Worth It

{Tilda hiking in Santa Barbara}

{Tilda hiking in Santa Barbara}

Until about ten days ago, my morning routine with Tilda was always the same: Take her out to our yard on a leash and spend the next five minutes trying to coax her into doing her business so I could take her back inside, feed her, and have my coffee. It wasn't especially pleasant or unpleasant, it was just what had to be done, the "logic" of doing it this way resting solely on my fear of her seeing a squirrel or a raven or a figment of her imagination, barking uncontrollably, and upsetting our neighbors at 7:00am.

Until ten days ago, that is, when we were outside, she saw something, barked uncontrollably and ran off. Which was the exact moment I realized her leash had gotten wrapped around my pinky finger.

After three hours in the Urgent Care Center and as many x-rays, I went home with a fractured pinky finger in a small silver splint, proof positive of what I'd been predicting for months, which is that it was only a matter of time before the Tilda Bear sent me to the hospital. She may be the sweetest, most fun-loving dog on earth, but she's a tank, so this latest development in the Tilda Chronicles was far from unexpected. 

But a funny thing happened in the midst of all this - I decided to stop living in fear of upsetting the neighbors. I realized I had created a less-than-ideal routine for Tilda and I because I was afraid they would get woken up, annoyed and angry. While this isn't an entirely unfounded fear - our neighbors have, at times, been less than patient with Tilda's tirades - I still understood that by making a decision based on fear, I was actually setting myself (and Tilda) up for the exact thing I was afraid of. Heading into our backyard with Tilda restrained on a leash, anxious about the possibility of her barking was - of course! - setting her on edge. Not wanting another broken finger - or worse - I realized it was time for a drastic change in my approach to our morning routine.

So this is what we do now:  I open the back door and let her out without a leash. I go outside with her, sit on a bench and watch her sniff around. I also watch the birds, the trees and the morning sky. I sit still, and I listen. And after she does her business, we go back inside, and I feed her. That's it; nothing to it. And on the day she sees a squirrel or a raven or a figment of her imagination and barks uncontrollably, all will still be OK. If it upsets the neighbors, I can't control that, just like I can't control all the other dogs in our little pocket of houses that - gasp! - bark from time to time.

It has been just over a week, and it's already a whole new world. I feel like I found another clue in the mystery of my relationship with Tilda, and another way to move more peacefully through this world. And it all came from the decision to let go of my fear of upsetting the neighbors; that was it, just release the fear.

So this fractured pinky of mine that is no longer in a splint but still quite tender, well, that was worth it. My finger will heal, and - more importantly - as a result of this mishap, my connection to Tilda and our home and this tiny part of the world has deepened, and that is the greater healing, that is the magical gift.

Christine Mason Miller

Santa Barbara, CA

Writer * Artist * Storyteller * Guide