Well, about two months have passed since Kai came to live with us and it’s been everything friends warned us about and all we expected. He has been the kind of teacher that chronic illness can be, but a lot more fun.
The Dalai Lama once suggested that he enjoyed problems because they served as mirrors with which to see himself more clearly. The devil, for Buddha, was the aspect of his own nature that did everything in its power, both subtly and more grossly to keep Gautama (the Buddha) from attaining enlightenment. Buddha’s struggles with his devils in whatever form they appeared, as are all of our challenges, were the actual path through which he pursued his aims. And, at times, Kai, expressing his puppy nature, plays the little devil.
Oh, did I mention that our plan for Kai took into account my wheelchair limits meshing with Sheila’s greater mobility. So there we are with a cutie pie puppy who sleeps through the night, takes lovely summer 6am walks, and is pretty much house and crate trained. Naturally, we are dealing with annoying and age appropriate nipping and jumping, primarily at Sheila’s legs, skirts, and nightgown. It’s handleable and we’ve started with a trainer.
But as Robert Burns reminds us, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley.” Fortunately, the teaching of Buddha and others prepare us for the contingencies of life such as puppies, falls, and chronic illness . And then, oops!, Sheila’s knee tweaks on a Kai walk and she falls down, breaking a rib. And while at the doctor’s for that, x-rays reveal she might have a 2nd degree ACL injury which hopefully will not require surgery, but I have to take over all the walking and more time seeing clients with Kai.
I may have written earlier about the ABCX model of family stress theory. “A” stands for the distressing recent, “B” for the resources (family, financial, professional, environment, we etc., To vote with the stressor event), “C” for how the event is defined, what meaning we give it (a chance for everyone to pull together, an expected contingency in life, divine punishment, etc.,) And “X” is the the degree to which the outcome of the initial event is experienced as overwhelming trauma or a “simply” difficult event.
“Pileup” occurs when multiple crises draw resources from each other, increasing the load on members of the family, drawing down reserves of energy, time, and morale. The devil is in the details, so pileups are excellent fields for work on our efforts at non-attachment to images and expectations.
For example, we had a picture on how things would go with Kai based on our memories of Bodhi. But, of course, they are two different (both lovely) dogs, as we are now altered people.We had greater mobility, lived on two floors rather than one, and our memories of ten years ago are, of course, likely to be quite inaccurate.
Much of this is characteristic of what happens when one of us has chronic illness and the other of us, often the caretaker, experiences a fall, illness, or a change of job hours or travel. So whether a puppy or an accident, how we respond to the expectable unexpected reveals a great deal of how well we live our lives in the present moment.
Do we become impatient with Kai’s puppy ways? Do we quarrel with each other? Do we doubt our decisions and question whether to return Kai? Yes to all those actions and doubts. And then, as we do with any unexpected shower, we raise our umbrellas or put up a tent, allow the rain to pass and move on along the path we’re making and taking, with unseen difficulties and beautiful vistas waiting round unmapped twists and turns with Kai by our side.