My dog Vincent is scared of the hardwood floors in our house – or at least he is scared when he remembers to be scared. Sometimes he forgets the web of danger he has spun and maneuvers the house stress-free, but most of the time the floor is lava.
Ironically, he is also head of security, but that’s only the exterior of the house. The interior is another ball game. The floor is always out to get him; it is slippery, suspicious and cunning and it makes him feel small. This wasn’t always the case. When the stork dropped baby Vincent at our house (he’s our actual sonas Max says), he wasn’t afraid of the floor. He didn’t have any problem navigating from room to room. But he had other bigger dangers to occupy his mind: is this my forever home? Are these people going to love and cherish me always or only until the next family comes along?
At this point in Vincent’s life, he’d already been through a considerable amount: cast out of his house, abandoned and then rescued. I don’t remember when the switch happened, when it became clear to Vincent that we are his forever family and that it was safe to generate new worry to replace the old. Maybe this is the dog version of video games or amusement park thrills or role play. My sister and I played hot lava when we were kids and I agree with Vincent that it’s a great way to stave off boredom.
It strikes me that my dog has an imagination, an incredibly active one. He dreams too. I like to think that in his dreams he’s valiant, heroic. In his security work in the garden, he often leaps through the air toward a perimeter breach – bold and furious – airborne. It’s spectacular to watch and life-affirming. But the tiny hallway from the living room to the bedroom is like the long walk a kid endures with a bully shadowing him. It’s serious business. Sometimes if the rugs we’ve placed like towels on hot sand aren’t in the exact right place, Vincent can’t face the journey.
He will cry or set out a few paces then freeze and sprawl; his worst fear manifesting. It is funny – which makes me feel dark and makes me wonder how I will be as a mother – but it’s also heartrending and real. Though I think (hope) in his heart of hearts Vincent knows his house isn’t booby-trapped and he is loved and protected beyond measure, he fearsthe floor is lava and so it is.
There’s no difference really. Our fears - confirmed or not – make our experience. I know not everything in my life makes sense, that some loss is irredeemable and that change is fucking hard. I know that I love my family and my family of friends and I know Max is my life’s greatest gift and Vincent is the kind of treasured companion no one deserves but everyone needs. And I also mostly know that things are okay. But I also mostly worry and fear that they are not okay – the floor that holds me up is also lava and as sure as my footing is, nothing is certain.
Vincent has a PSA for you: We are alive and that is notto be taken lightly and it is to be taken lightly. The floor is lava and compassion is a throw rug – every living things needs a soft place to land because we are all fighting our interiors and we need to help each other out.