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Innoculation

July 6, 2012

Kaya is standing at the top of the stairs like it is a black diamond run in Park City.  She is 12 years old which is near the end for a Labrador Retriever and I’ve been mourning her death since she turned 11 and started showing signs of age even though she is very much alive and healthy. The first time I found her standing in the upstairs bathroom barking at the closed shower curtain I thought she’d trapped a burglar in the house.  “Good girl,” I whispered from the hallway.  I then crept in and dashed the curtain aside like that was the sensible thing to do had there been a fully clothed man standing in the tub. Kaya just blinked at the porcelain tiles and shampoo bottles and kept barking. 

Now I know that she walks into the narrow upstairs bathroom and barks at the shower curtain not because she thinks someone is hiding behind it but because she confuses the doorway to the bathroom for the top of the stairs and by the time she realizes her mistake, she can’t figure out how to turn around. Turning around simply confounds her so I rescue her from this conundrum periodically, often helping her back up like a truck stuck on a dead end street.

Because she is 12, I’ve imagined having to let her go, tried on for size in my imagination the pain of living without her  loyal company—as if I can inoculate myself against loss by exposing myself to pain in low doses. If you have ever loved anyone you knew was destined to leave life first, parent, lover, friend–you too, may have done this.  It’s the reverse of looking forward to Thanksgiving or a wedding with joyous anticipation this anticipatory grief.

Write about dread—write a page about someone (you?) who is trying to stave off fear, pain, joy or love by emotional vaccination. Do I climb rock walls at the gym because I’d rather face falling there, than falling for you? What do people do as proxy for the real thing?

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