The trouble with my hair is that I have a lot of it. Blondes have more hairs per square inch than brunettes. Did you know that? I have a fistful of hair, very thick stuff, and it is a wrestling match to blow it out in the morning. It is also very absorbent. I had one hairdresser tell me that she'd never seen anything quite like it. It takes a really long time to dry. So much so that my arm gets tired.
*Rubs arm and looks for sympathy. Finds none.*
And this hair is also unfortunately wavy, in all the wrong places, so I have to aggressively blow it out straight. I tug, I pull, repeatedly, trying to train it to lie straight. Then I flat iron the hell out of it, if I have time. On a humid August day like today, I walk out my door and the ends immediately start to curl, like the tendrils of a creeping vine.
So tomorrow is the hair appointment, and I've come to the momentous decision to cut quite a bit of it off. It goes past my shoulders right now, and I was thinking of even going to somewhere between my chin and shoulder.
Yes, above my shoulder. Scandalous.
Those of you who have made momentous decisions about your hair will not be surprised when I tell you what happened this morning. I blew out my hair, and it softly folded itself around my shoulders. The bangs that were in my eyes yesterday and curling up at the tips are now delicately framing my face. The back of my hair which is hard-to-reach and usually an unruly path of curls and frizz are now soft, golden waves of blondissimo.
In short, today I am Brigitte Bardot.
The day before my hair appointment. Isn't that always how it goes? You decide to cut your hair off and the day before the chopping block — your hair presents its best self. As if it is saying, "Look at how lovely I am! Look how soft! How perfect! How well-behaved! Please don't cut meeeeeeeee!"
The same thing happened with my dog.
I had a black lab named Odin who lived to be 16 years old. The last couple of years were rough, as you can imagine. He lost a lot of his muscle tone, he'd always been hard of hearing and now he'd gone completely deaf, and the cataracts in his eyes had rendered him legally blind (I'm guessing). I'm sure he couldn't drive.
But he was still my sweet black puppy and his tail would thump when he'd put his doggy head in my lap. It never seemed he was suffering to such an extent that I felt I was abusing him by prolonging his life. Besides, as a Buddhist, that whole "Do Not Kill" rule echoes in my mind, so I felt it was not my place to play Decider in the life of a dog. I wanted him to die a natural death, free from my having to make that choice.
Another year passed, and I went from having to find Odin in the backyard to place a gentle hand on his shoulder to let him know it was time to come in, to having to carry him down the three stairs that led out of the house. He'd lost some of the use of his hind legs, and the vet had assured me that it was not painful. At this point in his life, he had a degenerative disease of the spine, and he would gradually lose control of his body as the damage progressed up his spine.
"Will you tell me when he is suffering?" I asked her.
"I will," she said.
At one point I was convinced Odin could no longer continue in this condition, and it seemed selfish of me to keep him alive. I had another dog, a sweet German Shepherd named Elsa whom I was also concerned about. They were the best of companions, and I didn't want to leave Elsa alone in the house without her best friend.
Odin continued to lose muscle tone and weight, and when I lifted him to carry him down the stairs outside, he felt like a hollow bag of bones. I finally made the appointment with the vet to put him down. I was well aware of the "Do Not Kill" rule but the rule was based on the premise of not causing harm. So as far as I could see, I was causing more harm by allowing him to continue on like this.
The day before the appointment Odin perked up.
Oh, he was wiggly and waggily like a puppy. He was nosing me playfully and rolling over for me to rub his belly. He and Elsa were nipping at each other, and mouthing each other on the doggy bed they shared.
Jesus Christ Siddhartha Gautama.
What was I to do?
Curled up on the doggy bed, they both looked at me with wide, moist puppy eyes that seemed to say, "Please don't kill Odin. We love each other. We're happy. He's not suffering. Please Mommy, don't kill us."
And so I cancelled the appointment.
A couple of months later I had taken the day off of work after spending the entire night awake with Odin. He had lost control of his bodily functions, and I think he was sick. All night long I carried him in and out of the house. I sprayed Resolve Carpet Cleaner on the multitude of stains he had leaked that night. I washed and re-washed his doggy bed and various old comforters over and over again throughout the night, as each clean, warm bed was soon soiled and had to be changed again.
By that time it was pretty clear I was running a nursing home for dogs. I'm sure my friends thought I was nuts but no one was saying anything. Not to me, at least.
"Do you think I should put him down?" I'd ask.
"I don't know," they'd say.
"Do you think I'm making him suffer by letting him live?" I'd ask.
"I think you'll know when the time is right," they'd reply.
I'd ask the vet too, and she would say the same thing. She reassured me that his spinal degeneration was completely painless to him.
Until that night I did not believe my dog was suffering. When I came home at night and sat on his doggy bed, he'd rest his gray face in my lap and thump his tail. So long as he did that, I felt he was happy.
Until that night, my dog still had the energy to thump his tail. That night he did not. That night he was just a suffering bag of bones. In the morning, I call the vet, sobbing. I begged them to take us in immediately, and they did.
I cried as I patted Odin's face, my face next to his. I talked soothingly to him, "You're such a good boy, Odin. You've been such a sweet boy your whole life." Of course he was deaf and couldn't hear a thing. And he was pretty much blind so he probably couldn't see much of my face either. But he did feel my hands stroking his face — petting him as he sighed and softly went to sleep.
Today I am petting my hair.
I don't get the sense that it's suffering.
I may have to cancel the appointment.