The Story of Flanagan
“I been in the right place, but it must of been the wrong time.” Dr. John 1973
Our joyous Australian Shepherd friend Flanagan is gone - he’s in a new home now, and he’s very happy. We’ll never see him again. The pain of this experience is beyond description, but the joy is so very comforting. We will never forget what he brought with him, what he took with him, and what he left behind. This is a story about a dog. If you don’t care about dogs, I can’t help you. If you see yourself as a judge of dogs or dog behavior or how to raise a dog, I’m sorry because I can help you even less. If you love dogs because they are dogs, this is my story of Flanagan. Deb already did a post, but I could not sit quietly.
Some of you know we had two dogs. Atticus and Flanagan. Great dogs both of them. Atticus is a prince. Flanagan dreams of one day being a prince.
When we realized we were moving to Mexico, we were stunned when we both realized we could not take Flanagan with us. The move and the transition would simply be too much to deal with. Flanagan’s personality was simply not a fit for where we were going in Mexico. He was a great and loving dog, but for the environment we are heading into, the pressures on both Flanagan and us would have been too much. The harshness of this reality was just overpowering. He was a stunning dog but in order to respect his future and ours, we had to let him go, and we somehow had to find the perfect home for him, where he could run and play, and maybe have another dog friend, and good people around him, who had the environment and the desire to care for a special dog, so he could live happily and grow and prosper. He deserved every bit of the opportunity we could not provide him in the cloistered world of living in the city and then moving to another country/city.
Deb has many connections in the Australian Shepherd community and just when we felt most lost and disheartened by dead ends regarding potential future homes for Flanagan, a trainer/breeder friend stepped in and literally saved everything. She found a perfect couple. A retired policewoman and her partner, who already own a young female Aussie from the same breeder. They have a farm with cows and horses and 50 acres in the country. Paradise for a dog named Flanagan. The trainer thought these folks would be a perfect fit for him and a smooth transition. They loved Flanagan from the first moment they met. He has now been gone a month and his new parents have decided that the test is over with. Flanagan likes their other dog and loves his new home. He’s learning to tolerate the cat:-). He gets to run in fields and come home to love. When we got the news the test had worked, Deb and I were overcome with emotion. Thrilled beyond words for Flanagan, and speechless that he was never coming home and we’d never see him again.
The only way I can describe or rationalize this is to compare it with a talented professional athlete who plays for one team and it’s not a good fit. The team decides to trade this person to another team. Nothing changes except the change in scenery, when suddenly, for no apparent reason, the athlete is reborn and eventually becomes a famous ball player. You just never know. Sometimes all it takes is a change and a new perspective. Flanagan has a new home that he loves, and we could not be happier about it. In the end, no matter what the circumstance or the emotions, the only thing that matters is the happiness of a truly stunning dog. That’s all we care about and all that matters.
I have spiritual friends who believe joy and pain are the same – mirrored reflections of each other. They would say in order to experience a full life, we have to embrace and accept both, as we would embrace any close relative, lover or friend, because in the end pain and joy are each other. They are inseparable. They are us. And boy is that a bitch or what? Exactly how does one stab a knife into your own heart and in the same moment smile to greet the day? How the hell do you accomplish that? Some people may claim they are built of such strong stuff, but myself, I find such feats to be superhuman. I don't have the courage. It stretches beyond my furthest reach, and I'll never get to that level of grace. At best, all I can do is endure, not because I’m strong, but rather because I simply have no choice in the matter. I just sit here by myself, at the window in the early morning dark - sipping tea and waiting for the sun to come up through the evergreens – seeing Flanagan move through every shadow now, just beyond my reach, just beyond my desire to give him a good morning scratch behind his ears. I’m engulfed in tears and engulfed in joy.
So tonight I’ll have a Manhattan and a toast to Flanagan. If you’re inclined, please give him your thoughts for just a second, please. He’s a good boy. As all dog people know, dogs know more than we do about the most important things in life. He taught me about hope. He taught me about loyalty. He taught me about simple joys. He taught me to forgive. Even more importantly, he taught me to forgive myself. He taught me to be patient. He taught me to love unconditionally. He taught me to be myself. I can never repay him for those gifts. I can only try to use his examples in my own life, and I will try.
I'm putting up a couple of photos of the boys. One taken very early on when Atticus decided to be an adult and Flanagan wasn't exactly sure what he was. The other is a new photo. The shot of Flanagan in the snow looking up is the one I will remember most. It was taken by his new parents at their farm, during this recent snow we had. I know that look. I saw it every day for six years when he looked up to me and licked my hand, as I sat there in the early morning dark. I can tell. He’s at ease. He’s totally focused. His ears say he's cautious and maybe a little submissive, but he's hopeful and he's good. He desperately wants to do the right thing right now. He is a coiled spring of energy, and he is a spirit on the rise. Flanagan is at home now.
God, I don’t know why a person thinks of things when they think of things. I’m sitting here at one of the sadder points in my life and I’m laughing a little bit at this photo of Flanagan in the snow. Actually, I’m remembering my dad many years ago, when I was maybe ten years old. He’d had a little too much to drink after dinner, and he was joking about with his lifelong fishing buddy Carl. They didn't know I could hear them talking in the next room. They were joking about odd dog behavior in the winter, and they were laughing silly at one another. My dad looked at Carl and said “You know, I’ve never been able to figure out how male dogs can sit there forever with their balls in ice and snow, and not whimper or panic at least a little bit fer Christ sakes! That takes some balls, you know what I’m saying?” Carl almost fell off his chair laughing. I’ve waited almost 62 years to use that quote, and Flanagan gives me a shot at it today. Damn straight.
Goodby sweet prince. God speed. I love you Flanagan