Sunday, September 18, 2016
I am sitting on Cheli and Taylor’s couch in Medford, Oregon. The couch has the feel of corduroy. It is burgundy with brown weaving underneath, simple, tidy, and artistic like the rest of this home: Cheli’s touch. Next to me lies Arrow, their mixed breed shitsu and chihuahua, a small dog with brisley hair and a face that melts my sadness with her saucer-shaped brown eyes, dark whiskers, and warm alert ears. She likes to be close, but doesn’t need to be in my face. Right now she lies asleep on her side, her paws and breathing still, quite different than the moments when she darts from one space to another moving straight and surprisingly fast like an arrow from the bow (hence the name, though for some reason I want to call her Oscar—or Oscarita—and I always have to pause a moment to remember her name before calling to her.)
Their other dog Cooper lies, similarly still, on the floor by my feet. The three of us have been in the back yard this morning: me reading and them sniffing, and now we’re all resting and hiding from the sun.
I first met Cooper years ago, before he had such a large house and a back yard to roam in. When he met me at the door of the condo where Cheli and Taylor lived, he growled uncomfortably, clearly upset by my cane. His left eye, blue with blindness from abuse in the home he’d been removed from, startled me with its sharpness. Though he would eventually learn that I was safe, he always growled a little at my cane and gave it a wide berth when he walked by.
Today, it strikes me how much Cooper has changed. He seems not to notice my cane. When I struggled this morning to put on his bark collar, which delivers what I understand is a painful zing when he barks, he was patient with my tremorous fumbling and gave me ten tries to get it on. Though he’s several years older than he was when I met him, he bounces and smiles more like a puppy now than he did when he was younger. I can hardly tell that his left eye is blue with blindness now. He seems to have healed, and though I’m sure those early wounds are still there, for him the world is now safe and loving, and he is, too.
I have been treated gently in this world: raised in a loving a resourceful home and growing into adulthood without the trauma of violence that some experience. My partner, family, and friends love me and laugh with me. Mostly, the world acknowledges that I deserve to be here.
However, I believe I experience PTSD from brain surgery nine years ago and brain radiation six years ago along with three eye surgeries and a car accident where I was so trapped that my car’s roof had to be sawed off to get me out and whisked to the hospital. (Aside from some bruising and memories as well as blank spaces where memories about the accident might have been, I suffered little bodily damage.) My trauma, if that’s what it is, is hidden in my brain, inaccessible consciously though it enters my life during nightmares.
Big dogs scare me because I’m afraid they may disrupt my precarious balance. I especially don’t want strange dogs baring their teeth at me or even bounding puppy-like towards me. But when I’m sitting safely with a dog, especially with a small dog with big round eyes and a soft tongue (not in my face), I feel myself healing.
I don’t understand the residues of my trauma, and I don’t understand this healing. I only know that they are so.
And maybe that’s how healing is: invisible, gradual, in the unknowable recesses of our brains, and gentle.