F i n d i n g S e r e n i t y
I had been on this street a thousand and one times since Katrina but I had never seen her before, she appeared and I still have no idea from where or even which direction. She foraged in the shells of an empty lot, looking for food or so I thought. I quietly placed my trapping gear into my truck so that she would not be startled but even the sound of an approaching vehicle was too overwhelming and I was able to see only that she, he, was a shepherd, a German Shepherd and “it” was frightened. Immediately, and nearly reflex-like, I followed slowly behind as my mind began the plans for what lied ahead. Would she take food or would she run? Would she allow me to approach her or would she warn against it? Would she be able to be quickly trapped or would she prove to be elusive and in need of patience?
For nearly thirty minutes I tried everything possible to get her to take any of the small “pre-bait” portions of food I placed around the Tulane/Gravier section of New Orleans, all in locations that she had wandered through as I followed her haphazard movements along what seemed to be a path she was completely unfamiliar with. She had the look of the newly lost, the recently dumped, confused, disoriented, scared and nose to the ground. Each time I placed food down, she either ignored it or ran away if she spotted me, this was beginning to look hopeless....how could I help her if I couldn’t get her to stay in one area, even for food? As my mind subconsciously rewrote those plans, I climbed back into the truck to start the drive home, knowing that I would be back in less than an hour but also knowing that the odds were not good that I would easily find her. I wondered, what are the odds of trapping her if I can’t find her again? As I neared the end of the street, S. Miro Street, the street I have driven one thousand and one times, I caught a glimpse of her heading back toward me as she trotted along the sidewalk on Tulane Avenue and again, almost as if reflex, I threw my truck into reverse so she wouldn’t see me and run, and planned one final food drop......surely, she would have to cross directly over this food and this is where I would return with a trap.
God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change.....
Although it must have been a sound first before anything else, in the seconds it unfolded it was a feeling first as my heart sunk in my chest and then a processed thought as my mind registered it and finally, a sound, this one audible and registered and I will never forget that sequence with its’ time-lapse quality and I will never forget what flesh and bone sounds like as an automobile speeds into a life. I know that I will often recall the sound of skin as it is dragged across asphalt, the thud of a body as it finally comes to rest only ten feet in front of me and I will do my best to never again wonder about a place, a destination that must be important, too important for a human being who just ended a life to postpone his arrival there because he is checking to see if anything can be done to help her, or at least getting out of his car, or possibly just stopping for a brief second......wherever that important place is, it’s nowhere I want to go.
the Courage to Change the things I can.....................
She couldn’t possibly be alive, I saw her as she cartwheeled underneath the metal that dragged her down but, and again almost as if reflex, I ran the ten feet and was shocked to see she was still breathing...barely. Prayer is evidently more reflexive than tears as all emotion placed themselves on hold...but I remember the prayers and I remember trying to broker a deal with God to help me pick her up without causing more pain and I remember the deal where I asked for green lights and no potholes and I particularly remember the deal where I begged to please just let me find a veterinarian who hadn’t gone home yet on a Friday evening and who would be willing to help end her pain. The crunch, the drag, the thud, I knew she couldn’t be saved but all my deals were for the end of her pain and ironically, what I remember the most is that I never offered anything in return so I guess that makes me a pretty poor deal broker, doesn’t it?
And the Wisdom to know the Difference
They weren’t really deals if nothing was offered in return, they were truly, prayers. Prayers are made to a higher power, to God and every prayer I uttered was for her, so that she could find peace without more pain. I think my prayers were heard because along the fifteen minute drive to the veterinarian clinic, somewhere around twelve minutes into her dying, her pain ended and my began. I drove with only my left hand so that my right hand could hold a bloody paw, a paw that let me know she was still alive and I knew she was still alive, barely, until those gasps that came all in a row and quickly and then her paw in my hand let me know that her pain was over, Thank God. My prayers stopped at that point and the emotions checked began as I drove the rest of the way to the clinic through blurred clumps of mascara. She, yes she, was about six to seven years old, she was without identification, no tags, no chip but someone, somewhere used to be hers and they left their mark with a spay scar. She left her mark on the back seat of my truck where her life bled out from her broken body, and her blood was red like yours and mine and her blood was warm like yours and mine and her blood was real, just like yours, mine and that human on his way to an important place. She left her mark elsewhere as well.
The Serenity Prayer is relevant for anyone who struggles and I struggle often. My struggle is not with the courage part or the part about changing things, and its not the Wisdom part either.....my struggle is with accepting the things I cannot change and so Serenity has been a lifelong unattainable. I have never been able to do enough, help as many as I should, be good enough at, and that is par for the course with any individual who works to help others....rescue, relief, shelter, workers in fields or industries where another’s pain and suffering is always right around the corner. With no skills or ability at accepting that I cannot change everything, Serenity or inner peace with myself has always escaped me, consistently and constantly replaced by plans.
Serenity, or at least the head of the path toward that end finally found me, I didn’t find it, she found me. She looked and felt and lived and breathed and died as a German Shepherd, a shepherd who I call Serenity and what she brought to me is what I have been unable to find on my own, Acceptance. It took some time even after Serenity found me, it took until three o’clock the next morning when I found myself just sitting in the park on my street, looking at that weird dust that seemed to be floating in the even weirder fuzzy circle which encircled a full moon.
As I sat there just transfixed with a strange looking moon, my tears had stopped hours before, a strange thought occurred to me, one which I had never contemplated before and that was the realization that plans have always substituted for acceptance but ultimately, it is not my plans that are the Master Plan, that was written by another.
Maybe it wasn’t the plan for me to “save” the shepherd that had appeared out of nowhere, maybe I was there for something else. No, I really can’t save them all, I can’t do everything, be everywhere and I can’t end all the suffering in this world, and if I can truly accept that, maybe I can understand what my real role in the shepherd’s world was.....maybe it was my job to help her die instead. Serenity found me, I hope in some small way, in the back of my truck, with her bloody paw in my hand, I hope Serenity finally found some peace.