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March 26, 2018

The Unreasonable Dog

How far can light travel in four years? The answer could be represented as a very long number. Simplified, the answer is four light-years. Most simply, I like to think of the answer as “Penny.”Today Miss Penny Mayhem turns four (Earth) years old. The tendency with birthdays is to remark how fast time flies, but it seems Penny flies at relativistic speeds because no one in my family believes she’s only been with us for four trips around the sun.Emily thought Penny must be six. My brother was certain the little wild thing (Penny, not Emily) was even older. I started to question my own sanity so we had to go back and double check the math. Despite the evidence I’m still not sure my brother is convinced. I’m only marginally more confident.
Rhodesian Ridgeback, Lion, Marking Our TerritoryHow far can light travel in four years? The answer could be represented as a very long number. Simplified, the answer is four light-years. Most simply, I like to think of the answer as “Penny.”Today Miss Penny Mayhem turns four (Earth) years old. The tendency with birthdays is to remark how fast time flies, but it seems Penny flies at relativistic speeds because no one in my family believes she’s only been with us for four trips around the sun.Emily thought Penny must be six. My brother was certain the little wild thing (Penny, not Emily) was even older. I started to question my own sanity so we had to go back and double check the math. Despite the evidence I’m still not sure my brother is convinced. I’m only marginally more confident.Such is the way of things with my teacup tempest. Time, space and even reality itself seem to bend to her whim rather than risk her ire. To borrow from George Bernard Shaw, the reasonable dog adapts herself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to herself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable dog.Penny makes most unreasonable dogs look like Lassie by comparison, so my diminutive demon rightly gets plenty of attention for her work as an agent of chaos. But now more than ever I understand and appreciate her as an agent of progress.Before Penny, my life was in a rut. Not a dark and depressing rut, but an insidiously comfortable one. After adventuring with Eko for a year we had settled into a familiar and easy schedule. One which I enjoyed lazily traversing on autopilot. The routine was quietly intoxicating, numbing my senses to everything outside of myself.But there was a hangover each morning. A sobering feeling of melancholy as I looked ahead to a day I had lived a hundred times. Still, I was unable to resist the reassuring pull of habit on my own. That’s when I got the bright idea to outsource the job to Penny.Maybe I should have seen her off-kilter ridge and titled ears as markers of an unbalanced puppy. Maybe I should have wondered why the littermates all made way when the runt in the red collar came storming through. But I can’t say I wasn’t warned.John’s final words to me as I carried Penny to the car were, “Watch out for that one. She’ll test you. But remember, I wouldn’t give her to you if you weren’t ready.”Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, marking our territoryI wasn’t ready. I was too comfortably adapted to my world.Penny graciously relieved me of that comfort. She disabused me of the notion I knew exactly how to raise a puppy. She took pieces of both my furniture and my sanity. Her existence was a challenge to everything I thought I knew.Puppy Penny humbled me on a daily basis. She demanded my full attention and engagement. It was an exhausting exercise in self-doubt where I felt like my best wasn’t always enough.And it wasn’t. So Penny gave me two options – give up, or get better. Some days, I gave up. But more days I committed to getting better. Slowly sharpening the parts of myself dulled from disuse. It was painstaking work, but suffering is the true price of progress.We progressed through all the challenges of puppyhood and teenage months and came out on the other side scarred, but much improved. Adding Penny to our adventures made each day more vibrant and exciting than it ever could have been without her. Together, Eko and Penny put my heart, mind and soul in a blissful equilibrium between order and chaos.It all fell to pieces when Eko died. All the love, all the lessons and all the progress swept away in a flood of anger and despair. I pushed everything and everyone away, but Penny was unmoved. Each morning a sharp nose poked its way under the covers and demanded I get out of bed.Again I suffered with Penny. Not in opposition to her, but truly with her. Both of us thrown down without Eko to keep us balanced and upright.In the end, the choice was the same one Penny had drilled into me each day – give up or get better. It was an ugly, faltering journey, but slowly we did get better. Not because of time or luck, but because I made a choice. A choice I wouldn’t have been prepared to make without Penny’s wild wisdom.Before I got Zero a number of people encouraged me to reconsider. A puppy and a baby? No reasonable person thinks that’s a good idea. But after surviving the storm that was Penny, then surviving an even greater storm with Penny, I guess some of that unreasonable nature rubbed off on me.I brought Zero home and we remade ourselves again. Each of us growing to become something new – something better – than we were before. I was driven by an obstinance borrowed from Miss Mayhem. A mulish insistence I would not bow to circumstance but would instead shape it to my liking.When Lincoln was born we began again. Again. Throwing what we were into the fire to reforge ourselves as something new. Giving up what we were in order to become what we needed to be. New versions of ourselves strong enough to shape change rather than be swept away by it.How far can a person travel in four years? There are a lot of ways to answer that question, but perhaps Penny is the best expression of my progress. Time is relentless, but thankfully so is Penny Mayhem. And I’m grateful to my unreasonable pup for her insistence I keep up.Happy birthday, Penny!

Comments for The Unreasonable Dog

  1. Fran welch says:

    I can not imagine ur blog without Penny. Today, we honor you ms. Penny. Happy Birthday

  2. C. Taylor says:

    Here’s to many, many more trips around the sun with Ms Mayhem, Zero and most importantly to Lincoln and Emily! I have shared so many of your tales of Ms Mayhem with family and friends and they all get a good laugh. Here’s to many more years of new adventures. (p.s. Is your brother and Doc coming over to your place for the birthday party and presents ?)

