A white dog getting very muddy at a sandy beach
Zelda at the beach

Yesterday was a completely fantastic and glorious day at the beach, except that at the end my beloved old dog tried to kill herself, which was… yeah. She totally freaked me out.

I’ve always liked that specific beach (Clam Beach) because I thought she could go off leash safely there. The canine dementia means she no longer responds to voice commands — not at all. She simply doesn’t understand language anymore. She still understands her hand signals, though, so mostly it’s not a big deal. I have to get her attention before I can tell her to do something, but she’s still very responsive.

Anyway, Clam Beach is huge with plenty of room to roam and good lines of sight. Also, she’s an old dog. When she’s off leash, she wanders around and maybe does a little bit of running now and then, but she moseys, she doesn’t run. I generally put her back on leash when we start to head for the parking lot, which is down a long sandy path.

Yesterday when we started back, she ran ahead of me. And then she just kept running. All the way down the path, into the parking lot, through the parking lot… and still she kept going. I didn’t start running after her until she was maybe twenty feet away from the parking lot, but then I was chasing her as fast as I could, screaming her name, as she ran out the parking lot, across the road, and then — thank God — hit the fence between the road and the highway and started running the wrong way down the fence. Or the right way, rather, because instead of turning right where she could have run straight up the exit and onto the highway, she turned left and ran down the road. She was at least ten car lengths ahead of me when she finally slowed down and started to look around with a, “huh, what am I doing here?” posture.

I squatted down in the middle of the road and waited. She finally looked back and saw me. She cocked her head to one side in that Jack Russell terrier way and I signaled her to come. She immediately started loping back to me. When she got to me, I snapped her leash on and informed her that she was now grounded for life. Then I realized that I actually probably could ground her for life, given that I’ve been expecting us to run out of time for years now. Literal years. She hasn’t run like that since the pit bull attack in the summer of 2018. I guess that means she’s recovered from that nightmare.

Every day, I start my morning with gratitudes and end my evening with appreciations. I don’t like them to be negative. Happiness comes from focusing on the good, not on the “well, it could be worse, I guess.” But last night I had to appreciate that my dog hadn’t died horribly, and this morning I was grateful for the very same thing. Also for her current state of health, which is completely mystifying, obviously poses unforeseen risks, but really quite lovely. If you had told me even yesterday morning that Zelda would run so far and so fast that I couldn’t keep up with her, I would have smiled and maybe given a half-hearted chuckle. As if! But life is strange and we are so, so lucky.

While we were at the beach, I was singing to myself, in the way one does on a glorious, isolated beach, and I started singing a half-remembered song from the musical Alice in Wonderland, in which I played Alice when I was in 4th or 5th grade. The specific lines that came back to me were, “I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.” It made me think about my eight-year-old self and wonder what advice she would give me if she could meet the me of now. A lot of people seem to feel like they are the same person that they were as children, but I don’t feel that way at all. Eight-year-old Me had a blithe confidence that Now Me lacks. (This is not me being mean to Now Me, incidentally: I’m not wallowing in regrets about my life or anything.)

Later in the day, I was reading Banish Your Inner Critic, which finally made it to the top of my TBR pile, and reached an exercise about creating an imaginary Creative Coach. A person — real, historical, fictional, whatever — visualized with all the senses, to replace the Inner Critic that shuts us down. Someone who will be warmly encouraging. My Inner Critic is not actually mean to me very often — she doesn’t say “you’re a lousy person” or that kind of thing — but she very often says things like, “that line is terrible, you’re making no sense, no one will understand that, totally clunky,” and so on. She’s a harsh critic, not of my person, but of my writing. Anyway, I considered a few options for my Creative Coach, but it didn’t take long before I remembered my 8-year-old self. I think if my 8-year-old self could give me advice, it would be exactly the kind of creative coaching advice I need. The very least of what she would give me is gushing approval of the story I’m writing now, which rational me keeps thinking is never going to sell and is probably pointless to keep writing. But my 8-year-old self likes it a lot and I think, today at least, I am going to listen to her.