Nothing says fun more than a park full of wieners! Phineas and I attended Dachtoberfest—a celebration of dachshunds and the humans who love them—yesterday at Washington Square Park. It was a spectacular time for the long, little doggies. I love that we live in a city where this is an annual event.
7 years ago today, I adopted this sweet, brave, and loyal boy. Phineas was just 1-year-old, and someone had dumped him in the woods to fend for himself. His howling saved him, a policeman found him, and thanks to New York Dachshund Rescue, I became his mom. Today on his 8th birthday, I wish him a bottomless bowl of food, a mountain of treats and toys, a soft, cozy bed, and plenty of long walks, grass rolling in the sun, and tummy rubs. After all he’s given to me, this is the very least he deserves. Happy birthday, buddy. May we have many more. I love you.
Be patient with yourself. You’re getting there, wherever there is.
Right now I’m in the process of doing the equivalent of crate training Phineas. He didn’t respond well at all to an enclosed crate when he was younger but he’s making good progress, knock on wood, behind a gate that keeps him in the back of the apartment away from the door and the too-loud lobby of my building. Crate training takes discipline, patience, and time, three things I am also trying to give to myself as I give them to him.
We all want what we want right now. It takes time to learn a new skill. It takes patience to let ourselves evolve and grow into the very best version of ourselves. As hard as I drive myself to achieve and succeed, I also try to give myself a break and celebrate every once in a while. I look back on my life and see how far I’ve come from my days on the apple farm. It’s been a long and winding road. It wasn’t easy though from my view now, life is pretty spectacular despite the many difficulties along the way and the challenges I’m facing now. I can’t help but have this overwhelming feeling that everything really is going to be okay eventually. I’ll find what I need in every area of my life. It’s going to take time and effort, but it’s out there. It’s out there for you, too. Keep going.
I’m managing through Phineas’s adjustment to our new apartment. While it’s stressful at the moment thanks to the worst neighbor we’ve ever had, last night as I drifted off to sleep I started to wonder what could be the very positive flip side to this story.
Maybe Phin and I are meant to rescue a second pup who needs a home and will be Phin’s BFF for the rest of his life. Maybe this situation is prompting me to step up my job search even more so that I can *finally* stop renting and buy my very first home. Maybe this journey to help Phin through his anxiety is leading me to someone I’m supposed to meet who will have a positive impact on my life. Or maybe it’s just meant to give me more compassion, empathy, and concern for those who are also going through stressful times.
I’m not sure if any of those narratives are true, but their possibility is helping me rest a little easier and encouraging me to keep moving forward.
I met a man in the park this weekend who was riding his skateboard while his collie mix dog was trotting along beside him. They stopped at the water fountain where Phin was grabbing a drink and he wanted to say hello to them. The man bent down and stroked Phin’s ears.
“I had a dog exactly like him when I was a child. They are such precious little things…” and then he stopped as he got choked up. His eyes got teary, said thank you, and went on his way. Phin watched him for a minute or so until the man and his dog were out of sight.
It was so clear that despite the many years since this man’s dachshund had passed away, he still loved and missed him. It’s something everyone who’s ever loved an animal can relate to—these furry, cuddly pals wiggle their way into our hearts, take up residence, and never leave. We remember them long after they’re gone, grateful that they spent the short amount of time they had on this plane with us. We’re lucky to have known and loved them.
There are two kinds of happiness: the one that comes from instant gratification and the one that comes from the slow slog toward a desired goal. The first makes us happy in the here and now, but it usually doesn’t last long. The second makes us happy when viewed through the arc of life but in the here and now can be difficult and uncomfortable. I’ve found that I need a good balance of both to truly feel good about life.
Art, music, good food, time with my friends, my dog, and working out are all things that make me immediately happy. Writing, working on my entrepreneurial ideas, and learning something new that I’m not yet particularly good at fall into that second bucket. It’s not that I don’t get any joy from them in the near-term; it’s just that to feel truly happy about them I need to look at them through a longer lens and with a goal in mind.
Knowing about this balance helps me figure out how to allocate my time, effort, and energy to be happy at this moment and to ensure I’m happy down the line, too.
