could I have so carelessly given up sweet sleep for this thankless little creature who cursed every piece of padded life I tried to give him? Pay no mind to my dear husband who was beyond words due to no sleep and utter confusion as to my rash decision and collapse to a seven year old. By night five, we were done. There was no sleep, no silence, and no happy house. Would we become a nocturnal home? Would that make us weird? Grizzly had truly turned us upside down.  I was delirious and I was desperate.

Desperate people do desperate things. So I mentioned Knobby, our saint of a dog, most beautiful creature ever placed in my care, the manners of a gentlemen caller, and the patience of biblical proportion. Knobby slept in peace in our master bathroom, on his comfy dog bed, nice and cool, perfectly dark, door closed and never interrupted. But would he like a friend? How about being a mentor of sorts? At 3am on night six, this is where I was. So, without haste, I opened the bathroom door and gently placed Grizzly on the large bed next to Knobby. I backed up slowly and quietly as if I had just put a colicky baby in the crib after 57 nights of no sleep. I lived that by the way. Well much to our surprise, no sound, no howling, no scratching, no whimpering, NO NOISE. Being the parent I am, I thought, what if he’s not breathing, so I checked and he was. He was asleep. Perfect in every way, sleeping like a ball of fur, happy as happy could get. What just happened! Jackpot you say, and sleep we did.

As morning approached, I could hear subtle movement coming from the bathroom. Knobby was a late sleeper, so puppy euphoria was soon to be upon us. We were training Grizzly on puppy pads at the time, which he had an uncanny and natural attraction to. I opened the door and a well-rested Grizzly hustled out in search of his pad. After a quick stop, I took him outside to further the training tutorial. Life was pretty good once again. After a quick bite to eat, Grizzly and I settled in the chair, me with my coffee while he teethed on my robe tie. Odd…maybe, but it was working. Grizzly was quiet, kids and hubby were sleeping, and Knobby had some alone time. I could really handle this. All the horrible things I had thought and said were gone, this was great, and the scales seem to balance so perfectly once again. So while new mom euphoria only lasted about an hour, a sweet and precious hour, we were off to new puppy adventures.

If I thought the first five nights were rough, I was dead wrong. It would be the next three hundred and fifty five nights that would try every ounce of patience of every member of this household, to include Knobby and Precious. We could not leave this sweet bundle of fur alone for more than mere minutes at a time. When and if we did, he would yelp, bite, chew, and groan like a little bear. Through the training process, he woke me up a couple of times each night to take him out. He literally cried for his puppy pads when I tried to take them up. What in the world, a puppy that has to have his pads? This was going to go over really well with my already disgruntled husband. So yes I did, I took the pads outside. Each and every milestone of the next year would prove to be as difficult and challenging with our new found friend.

Where we went Grizzly went. We could not leave him; we did not dare leave him. The chewing, crying and total dysfunction was ours and ours alone. This little puppy just needed us all the time and nothing was a substitute. We were all falling in love with how much he needed us, no matter how hard it was. Don’t think for a minute it was all cute and sweet, quite the opposite much of the time. One, not so cute time, Grizzly was chasing Precious in the backyard and our backdoor was open. Our computer, with hard drive, was sitting on the kitchen table. The worst of the worst occurred. Grizzly ran under the table to get the cat and his tale clipped the cord, and the hard drive came crashing down. It was toast, gone, no more, lost forever. This particular hard drive of course held my husband’s multi decades of work all in one little box. Thousands of files, thousands of hours of work, purely unreplaceable. Our job just became harder, to love through disaster and devastation.

My husband, my never angered, rarely mad, slow to complain husband was done. When the realization set in, so many years of work was unrecoverable, the humility of the moment was clear. Grizzly had truly turned our lives upside down for an entire year. The items lost to chewing, the lack of separation we could have, the constant one on one he needed, the hole he bit in my finger (so painful), the hour to hour needs of this little bundle of joy, and the lost work, had taken a toll on us all. So what about love, where does this measure in the madness of it all? Does love have a limit, conditions, and a breaking point? For us, I suppose as humans maybe it does. For animals, their love, their loyalty, their need, simply has no boundaries. My husband’s frustration, our daily exhaustion, our unrecoverable life held no significance to the love contained in the heart and mind of Grizzly. He just loved, with no boundaries, no expectation, no rules, no guidance, just love.

Somehow we moved past this selfish moment, and the realization of our gift. We slowly moved into days and months of accepting Grizzly for exactly who he was, the perfect gift of unconditional troubled and chaotic love. The chaos didn’t stop, but we began to learn how to embrace it, how to channel it, and what it took from each of us every day to make it work. Grizzly was simply unique, with needs like no other animal we had ever had. We grew right into his big beautiful heart, in ways that only true love could bridge. I actually found myself feeling so fortunate that we had been the ones to show up on adoption day, that we couldn’t tell our daughter no, and we had the chance to give him a home. We truly moved beyond the moment. Not without sacrifice, not without destruction, but with perfect and untethered love.

