Forgiving what I took to heart


I love my dog more than life itself
and I’m not afraid to say it.
I think in the absence of the real thing,
she is my human child.

Some days, like today,
my love actually hurts:
a pain behind my ribcage,
wide and deep.

I think of my friends with babies
and I don’t know how they manage.
A cut lip would destroy me.
A sprain, and I would be a wreck.

And what of something serious,
like a virus or a disease?
I could never cope with compromised
or malfunctioning bits.

And yet I have –
in my own way,
on a much smaller scale:
navigating a broken tail,

fixing a dislocated knee,
treating a suspected heart murmur,
a skin parasite;
seeing her through hepatitis and gallstones.

We’ve been through a lot, her and I,
and so far we’ve survived.

I look to my parents with added respect,
only now understanding their challenges,
forgiving what I took to heart,
loving what I hated.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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