... Memories, inspired by the events of January 20, 2021...
[Nyerges is an educator and author of nearly two dozen books, including “Extreme Simplicity,” “How to Survive Anywhere,” and others. Information on his classes and books is available at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.]
Over 20 years ago, when I was living in Highland Park, my wife and I wanted to get another dog as a companion for the one dog we already had. We were away from home a lot, and we felt that our one dog would not feel lonely and would feel content with another dog. We went to a lot of dog rescue places, and were starting to feel that we simply would not find the right dog. Finally, one night, we decided to accept a dog which seemed to have been abused, and which needed a good home. The dog’s name was Mona. Mona was a bit older than we were looking for, but she seemed very appreciative towards us as we were taking her to her new home.
We did our best to help Mona fit in, but she really was what you might call a “problem dog.” Initially, we attributed it to the fact that she had been abused when younger, in various ways. I recall the first bath I gave Mona, which actually seemed like the first bath she ever received. She didn’t ever like being in a bath, and I always had to struggle to keep her in the tub.
Very soon, Mona because very protective of us, and would wildly bark anytime anyone approached our front gate. She would throw herself against the gate with such great intensity that her mouth would be bleeding and people never got close to the gate. Neighbors spoke about our “killer dog.”
We quickly saw that Mona might not work out, and tried to find another home for her. Various people came and sat with Mona, trying to see if it was a good fit. But she always maintained a low unfriendly growl, and no one could grow close to her, and we never found her another home.
She got along well enough with our other dog, but I always felt very alert whenever I walked her, keeping on a harness and using two leashes so she didn’t get away and wreak havoc on the neighborhood. Once, a dog not on a leash approached her, despite my trying to scare the stray away. Mona went right for the neck of the little dog, and was only able to tear the little dog’s flexible skin before I could pull Mona away. I was horrified.
I continued to walk Mona and try various ways to “civilize” her. But while walking her, she would often snap back at me and bite me. I was bit four times, mostly superficial cuts that ripped my pants or shirt. I learned to be more careful when I walked her, because I realized her own neck skin had been cut at one time, and it probably hurt her every time I walked her with a neck collar.
During the time we had Mona, I lost a full-time job and by this time, we actually had three dogs, which means, three dogs to feed. It now became even harder to come up with the money to buy all the dog food, and I found sources of low-cost and even free pet food in the community. I knew that whatever happened, I would not take Mona to the pound, which almost certainly meant sure death.
Mona was always a challenge, and I always had to check my fences for weak spots because I always feared that if she got out and killed a neighbor’s dog, or attacked a person, the financial aspect alone would be devastating. Fortunately, nothing bad like that ever happened. Still, I was never at ease, never calm, never letting down my guard as long as we had Mona. We got so used to living in subdued stress and fear that we felt it was “normal.”
Eventually, Mona was displaying some obvious signs of pain and distress. I took her to our veterinarian. The vet told me that Mona had a certain infection, and that he could operate and fix the condition. Mona would cost me another $1000, but I said OK. He called me later to let me know that Mona died on the table, before the operation could begin. Obviously, I was sad. I went to pick up Mona’s body and I buried her under a fruit tree near where her doghouse had been. My wife and I went to bed and slept well.
The next morning, we stood in our front yard looking out into the neighborhood. There was no Mona. We expressed our sadness for her loss and for the hard life that she’d had. We also noted that suddenly, inexplicably, a deep transformation of the atmosphere had taken place. We noted a feeling of calm, and peace, and that we were not experiencing inner anxiety at whatever might happen next if Mona got out. It was an odd mixture of sadness for that being we took in, and simultaneously calmness, freedom, peace. We stood there for perhaps 30 minutes, basking in the mixed atmosphere of both sadness, and calm joy. A feeling of calm descended upon us.
I have not had that particular unique feeling for a very long time. The memories of Mona flooded back to me at noon, Wednesday, January 20, 2021.