So, remember the training pads and Grizzly’s true love for them each and every time. We trained him of course, or Knobby did, and we eventually put them away, until Missy came to town. Yep, you guessed it; we were proud parents to a new puppy. Punishment you say? Missy was a gift from my sister, who had Missy’s sister from a previous litter. We were the new home and new family to a tiny one pound Yorkie who already seem to own us all. Once the training pads came out, Grizzly was ecstatic. He didn’t just run to them, he galloped, as if a treat had fallen to the floor. Heaven could not look better. Grizzly filled the pad and quite possible could have filled two. He was smiling we were sure, his long lost pads were back and life was good again. What could it hurt I thought. How bad could it be? Well, two weeks later we had to break him again, he was hooked. He was like a forever puppy, but in a big big dog body. He recovered and we moved on.

Sometime after Missy came, we got the opportunity to go on a short trip to the beach. Maybe Grizzly was old enough and strong enough to leave for a few nights. We left him, along with Knobby, with my brother who he knew very well. All seemed to be fine when we left, no crying, no moaning, no chewing. My brother stepped out to get a hat from his car and put it on as he was approaching the front door. Grizzly standing guard at the door would not let him in. My brother was an entirely different person with the hat on and certainly couldn’t be trusted. On a whim, he took the hat off and Grizzly let him in. This would become a new standard for us better understanding Grizzly and the little things that made him tick. This incident would help us embark on decode the beautiful and complicated world of Grizzly.

We discovered little things along the way, like his need to stay on a strict schedule to include putting himself to bed at the same time every night. He woke up at the same moment, day in and day out. He never got that Saturdays were for sleeping in! He would only walk one certain path to the back door, and he would get in his water bowl to drink, inside the house or outside in the yard. He never realized his size in relation to the bowl. He followed Knobby’s every step, and would not eat until Knobby ate first. If Knobby barked, he barked. If Knobby slept, he slept, and if Knobby played he played. He could perfectly mimic everything Knobby did, and loved him with the same big heart that he loved us. If we, the people he lived with, came in with a hat on, he would not let us in the door, and would bark with true anger if we pushed through. These little things began to frame our bundle of fur, and our need to protect him began to frame us.

Just a common dog you say? There’s more. Every morning that Grizzly saw the cat, which was Precious for the first three years of his life, it was a brand new day, and a brand new cat. The day Precious died, Grizzly could feel the sadness in the house, and laid for hours by the backdoor where she came in and out. We waited a year to get another cat, but same scenario as before. Grizzly would meet Smokey as a new cat each and every day and still does. Each morning after he eats, he waits for us to clean his face with a wet paper towel. Not sure how we figured this one out, but he loves it. When we call him Grizzy Bear in the cutest voice possible, no doubt he’s smiling. Anytime his world is upside down, he groans and moans like a bear, until one of us allow him and all his sixty pounds into our laps. Grizzly is his own unique dog, and not like any other dog I know, or ever have known, or ever might know again.

Due to the fact that we cannot leave Grizzly for any extended period of time, we do things for the most part that he can do. When we vacation in the summer, we go to a cabin along the Frio River where pets are permitted. He stays in the cabin for the most part, as the environment is so different, dog anxiety kicks in at the fullest extent. But, he’s with us and we’re with him. We belong to a dirt bike series, where my husband and son race and we camp in a trailer for the weekend. All the animals, with the exception of the cat, tag along for the weekend. Grizzly and Knobby could run for hours chasing anything that moved, and go on adventures that only the best imagination could dream into reality. This is where we see Grizzly come alive, in his perfect element with Knobby at his side. We all, Knobby included, poured so much love into this brown bundle of fur, only to be loved ten times a million right back.

In October of 2017, Knobby was diagnosed with an untreatable and fast moving cancer. We had the gift of all enjoying him ten weeks past that awful day. He got to go on hundreds of adventures, all of course at his final dirt bike race running in the woods with Grizzly. He taught Grizzly everything he knew, which was a lot, he gave Grizzly unconditional love, which took a lot, and he paved the way for Grizzly to take the helm of the family as lead dog in charge. Clearly all that Knobby gave Grizzly was quite possibly a fraction to what Knobby received. He, like us, had been given millions of moments, thousands of hours, and hundreds of days, of beautiful pure love. Knobby passed and Grizzly’s world stood silent. He waited at the front door for days, then weeks, then months, as if his friend would come busting through the door he had watched him leave through. In time, he would smile again and the love that made him, in turn made him again. Love was his method of living, so living he did.

Common uniqueness provides perfect balance with everything and anything that matters in this life. Common, in the daily acceptance of life’s ebb and flow, yet truly unique in our ability to see it as miraculous. It’s been eighteen months since we said goodbye to Knobby, and eighteen months full of grand adventures for Grizzly. He’s been to the cabin on the river, countless dirt bike races, daily walks with Missy, car rides seatbelt on, lots and lots of lap time, long naps, perfect treats, thousands of hugs, daily introductions to the cat, squirrel chasing, barking just to bark, playing in the rain, and simple lazy days on his ottoman watching the family he loves. I wonder at times if a new friend, possibly a little brown bundle of fur, would make the life of this great dog even greater. He has so much love to give, so many adventures to share, so many lessons to teach, and a spot in the cool bathroom on the comfy bed to share. Eight years with our wonderful friend, and yet I feel it’s just begun. How lucky are we, to be loved, and loved again, and truly unselfishly loved beyond human measure.

PO Box 1162 | Buda, TX 78610 Email

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