One Went Up and Five Came Down
I'm sharing this story to bring voice to the depths of our relationships with animals.
I had a wolfy Husky who was truly my life companion. She worked with me, she traveled with me, she hiked and cross country skied and kayaked with me and came in the car whenever I went anywhere. She drove home with me on the long rides from Providence to Philadelphia and accompanied me through my searching for my place in the world. She was my companion, my pillow, my comfort, and my free spirit. She was nature with me all the time. She cured my heart…and at 15 ½ she made Aliyah with me.
In a hind sighted act of fortuitous misfortune that led to a wonderful bundle of serendipity, Hollow got certified to be a companion dog. After the person who was going to watch her while I went to Israel bailed on me two days before I was to leave, Hollow wound up, randomly, with an absolutely full-hearted dog person and trainer who fell in love with her and gave her a badge of certified companion dog. I could officially take her with me everywhere. And only because of this was she able to become the far-traveled and well-worked sidekick of this wandering Jew.
I am a Social Worker, and better than a therapy dog, Hollow got certified to go with me at all times so she could support me in my work with at-risk and troubled youth. She became a most sacred and integral part of my work. With Hollow’s service dog vest and badge she also boarded the planes and trains and trams with me and after two trips to Switzerland, a trip to San Francisco, numerous visits to middle and high schools, tons of families and kids with serious trauma and dissociation, hours of time in the woods in New England, thousands of miles between Minnesota and Pennsylvania, three apartments, three offices and three flights to Israel...on June 24th of 2009 Hollow and I boarded an El Al plane and made Aliyah. Hollow 15 ½ and we came together to build a life here in Israel.
That was ten years and many moves and moons ago. I was home at last and after one year in Israel together, at 16 ½ it was time to let Hollow rest. Some people say their pets die or move on or pass away. I feel like I gave her back. She was here to watch over me and to open the closed places and to bring me home. She would have kept on going until I was all okay, slowly and gracefully, but I had to give to her back. She wasn’t mine to keep. She was wild and independent and free in the way of a wolf in an open hollow. She was mine for a while - to admire and emulate and then I had to let her go. So one peaceful Friday we went to a free and open space and Hollow took her last. It was the most peaceful and full moment of my life. The weeks before were full of grief and tears, but the moment she was set free was the most serene moment of my life. I experienced a tired body giving in to absolute rest. I felt a spirit leaping free. Complete rest and freedom in one moment.
Hollow gave me the gifts of knowing true self and giving. Of peace and serenity. Of rest and companionship. Of treatment and healing. Of boundaries and compassion and warmth. She was a special teacher for many of us. Her ability to know how to offer trust to rightfully distrustful teenagers and to toe the line with out-of-line parents was a beautiful blend of animal instinct and cultivated sensitivity. She looked like a wolf, felt like an old soul, and communicated in ways that we all understood. She taught me how to be a better therapist, a kinder human, and her blue piercing eyes set me straight many a times. There are wonderful dogs and there are truly healing creatures.
She left me with an abundant desire to continue to work with youth and families and to find a way to include our animals.
So I went to Eilat with some companions and on the way home, we stopped for a break in Dimona. That’s what you do in Dimona. We were getting back into the car exactly one month after I gave Hollow back, and there under the trashcan next to the car in Dimona, five puppies found me. Five gorgeous fluffy little puppies were timidly rummaging around under a dumpster. There were three at first peering out at us, so of course, I went over to meet them. They introduced themselves and had me in an instant; perhaps the opposite moment in time.
The white one with brown spots came over first and then went back to tell the other two I was safe. They approached me with the eager just compromised sense of trust and youth gone wrong. They were sweet and little and scruffy. Soon three made their way into a box and into our car; and into our hearts. I saw the wisp of two other shadows run under the dumpster. Once three were safely in the car I went back to look for the other shadows. Sure enough, with some patient coaxing, one more poked out and came looking for her sisters. And then one more. Five all together. All family, no mother. Like some of the folks here in Israel.
When you make Aliyah, I am learning to believe that you invite your true and higher purpose to come slamming into your space and to demand your cooperation. You can run but you can’t hide. Living here puts the challenge of living as your true self right in your sun baked, hummus stuffed face. The truth is, I loved the dogs. I loved having all five of them. I loved training them and working with them and walking with them in the wee morning. I could manage the energy, I enjoyed the dynamics, and I was fascinated by their capacity to learn and adapt. There is something compelling about keeping a family together and working with families.
Some say this my calling. Many say it’s divine. Someone said Hollow split her soul in 5 and came back. I feel like the puppies represent 5 aspects of each of us that together bring us into our whole selves. For sure I feel their connection to Hollow. They certainly seem to have a purpose. So meet Ilu and Muna and CaveBear and Wisdo and Sof, their characters their tales and their lessons for us.
It’s been a challenge for sure raising, training and bonding and parting with the likes of five dogs. Plus one who came in the rain from under a carob tree. Sometimes I think…I could give away this one…or that one…or that one…but mostly I feel like One went up and Five came down.