October 15, 2017
As I emerged from a post-cardiac arrest into recovery, the overwhelming question I asked my doctors was, "what can't I do?" To their credit, they resisted giving a specific answer. As I work through my cardiac rehab, it has allowed me to check off more and more things from the "Can't Do" list. Within a week or two of rehab, I found I could mow the yard, at least the front yard. Within a couple of weeks, I could mow the whole yard. With one more week of cardiac rehab to go, I now know that I can play racquetball again, the kind of intense 90 minute racquetball that beats a treadmill, elliptical or exercise bike any day of the week.
Cocky, I might believe there is nothing I can't do in my post-cardiac life. That is almost true.
I have learned that while my heart beats stronger, it feels weaker. Losing my beloved dog Sylvester in the last week makes me think I can't love a new dog. But I can't let Marcus, our other dog, continue to live the rather sedate life he has taken on since Sylvester got ill and passed away. Now my wife and I engage in an endless search for a dog, scouring the local animal shelters, humane societies, and pet rescues. And we are quickly learning that we can't save them all, no matter how much they need.
We saw a beautiful Rottweiler with cruciate ligament problems. Even to adopt her would require a $3000-$5000 investment in surgery; given that she was not even 2 years old, we worried that she would be a lifetime of love buried in medical fees. It was our long-term vet who put it so clearly: "You can't save them all!"
A Plott Hound mix drew our attention, a silly big mutt named Charlene. The quintessential puppy, she leaped 4 or 5 feet in the air, and bounced around the little visitation room at the shelter. All I could see were tables being cleared, chain link fence being scaled, and my wife, recovering from knee replacement surgery in November, knocked down and knocked out by Charlene. Again, "you can't save them all."
Then yesterday, we visited with Hercules, a Collie mix, a true gentle old soul. Hercules appeared to be the blond version of Sylvester. He had the same white apron down his chest, the white footies, and the bark-less chill. As we came back today to introduce him to Marcus, I believed I had come to see that blond could be better than black. And then he growled, and backed away from Marcus, and wanted nothing to do with him. And we walked away empty-handed. "You can't save them all, David."
What I have now come to know is that it's not just all the dogs I cannot save. There are friends and colleagues who battle their own demons, demonstrate their own weaknesses, confront their own doubts, inside or outside of my realm of influence -- You who may leave, you who may stay, you who may be asked to go, you who may stick around too long. It is my nature to want to help, but there are too many of them, too little of me. The weight starts to cause me to cant, threatens to make me fall. I have to walk away from their cages and their shelters.
And I can't believe I now admit this. But, I can't save them all.