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A dead dog, resilience, and the hope of summer

May 11, 2016
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

Our dog died. She was thirteen, very old for a black Lab. She did very well until shortly after we moved here. She was done after one or two throws of fetch. Then she didn't want to go outside much at all. Then she seemed to forget what she was doing. We had her on a sickbed made of old comforters and towels and kept her in the living room where we took turns cuddling and petting her. We called a vet about putting her down, and the vet said it was okay to keep her comfortable at home. She gasped for breath for a while, and then it was over. She's buried at a family farm near Marathon.

This was Saturday, April 30, the day my mother would have turned 75. I can't think of anything that's much more of a bummer. But we had a great run with Gryffin as part of our family. It's very hard to think about another dog, because Gryffin was such a good dog, I worry if we rescued one, it would be a chaotic dog who didn't listen, or an unkind dog, or a prickly dog who didn't like us. Our daughter, Caitlyn, has had jobs at kennels since she was a young teen, and said just on a curve with all the other dogs she has met, Gryffin was really a well-behaved dog who wanted to make us happy. There's really nothing that replaces a wagging tail and a doggy smile, and it's going to be an adjustment.

In addition to Gryffin's sad but timely death, the last while has been difficult in other ways. I have begun transitioning out of my job. Not this one, silly, you won't get rid of me that easily. It's the other one in which I run Meals on Wheels and other volunteer things in the next county over. I found out I'm not going to be an Iowa Arts Fellow this year. It means a loss of a generous stipend, and also means you'll have to wait longer to sit through the ordeal that is one of my plays (written under my pen name Ash Sanborn; shhhh, don't tell anyone).

There's this pall hanging over everything I've been involved with lately, and the thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that summer is around the corner, and with it, I hope, sunshine and swimming, laughter and love, and the chance to make a difference in our community.

How do you climb out of a funk, especially when it seems the external in life is pushing down on everything? John Milton said, "The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven."

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Nothing can bring you happiness but yourself."

Lao Tzu said, "If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present."

It was really great having a dog, especially that dog, and it's time to leave her in the past, where she will stay. It would have been great to have some recognition and help to do my art, but maybe there's a way to do something without that particular source of help. I've been a playwright since I was eight years old, I just forgot for a while (25 years). I do have to say, it feels isolating to have had a production in New York City and a public reading in Boston, but to continually have zero interest in my lifelong home state of Iowa. But maybe we have to reframe it as, "It hasn't happened yet, but that doesn't reduce the chances of it happening in the future."

Having to find a new job or enough gigs that will work around working here to keep us afloat is a large anxiety for the future, but in the present, I can start making it happen. I have two more weeks and maybe more to do something about it. We never win when we argue with reality. "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." Gandhi said that, and I plan to use my stage work to make things better around homelessness, mental health, justice, poverty, and more.

It is possible to get out of our own heads and into the world, doing something positive for others. The mind is a powerful tool and we're in the driver's seat. I'm going to use mine for peace, joy, love, kindness, creation, and changing the world for the better. How about you?



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