  3. Shannon Schmit says:

    Happy birthday Penny!

  4. Happy Happy 4th Birthday Penny!! OMG I remember her arrival as if it were yesterday! Penny added FIRE, Penny added ENERGY, Penny added buoyant exuberance, silliness, craziness……….and ohhh so much fun! She also added all that you mentioned above. I was so worried about you both when Eko passed……to this day, his passing makes me cry…….but you have both come to thrive. Now with Lincoln and Zero as you said you have learned so much! The last photo is exceptionally beautiful, while the sun is setting it still has a glow exuding fire……….Penny is sooooooooo much fire!! She warms our hearts like fire warms and is as energetic as a bonfire! Love Penny Mayhem!!!!!! xoxo

  5. ohhhh nooo! I am hoping you use comment moderation because I left a long one and I don’t see it 🙁

  6. you are much mightier than the light and you did something what was very special but the RIGHT thing… BRAVO!!! …and we wish your fabulous soulmate and entertainer a happy happy birthday …. and much more years of mayhem and fun and love.

  7. Mandy says:

    Aww I loved this one! Happy Birthday Miss Penny! I laughed as after much deliboration we celebrated Meeka’s 9th Birthday this year only to discover that actually she was 8! It’s so hard to keep track

  8. Cynthia Marquez says:

    I have my own “give up or get better” boy, Ridge and you are right, they push us to improve beyond what we think possible. Many days, it looked like “give up” was the better choice but we hung in there. And he was my 4th ridgie… not like I hadn’t been around the block a couple of times. He was frequently told that, if he had been my first ridgeback, there would NEVER have been another one!! But, now, I can’t imagine life without him! At the vet this weekend, she commented that he was the nicest and best behaved Ridgeback in her practice. I just smiled.

    Many happy returns to Penny Mayhem. And bravo to you for the fortitude to “get better”. Your eloquence constantly expresses deep feelings that ring so true but that I lack the words to define!

  9. Kismet says:

    “unreasonable dog” is an oxymoron.

  10. Will I left two comments, (a long one and a short one)……….are my comments not coming through? Oh no!!!

  11. Jovan says:

    Penny Mayhem is absolutely adorable (those ears!). I’ve enjoyed watching her grow over these last few years. Will, thank you for inviting us into your life and Happy Birthday, Penny!!

  12. You’ve been forged in the fires of the past four years – and more – Will. Happy Birthday doesn’t really cover it – but it’s all I’ve got right now! Eko would be proud!!

  13. czechsix says:

    My, how time flies.

    Happy Birthday, Miss Penny, may your mayhem continue on for many a year to come.

  14. Murphy's Law says:

    HAPPY BRTHDAY sweet girl!! Will, it sounds like you took the Road Less Travelled and It turned out to be the right path. Eko is probably looking down from Critter Heaven thinking, “I did a good job training those two!” All’s well that ends well.

    That sunset photo is an absolute Hallmark card. Priceless.

    Hope Mss Penny Mayhem enjoys her birthday cake and manages to keep her ears out of it!
    Ginger

  15. coastingnz says:

    We need a love button. Great writeup Will – Love Miss Penny mayhem, she’s taught us all a lot – as you and Eko have done in the past and seem to keep on doing. Happy birthday Penny. Big snuggles from NZ.

  16. Cupcake says:

    Such a great birthday tribute to our girl, Penny! We love you – for who you are and what you bring to the party. Enjoy your special day, sweetie! Make it a wild one.

  17. *♪ღ♪Happy★Birthday, Miss Mayhem. ♪ღ♪* We’re all better for getting to know her.

  18. Robyn B says:

    Happy Birthday, Penny! Hope you have a wonderful day celebrating the big 4!!!!!!

  19. Eve says:

    Happy Birthday Penny Mayham! You sure are one special pup to bring what you bring out in people! HUGS and LOVE on your special day!! ENJOY it to the fullest!

  20. Kali says:

    Hello Penny,

    Woke up this morning and got my human out of bed with a cold nose in the ear only to be told it was my birthday and I was now four years old. This meant, he said, that I had passed through the turbulent teenage years and I was now a mature, stable, and well behaved girl. Gone were the wild and impetuous actions and urges of our puppy and teenage years.

    And immediately thought of you and how you would be handling maturity. Penny Mayhem as a sedate and orderly dog. Not bloody likely!!!!! Keep up with the chaos girl and I will do the same. Let’s drive our humans insane as fast as we can.

    Happy birthday Penny

    Your full sister

    Kali

  21. Rikke says:

    Dear sweet Penny ♥️ happy birthday

  22. Emmadog says:

    Hope you had a great birthday, Penny. Every family needs a Penny version in it to keep them all on their toes. Pups like you make life so much more interesting!

  23. Andrea says:

    Happy Birthday dear Penny!

  24. Karen Boone says:

    Happy, Happy Birthday sweet pup

  25. John Arvin says:

    Happy Birthday Penny! I knew you were the right maniac for Will LOL!

  26. UrbanCollieChick says:

    Happy fourth Birthday, wild child. Girls just wanna have fun!

  27. Lisa says:

    As always Will, a lovely and thought filled recounting of what we can learn from our dogs.

  28. Eve says:

    Happy Birthday! I love they demand the best from us!

  29. Happy Birthday! She is a beautiful soul and beautiful pup!

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