April 14, 2020
Beth and I have a dog named Maddie. She is a Black Mouth Cur (we think). She is by far and away the BEST DOG IN THE WORLD! All right you cat, bird, bunny, et al. lovers, don’t feel left out! Treat the content herein as DOG as we understood DOG.
Maddie is in a long line of the best dogs in the world. Each one of them has been the best. My first best dog was Laska, a beautiful white Samoyed. Next came Samantha, a black Lab who came into my life a couple of years before I entered into recovery. She came from one of my drinking buddies. She was named after the character in the TV series, Bewitched. She taught me a lot about playfulness, loyalty, commitment to a relationship, asking for what she needed and gratitude when she got it; which is to say she taught me a lot about love.
Samantha was definitely the best dog in the world. Okay, I admit. The same is true for my sweetie, Beth’s dogs. They were all the best dogs in the world. I only got to meet Annie. She was a Chow mix, with an Orphan Annie red hair colored coat. The first time I met her she eyeballed me very closely. I don’t think she liked me very much. She didn’t need to speak English to let me know I better be nice to Beth or suffer the consequences. Beth lived in Chico at the time and when we talked on the phone, I would sign off by singing to Annie. “Annie, Annie, bo panie, banana fanna fo fanny, fee fi fo little many…….ANNIE (Repeat)…then “How ‘bout savin’ some of those keeses (kisses) for me……Woooo. The next time I went to Chico to visit Beth, Annie looked out the open door to see who had arrived. I hid behind the car in the driveway and sang her the song she had heard every day for a couple of weeks. She trotted out to greet me and we got to be great friends. Isn’t it amazing what loving DOG can do!
Before Beth and I got together, my canine companion was Gracie. Her official name was Amazing Grace the Fabulous Pit Bull. Getting a Pit Bull was my wife at the time’s idea. I would never have chosen that breed. As it turned out, Gracie was the best dog in the world. She was a rescue dog who loved people. Unfortunately, she never could accept other dogs. So, when Beth and I got together, we had to keep Gracie and Annie separated, which was very hard because they were each the best dogs in the world. In an odd way, they taught us how to work together, negotiate and learn about safety in our house, both realistically and metaphorically. After a few years of their teaching us, it became time for them to go to DOG heaven within 6 months of each other. It was hard to imagine getting a new addition to the family. As you know, grieving takes what it takes. After a time, it became harder to imagine not having a companion, so we agreed to think about looking for the next best dog in the world.
We started noticing other people walking their dogs. One of my quirks is I have my own words for people, places, things and animals as you can see from the song for Annie. Somewhere or another, I came up with a private name for the dogs we encountered. I called them Ruttlers. We would be driving along and one of us would spot a dog. If it was me, I would say, “Ruttling.” It came to be a catch word to stop what we were doing and appreciate other people’s best dogs in the world. Anyway, the time came to welcome that new addition to our family. We went to shelters and dog placement areas like “Pet Smart.” Lots of wonderful, Ruttlers, but nothing that barked to us.
One day, I got a call from our friend Diana, who worked at an animal rescue shelter in Fresno, CA. Beth’s employers have a tiny Maltese named Freya, who is the best dog in the world. I had never heard the name Freya. When Diana sent a picture of a dog in the Fresno Shelter, the name sign on top of the kennel read "Freya". I texted Beth the picture. I almost had to restrain her from leaving for Fresno at the first opportunity. “It was cosmic”, she said. “You know, meant to be!” She set down the rules saying, “We are going to Fresno and we are going to be the first ones there on adoption morning.,,,,first in line…..the second they open!” Beth’s as close to a pacifist as there is, but she was ready to fight for that dog. So, we got up at 4:00AM for a two-hour drive to be to the shelter by 8:00AM. It was like getting in line for limited release tickets to the Stones or the World Series. I Love her passion for DOG.
Before we left the shelter as proud adoptive parents, we decided on the name Maddie. She is named after the now former San Francisco Giants fantastic pitcher Madison Bumgarner. Guess whose idea that was? Before we got home from Fresno it was obvious, we had the best dog in the world! There was some evidence that her first year of life had challenges. She needed lots of reassurance that her surroundings were safe and, most of all, permanent. She wanted us as much as we wanted her. Her breed is in the hound family from the Southern United States. They are horse herders and family protectors. It is said they climb trees. She is afraid of loud bangs, like when firecrackers go off. The other side of that is she is very protective of us. She wants more of everything she likes. More is better. She loves people we love and greets with a full body wag. She is definitely the best dog in the world.
Okay, there must be a recovery tie-in somewhere in this story. Well there is! I got to thinking about something I hear frequently in meetings from people who move out of the area they got sober in. It’s common to hear things like, “It’s not the same here; These meetings don’t do it the right way; I can’t find a sponsor as good as the one I lost when I moved.” You’ve undoubtedly heard similar shares. They describe being part of the best meeting(s) in the world in past tense. It is hard to imagine finding the next best meeting in the world anywhere unless we finally let ourselves become “part of” in our new home environment.
I can relate. From 1988-2001, I was in a structured, socially oriented group experience. It was a multi-meeting fellowship, 32 per week. We had barbeques, formed sports teams, duked it out in monthly business meetings, even ran an annual weekend mini-conference. I came to cherish something it took me a while to understand, which is to say I was part of the experience I never had in my youth, growing up. For many of us it was the root of our need for connection. It is rite of passage stuff. When I came to the Central Coast, things were different. Things were not the same. They didn’t do it right. I couldn’t find a sponsor. So, what’s the good part? I didn’t drink or use between the meetings I had trouble adjusting to. That was the best news in the world. In addition, I worked the Al Anon program with gratitude of being a double winner. Al Anon goes a long way in keeping Alcoholics sane. Imagine that.
Thank DOG over time, things changed. I have come to believe that each meeting I attend is the best meeting in the world. Never mind the quirks, the new impossible personalities, the way the old guard does things. It’s just another example of me wanting the world to be a certain way so I can be okay. You know that powerlessness thing.
The Zoom meetings have really helped bring a great perspective to being in the best meetings in the world. We are a large bunch of renegades, and we don’t want to be told what to do, period. Yet, when our lives may depend on it, like surrender in early recovery, it’s a little easier to listen to what to do. Lockdown has made following directions a lot easier, even though it’s against our nature.
Because of my vocation, I’ve been fortunate, blessed actually, to meet people and go to meetings all over the planet. Zoom meetings make this possible without travel expenses. I get a chance to relate to people deeply. I’m less distracted by what I must do after the meeting. I get to say “Thank you for helping me,” and hear people say “Thanks for helping me.” I get to understand it’s up to me to relate to everyone as the best meeting participants in the world.
Every day when Beth and I wake up, Maddie is there with a smile and full body wag. She loves and gets love. She lays down in between us as we go through a daily ritual, looking in each other’s eyes to start the day with prayers. Then we discuss coming events and our plans for the day. We know for sure that Maddie is the best dog in the world.
These days we go to a variety of Zoom meetings. At the meetings, we look into each other’s eyes, pray and listen to discussions of current situations in recovery from our brothers and sisters in the program. They are the best meetings in the world; a constant reminder the DOG is in charge. Thank GOD.