October has arrived and, with it, morning skies that are as inky and dark as the contents of a broken pen. My raised garden bed is almost entirely devoid of the color green; save for the kale that is somehow making a comeback?
There are other garden chores to attend to. This past week I transplanted my single lavender shoot. Locating a spot in the yard that offered both full sun and well-aerated soil was not an easy task. Additionally, I dug up my Gladiolus callianthus bulbs. They’re currently drying in the garage, before I pack them away for the winter.
Away like the geese migrating overhead through gray, cloudy skies.
Away like Riley, our foster dog, returning to his rightful owner.
As revealed in a previous entry (Please see, “Fare-Thee-Well”, posted 9/7/2020), I was not 100% on board with the idea of fostering a dog. Taking care of three dogs, at once, sounded impossible.
Little did I know, I would fall head-over-heels for this foster dog.
He became part of our family.
All of our fur babies came with names. Their names “fit” just fine, but, as a writer, I needed to insert some creativity into the situation. Thus, they now each have middle names.
Alderaan Birkir (an Icelandic schnaps that I ‘discovered’ while conducting research for a piece of fiction).
Luna Petunia (because it sort of rhymes?).
Berkley Fergus (I’m not responsible for this one, but he is most definitely a ‘Fergus’).
Middle names are especially important in our bed-time ritual in which I say to each fur-baby, “Goodnight, [insert fur-baby’s name]. I love you. Have sweet puppy dreams tonight.” Or, in Alderaan’s case, “Goodnight, Alderaan Birkir. I love you. Have sweet feline dreams”. I cannot take credit for this ritual; the idea for this bed-time practice came from a Facebook post shared, a few years ago, by The Joshua Fund Dog Rescue.
Similar to how we thrive when we feel loved, our fur-babies need to be reminded of how important they are, too. We may not speak the same language, but I believe that kind words and a warm tone convey the message.
When Riley moved in, I continued our bed-time practice, but I didn’t like leaving him out. He deserved to have sweet puppy dreams, too!
The goodnight formula, though, required a middle name. Did Riley have one? I had no idea…and I didn’t ask…but he needed one…so I gave him one.
Turns out, I needed help selecting one. During a wonderful FaceTime chat with a dear friend, I sought assistance with the quest for the ‘perfect’ middle name. My friend asked me if I had learned any names while studying Norwegian. I had…but none of them seemed to fit.
Nope. Nope. And nope. None of them were good enough my foster dog.
Still, as an aficionado of Norwegian, I kept searching. Had any other names appeared during my language lessons on DuoLingo? No, but I decided to give him this one: Bjørnen. In Norwegian, Bjørnen means “the bear”. If Riley is a bear, he’s a teddy bear! His presence has been such a comfort—helping me through the loss of my grandfather.
At ten years old, Riley is a gentleman. He seems to know exactly when I need a hug; he’ll walk over to me, tail wagging and mouth open in a canine grin, and wait for me to bend down and wrap my arms around his shoulders.
He is almost always my security blanket at night (except for evenings wherein he falls asleep in his own bed).
An active senior, Riley is quite playful:
He’s the shadow at my side whenever I walk down the cement path in our backyard.
I have always wanted a dog that walked beside me, without a leash. When I was a kid, I imagined that that dog would be a German Shephard. Riley isn’t a Shephard, nor is he my dog, and it will hurt to give him back to his true owner. Yet, it’s where he belongs, and I know he has a loving and safe home there.
To paraphrase what another dear friend said about this reality: he will be taking a piece of your heart when he leaves.
It’s true. I will miss my Bjørnen.
I refuse, however, to let tears dilute the beauty of the incredible month that I have experienced with Riley. I will treasure everything that he has taught me/reminded me of: patience, kindness, caring, love…and self-care—especially regarding sleep!
I am grateful for this dog…which is why I tell him, when Luna and Berkley aren’t listening, that he has been a blessing to me.
Riley’s presence, and his imminent absence, is, to me, the embodiment of Beth and Matt Redman’s praise song, “Blessed Be Your Name”:
…God you give and take away
Oh, you give and take away
[But] My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name…
I, of course, do not have any rights to these lyrics. I can and will say, however, that this is one of the most powerful worship songs that I have ever had the opportunity to hear, sing, and apply to my own life. The upbeat melody is encouraging and invigorating.
What was I given? A senior dog to love and care for—something, Dear Readers, that 2010 me, after my first cancer experience, apparently had on her bucket list:
#17. Adopt Old Dogs.
Interesting how that item manifested, right?
There can be no doubt that I will miss my Bjørnen. It is, nevertheless, my hope that Luna and Berkley will assume some of his characteristics as they age.
May they be happy.
May they be healthy.
May they, at age 10, still drag around toys to play “fetch” and “tug of war” with.
Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. I hope you have the opportunity to experience the love of a senior dog and how comforting s/he can be. Sending prayers, love and light your way.
With Love & Gratitude,
Update: Riley and his fur-ever family were reunited yesterday, Monday October 5th, 2020. He was so happy to see them! His wagging tail and canine grin made me smile. It was a heart-warming sight. I am so grateful to have had Riley Bjørnen in my life.
Resources for the Curious:
To learn more about The Joshua Fund Dog Rescue, please visit: https://www.joshuafundrescue.org/
For more information pertaining to the song “Blessed Be Your Name” and its creators, Beth and Matt Redman, please visit: https://mattredman.com/