My dog ate a blanket this week, which was abnormal. Not that abnormal as the mutt will take a bite out of anything he can find when he has a stomach ache; some ancient animal instinct, built in by millions of years of evolution, designed to help him get up whatever it is that is making him sick. The problem is: evolution is a blunt instrument which lives and dies by mistakes. Eating a crocheted blanket was a mistake that nearly cost my dog his life.
The poor creature woke me up at midnight, hacking and vomiting. When I got in the living room, I found a house full of vile substances pulled from the dog’s guts. The rest of the night was spent with the pooch, trying to ease his pain, to provide some relief for the poor creature. At one point, I looked into his big dark eyes. There I saw the sweetness he had as a puppy, the loyalty he has shown as the dog. In those eyes, I saw a value and a meaning that dwells in the old pooch and is the old pooch, and I felt a profound sense of regret.
I felt regret that for years until that moment in which our eyes caught, the dog had largely slipped out of my consciousness. Not that he was forgotten, he had been fed and walked, watered and generally cared for, but since the birth of my son, the dog has largely become furniture in my life. Something I move from point a to point b, something that is in my life but always in the periphery of my vision, only brought to the center when something goes wrong with it.
The sick and the dying often find themselves on the periphery of our vision. We see them out of the corner of our eyes, but they too are furniture. Items that appear and disappear from our lives. Only during episodes of pain, or relapses, declines or infections do they come to the center of our vision, only when they are broken, and that is a shame.
The dog’s okay. I have a second chance to give him and the life he owns its proper attention, but it took pain to give him this chance again. With the people we encounter, each time we are pilgrims in their homes, we are given this chance. This is a chance to allow them to move to the center of our attention for a while, to find a moment in which they are not on the outside but inside. And in allowing them to drift to the center, perhaps we will be blessed to see the beauty that lives in them, the meaning and the value they are and contain, and in that way see the wonders that so many of us have for so long been missing out on.