Seven years ago today, I sat in my office in Shoup Hall at the University of Idaho and wrote my first blog post. The walls were made of cinder block painted off-white. I’d moved from Boulder, Colorado just the previous summer and was thrilled at the prospect of staying in touch via blogs. I was missing Home, and my people.
More miles than anyone should count and at least 36 countries and territories later, here’s the last post for XpatAdventures:
Spring has arrived in Zurich. Birds are chirping everywhere and sun is pouring through the living room windows, making it far warmer inside than out.
Tomorrow I need to remember to close the blinds so it’s cooler for Mufasa. I can’t believe he’s been on this entire journey with me. It’s clear his time is coming to an end – he walks slowly up the path from the door and pants after just a few steps. It’s tough for him to stand and sit, but he still looks at me with a hint of mischief in his eyes and comes to find me when he’s hungry for dinner. He sniffs his way around the neighborhood, eyes glazed over with a greenish shine, his hearing not as sharp as it once was.
In Boulder, when we told him we were getting divorced, my stepson said: “Now we can stop struggling.” and “If Dad gets me, you get the dog.” It’s been 56 dog years since we left Colorado, since I packed him into the back of my silver Nissan Pathfinder and drove away from our entire life.
Mufasa was only six to eight weeks old when we met at the Boulder Humane Society. Sometimes people call dogs from places like that “rescue dogs.” I’m not sure who saved whom.
I didn’t know when we set out that there’d be this much change and isolation for so long. I sought to make a home and family again. Instead I have seen so much of the world, met and connected amazing changemakers & committed souls, and explored terrain (internal & external) rocky & steep.
I stay in touch with friends in Colorado as if it’s been just a few weeks, as if I never left. Their lives there continued and mine didn’t. Andrew Love, a great writer, speedskater, father and friend said it’s kind-of like time dilation in science fiction books. “You drop in all world-weary and tired from your travels and our lives have moved on – we’ve had kids and gotten new jobs and made new friends; people have died – but you haven’t gone through that with us. We pick up where we left off; you’re the same as back then, and we haven’t seen the world with you.”
I want to say every day to the people I love: I wish I could bring you with me and that I could stay with you. There’s this strange pull of Home and a longing to see and do everything, everywhere, all at once.
I wish that I could say after all these years I have figured it out, solved the riddle of Home.
For now, I am savoring these last days with Mufasa – the only one who’s seen it all. For now, Home is where Mufasa is.
He’s not going quietly into this dark night. I don’t blame him.
He has stood on the side of the Matterhorn contemplating
chasing herding sheep. (That’s what he’s doing here…)
He’s been to the top of the Jungfrau and taken the car ferry across Lake Como to a five-star hotel in Bellagio, Italy… more than once.
He’s visited the beautiful Munich Christmas market… and didn’t see a thing but scored *lots* of discarded pretzel and bratwurst.
He’s treed a cat on the grounds of a 16th century Tuscan villa and stood poolside victorious. The soundtrack for this next photo should be “We are the Champions;” he is standing proud for all dogs, everywhere.
It’s an amazing 12-year journey we’ve been on together: Here’s the story of how Mufasa came into my life. (Warning: cute puppy photos) Here’s a guest post from him back when we lived in Lugano. Here’s the post from when he had cancer in 2008.
And here’s a tidbit from more recently, December 2011:
I’m on the phone; it’s a business meeting – a call with a PepsiCo executive in Turkey. Mufasa couldn’t stand up again this morning. This is mostly from the phenobarbital, I think, a ghastly medicine they put him to control seizures.
Actually, he stood at first just fine, then tried to climb the stairs to the kitchen for his breakfast and fell, all splayed, on the hard marble steps. I helped him back down (only 1 step) and he slid around at the bottom trying to stand. It took quite a while and an elevator to get him upstairs.
He plunked (literally, it sounded like, “plunk”) down in the middle of the living room floor after he ate. From the middle of the room like that he can see everything that happens on this floor of the apartment. I’ve been reading online about how people know when it’s time to euthanize. They say things like, “When the spark is gone out of their eyes.” Or “When they don’t eat and enjoy things anymore.” My vet at first said, “When he can’t stand up anymore.” He’s recanted that statement.
There was a jar of peanut butter next to me on the couch as I spoke on the phone with that PepsiCo executive. From his middle-of-the-living-room position Mufasa first politely requested then more forcefully demanded I stand up and bring him some. He’s not stupid; it was too easy, really. He’s knows when I’m on calls like that, business calls, important calls. He also knows that if he makes enough noise during such a call I’ll do just about anything to placate him. Also… he really likes peanut butter.
I caved, and he had a couple tablespoons of peanut butter.
This is why the three vets I’ve asked if it’s time to think about euthanizing look at me like I’m crazy. He has difficulty standing some days. He’s having grand mal seizures, sometimes more than once in an afternoon. He still enjoys things, though, thank you very much.
Goodness, he is my dog. We live large and love the ride. “Life is good,” he’d tell you if he could. He tells me every day still in a thousand different ways.
I guess that’s what we’ve learned all these years, on all these expat adventures of ours: we are surrounded by overwhelming beauty; there is joy to be had everywhere.
We are on a long and winding road, the 2 of us. The light is not anywhere near gone out of his eyes. He’s on a new pain med & for the first time in about 8 months tonight he went to his basket of toys in the living room, got one, and brought it to me to play tug of war & fetch. Just when I think the journey with him is over, he keeps going. And so we both move forward… for now together.
Thank you to each of you who’ve cared for and stayed with him while I’ve worked and travelled overseas. He adores you, and you have made so many of the adventures here possible. Thank you for sharing the ride with us.