I have heard it said that a person has three loves, one for each “season” of life. A person meets their “first love” the one that is new and crazy, then “committed love” steadfast through marriage and children, and lastly “final love” rich from learned lessons carrying through their last days. This concept had me thinking this afternoon as I watched Miss Stella and Sadie Lou run in the back yard together. Watching them play, I could not help but think of Maggie Mae. Having Maggie Mae, then Sadie Lou, and now, Miss Stella it struck me that maybe this applies to more than just the “loves of our lives.” Maybe it could be the dogs in a person’s life. Seriously. Corny, yes but think about it.
My “first season” was Maggie Mae. She came into my life at a time of absolute craziness. I was a young graduate student as was my “first and committed love” that had been around since, oh, forever. He was driving to a nearby town every weekend to finish the degree. Everything was new, fresh, and crazy. We had no family help with raising our twins and trying to hold down jobs and graduate all at the same time. We were on our own. Literally. And we got a dog. A beautiful black lab. I had wanted her for years, so much so, that my girls and I already had her named long before she became a part of our family. She was crucial for me in that she made me feel safe when I was alone with the twins on the weekends. When I was wore down to the bone weary tired, she would manage to pull me along and keep me going. She was the first pup of the twins’ and allowed them to discover what it was like to have a big dog in ways that only young children do…crawl on her, play with her, dress her in sun glasses, etc. Maggie was there as a “buddy” for the twins to discover what it is like to be young and crazy with a big pup in your life.
After graduate school was complete and moving into a new home, Maggie Mae was in her prime. At this point, we added Sadie Lou to the mix. The twins were at the age when most youngsters want a puppy even though we had this huge dog already. We agreed that Maggie could probably use a friend to play with but the twins would have to save up to pay for half of any expenses and be completely committed to the responsibilities of taking care of a dog. We did not think they would really stick to the plan and thought that a second dog was way off in the future. Wrong. They did it. They saved more than half. We had to follow through with our word and we did. My “second season” pup, Sadie Lou, was “their dog” but as all parents know, that lasts for about half a second in a youngsters world and eventually the responsibility falls to the parent. Sadie Lou came into our lives to help me teach my children. Maggie and Sadie became close buddies and patrolled our home to keep us all safe. They often displayed behaviors that taught our twins how to handle relationships. They played well together and had each other for company while the rest of us were off at school and work during the day. As time marched on and all of us aged, the twins began to slowly realize how little they contributed to the care taking of Sadie, and even more so of Maggie (although they were too young in the beginning for her care). Sadie was passing her “prime” and Maggie was now a senior citizen. Most often, we all figure things out a half a second too late and this was true with the twins and these two pups. Watching Maggie slow down and gray, they began to try to spend more quality time with her as well as Sadie Lou. They became more responsible for their basic needs. Witnessing this transition from dependent young children into teenagers with concern about another living being’s quality of life and care was a rare gift. This lesson could not be taught, it had to be experienced.
It is often difficult for a parent to watch their child make painful discoveries that cannot be made better with just a kiss and a band-aid. Realizing a little too late that time is short and not reversible, they saw how close to the end Maggie was and it hurt them to think they may not have given all that they could have to her. Of course they were told that they were very young when she arrived, it takes time and a bit of growing up to realize that life is fleeting, and there are no “redo’s.” They started spending more quality time with both the pups and tried to make “amends” as much as possible. However, as we all know you get but one chance in this world. We have to live, learn, and make any changes needed. Once Maggie was gone, all of us being devastated to lose her, we refocused how we spent our time with Sadie. This “second season” pup reaped the benefits of important life lessons and taught many as well. She has helped me let my own children learn from their mistakes and make amends and changes for their own futures.
After months of being at a loss from losing Maggie, we started to realize that Miss Sadie was alone when we were at work and school. Even though she seemed to enjoy the increase in attention and had to share it with no one, she often seemed lonely and as if she was in need of a fellow companion. She had always had a buddy and now she did not. We were in need of some joy in our home. Silly as it seems, losing Maggie tilted our world just a tad out of whack. The balance was off and we needed a change. Our twins were in college, life was moving forward, and we were crazy enough to think, “Let’s add a dog to this picture…again.” And we did. A big dog. Actually, a very big dog. Miss Stella Rae. This sweet creature sashayed her furry body right into all of our hearts. Never forgetting the lessons grief provides (Maggie Mae), or the importance of loving what you already have with all that you have (Sadie Lou), Miss Stella Rae has allowed us to begin the process of letting go and letting life breathe again. This “third season” pup reminds us that even with loss and sadness, life offers joy and hope. Her huge personality and presence influences our days in such ways that we cannot help but rediscover the good in this life, the happiness in the midst of change.
First seasons are for beginnings, the new, and the chance to learn and make mistakes. Second seasons allow for making changes in ourselves based on earlier mistakes in our lives. Third seasons give breadth and depth to our lives reminding us that life is full and for living to the best of our abilities.
Whatever form our “Three Seasons” may be, these gifts ought to be treasured.