Last year was the first time I thought to offer up summer camp to Sage. (I know. He was 13.) Parenting fail, perhaps, or maybe just a different path and a different reality. Regardless, I finally jumped on the bandwagon and offered up camp.
What he chose, of course, was nothing that resembled the swimming and archery and arts and crafts and a cabin in the woods that you might expect. What he chose was to hang with a bunch of grown-ups and forge hot steel in northern Wisconsin.
And last week we set off once more to do it again.
The story I wanted to tell you is about blacksmithing and all of the things that Sage and the others created there in the forge. But that feels a little disingenuous to me, as it wasn't the dominant thread of the weekend. Because in the midst of us going to blacksmith, there was a lot going on at home.
So in the interest of honesty, here goes.
Charlie, my dog, was very sick and I worried he might not survive the four days we'd be gone. He's not an old dog, just 4 years old, but his kidneys were shutting down from a Lyme disease co-infection. Kidneys are important, as you know, and we were seeing the toll your body takes when they don't function.
Pete and I talked about trading places and me staying home instead, but there were pasture rotations for cows and sheep on the docket, and IV fluids to administer and I wasn't sure I'd be able to handle those things on my own. So with the heaviest of hearts and all the optimism we could muster, Sage and I said goodbye to Charlie, Pete, and Lupine and set off for the forge.
By late afternoon on Thursday we had arrived and made camp. Sage was in his element and we settled into the groove of our blacksmithing weekend. But all the while, my heart was with Charlie and my mind was on his condition. Unlike last year, I never lifted a hammer. (The dinner bell/triangle I made last year is still without a striker.) To distract myself I knitted a few rows, carved a bit, and took some photos. My weekend buddy (the host blacksmith's young daughter) would occasionally ask me, "Did your dog die yet?" "No," I told her. "Not yet. But maybe tonight."
Finally on Friday night things became rather dire at home. Charlie had taken a turn for the worse and Pete was sure he was nearing the end. I told Sage that I just couldn't be away any more. If Charlie survived the night we would leave early the next morning to either say our goodbyes or do what we could help him heal.
Early that morning I called Pete, certain of what he would say, but amazing us all, Charlie was still hanging on. Sage and I packed up our gear and hurried toward home.
We were a sorry sight on the highway that morning, me worrying about my dog and feeling bad for pulling Sage away early; Sage being disappointed to miss half of his gathering and worried about our dog.
Back home I was beyond grateful to see Charlie's sad puppy dog eyes staring up at me. We are grateful for each small glimmer of hope that he might still rebound, and for brief moments of improvement. I can see that he's still in there. He's just working hard to keep his head above the surface.
We're doing everything that we can for him from pharmaceuticals to herbs; acupuncture to reiki; massage to visualization.
I'm not sure why I felt compelled to share this with you, except to say that no, life doesn't always go according to plan. And while I was very disappointed for Sage, missing out on 1 1/2 days of his annual event, I think there are good lessons in putting down what we want in order to care for someone else in need.
And also, sweet friends, Charlie would welcome all the kidney-healing goodness that you can send his way. Lots of light and healing energy for this sweetest of dogs. I'm feeling optimistic that he might still come back from this, but we could use some good mojo reinforcements. Thanks friends. Life is messy, isn't it?