Friday, October 18, 2013


A couple of weeks before we put Bear down, when he could still go for a proper(ish) walk, he stopped on the lawn of a small community church around the corner from our house.  He rummaged in the bushes per usual, then he did something he had never done before.  He led me up the steps of the church.  Someone was practicing a song, a tenor with a beautiful voice.  Someone else played an acoustic guitar, and the sound system they used wasn't shabby.  Bear wanted to go further inside, beyond the closed sanctuary doors.  I couldn't work up the nerve to bring a dog into someone's sanctuary, especially as a stranger, so I sat on a wooden chair just outside the doors and listened, while Bear breathed his raspy, old-man breath and tried to nudge us further inside.

I wanted more than anything to go deeper inside, to nestle up to whatever was calling both of us.  I wanted to sit at the feet of whomever was singing and let their devotion wash over me.

Recently, walking by myself after work, the autumn air cooled my hot work blood and I thought how walking by myself is becoming more and more tolerable.  (I almost wrote bearable, but that's not the right word at all.)  The first few times I went out without my partner at the end of his short red leash, it broke my heart.

But walking by myself recently, I remembered the church and thought how, although Bear was still mobile, his breath was already growing rough, and he was starting to do things like wander almost absent-mindedly into spaces he had never cared for before.

One of those spaces was the church narthex, and I wondered as I walked without him if that had been a moment of doggy last rites - if his spirit was needing a final blessings - or if, like always, he was helping me slow down and open my heart to the beauty in the world.  Either way, I am grateful for what washed over me in that strange church while I huddled with my dog, worried someone would come out and wonder what in the world we were doing there.

We walked on that night, and the next time we passed the church, Bear only sniffed their sign.  There was no one singing, no dog pulling me inside.  The curtains had closed, the window passed.  Part of me worries that things like that will stop happening when I don't answer the call.  I chose the world outside the church that night, as I have done for some time, but I want to remember that feeling, something tugging me toward it, something bright and glowing behind those doors.

In a more literal take on the subject, I went to a wild animal sanctuary last weekend and spent a full day with tigers.  There were lions, black bears, grizzly bears, and leopards too, as well as, curiously, two porcupines who refused to show their faces.  (I can't say we actually missed them.)  The website for the sanctuary says they rescue and rehabilitate animals who have been the subject of human "immoderation" - in other words,  people who thought they could raise a bear cub inside their house, or circuses who trained their animals with the handy aid of nicotine addiction before being shut down. 

My eyes welled with tears hearing about these huge creatures spending time in tiny spaces, at the will of people who do not understand or respect their essential needs.  But I love the discreteness of that phrase: human immoderation.  And it is true: that's exactly what keeping a bobcat as a pet is.  I don't know what happens when sanctuary workers rescue an animal.  I'm sure there is deep grief and outrage by all parties, on all sides.  I am just glad there is room enough on the Colorado prairie for these animals to live out their now peace-filled lives. 

There was a sign on the grounds of the sanctuary that read something like: Certainly, saving one animal cannot save the world, but to that animal, it means the whole world.  I've heard this about adopting strays too - meaning dogs and house cats; not, say, a bobcat - and it certainly is true.  There were two things I never forgot when Bear was alive and living with us.  The first was that he was an animal capable of summoning wild qualities at any moment.  He never turned on me, but when I crouched down to his bed at night when he was crankiest, or scratched his chest and tugged playfully at his muzzle in the morning when he was sweetest, I felt honored that he trusted me. 

The second thing I never forgot was the day I adopted him, and brought him home to my room in a spacious basement full of previous tenants' rick-rack.  He glowered at me from the corner of my bedroom.  Neither of us knew what the other was about.  I honestly didn't know if I would be alive in the morning.  I went to sleep worried about the shadow sharing my room, uncertain what he was thinking or what he would do.  He must have had similar questions about me.  It took a couple of years for Bear's glower to disappear, and when it did, I never forgot how far we both had come: me in providing a safe, cozy home for us both, and him in opening up and softening. 

And now I am crying at my computer.  Well, here's to the wildness in each of us: to its strength and ferocity, and striped, tender underbelly.

With love,


  1. Dear Kara, I am crying too. I will miss him.

  2. I go to your blog during my much needed breaks at work and unbeknownst to others I may just have a good cry. Is that weird? I don't go under my desk or anything too crazy.
    -Lots of love

  3. The other day I was hiking up a trail with Mavis when a passerby warned us that a little coyote was ahead on the trail. I've run into them before and they have always run off away from me, but I'd never run into one with Mavis so I decided to turn around. And as we walked back down the trail, I kept looking behind me for the coyote when a small bobcat sprinted from the brush of one side of the trail to the other. It was such a shock! But so cool at the same time. Point being... to the wildness in each of us indeed!! xoxo