Phineas had surgery to remove a small mass on his gum and several teeth along with it. It turned out to be a bigger mass than the veterinarian thought it was during the exam. Whether it grew in size between the exam and the surgery or if they underestimated it, I don’t know. I had a hard time holding it together at work. On my way to pick him up I had myself a good, long cry on the metro. He’s in a lot of pain and on heavy medication during this two-week healing process. The lab will biopsy the mass and let me know if it is benign or malignant, and then we will go from there. Obviously, I hope it’s benign. If it is malignant, then he will get the very best care that money can buy so long as he can have a high quality of life. Again, I’m immensely grateful that I got him pet insurance when I adopted him.
I get choked up when I think about it; I know someday I will have to let go of Phineas. I made that deal with the devil, and I accept it. I’m just not ready yet. Not now while it seems that the country (and maybe the world) is falling apart and my future feels so much in flux. I understand that there is no good time to lose an animal you love, and especially not one as dear as Phineas is to me and so many others who know him. But Universe, really, now is not a good time. And it won’t be a good time for a good long while. So if by chance you could help this little guy maintain his unsinkable nature for a while longer (maybe 20 years or so, just until I get my general sense of anxiety under control) then I would really appreciate it. Thanks for your consideration.
If you want to know what my life with Phineas was like in New York City, watch the movie The Secret Life of Pets. Max, the main character, has Phineas’s personality to a tee (though the dachshund Buddy looks exactly like him!) Max even has separation anxiety when his mom, Katie, leaves for work every day just like Phin does. The movie takes place in our neighborhood on the Upper West Side. It shows some of our favorite areas of Central Park and the tiny apartments in beautiful buildings that we happily called home for years. There are a few scenes where Katie and Max are staring out at the skyline from their apartment, complete with the water towers I always loved so much. That was something Phineas and I often did, too. When Max describes his relationship with Katie, all I could do was hug Phineas and say, “That’s just like us, buddy!”
Looking at all of these nostalgic scenes made me realize that while we don’t remember every single moment of our lives, what we do remember is how all of our moments made us feel. I’m sad to say that I don’t remember every single moment with Phineas, in New York City or elsewhere. What I do know is that he has made all of my good moments great moments and he’s made all of the tough times more manageable. His love, devotion, and loyalty have been some of the greatest gifts of my life. I treasure all those walks, snuggles, naps, and playtimes, and I always will. The secret life of pets is that they are our best co-pilots.
I’m undergoing a major design shift at my home, and Phineas is the architect. Because of his back issues, the best thing I can do to keep him safe is to eliminate furniture he could jump from. I decided to embrace this change and as I did some research I found great design and health inspiration for having a nearly furniture free living room. I remember seeing rooms like this when I went to Sarajevo and Budapest. There’s a Bohemian feel to outfitting a space with comfy giant floor pillows in gorgeous fabric. Health-wise, doing away with the couch improves posture and our entire digestive system improves posture and our entire digestive system. It also give us a feel of being grounded and rooted, promoting better sleep and reducing anxiety. So, my new sleeper sofa is going to go into my second bedroom when I buy a home and I’ll get to work creating a comfy, inviting living space that protects Phineas’s back. Another beautiful blessing.
I was obviously very upset sitting in the waiting room at the animal hospital as the doctors checked Phin’s back early Tuesday morning. I was sad that he was in so much pain, and also grateful that we have such amazing care for him here in D.C. Then, I asked myself “what’s the worst possible thing that could happen?” He would have a back issue that couldn’t be fixed and we’d get wheels for him. And that’s exactly what we’d do so long as he could still have a good quality of life. (Check out this amazing company, Eddie’s Wheels, that has made wheelchairs for dogs for 20 years!) He’d still be my little guy and I’d still be his mom. And that’s really what matters.
(I’m happy to report that he is doing extremely well on rest and meds so I feel very hopeful that he’ll make a full recovery! He just wishes he could get out there for a long walk around the neighborhood. That won’t happen for about 3 weeks. Rest is the most important part of his recovery.)