I'm a list-maker, a planner, an organizer. So when I was planning the move from the family home to my own apartment during the divorce, I made my lists and I budgeted money and I plotted and planned. Utilities, insurance, bank accounts: check, check, check. Movers, friends pressed into service, cold bottles of water: check, check, check.
The one thing I hadn't counted on was: stairs. It made sense, the stairs, and the second-story apartment. A woman alone is safer and as an apartment-dwelling friend pointed out, the second story had less parking lot noise and no headlights in the windows as neighbors came and went, was less expensive than the first floor but not as hot as the third. It made sense, and I like sense. But my dog, Tasha, had never lived with stairs.
A word or thirty about Tasha: she is the best dog ever. Ever. She is smart, mostly obedient, beautiful and about the friendliest dog one will ever meet. Every man, woman or child Tasha encounters is greeted as a long-lost friend. She wiggles and squirms, her little stub of a tail becoming almost invisible, like hummingbird's wings, with the joy of meeting every new person. I daily believe that Tasha has a lot to teach me about Life, the Universe, and Everything. But stairs brought Tasha no joy.
The trouble started on moving day. A scheduling error on the part of the movers had but a large monkey-wrench in my carefully crafted plan, so I was already frayed about the edges. My team of beloved friends did their best to soothe me and keep things light, Stephen & Ann assuring me that no matter how dirty we were at the end of the day, we were going to Italian Villa and it was their treat. The thought of pasta cheered me as always, the movers finally showed up and loaded my few pieces of furniture into the truck, Maggie called from the apartment and said my new bed had arrived and we seemed to be back to plan. I like Plan.
Tasha came with me, of course. She had been a bit nervous all day with the hullabaloo at the house and nervous energy I was exuding, but she bounded out of the car and sniffed excitedly at this new place, which is what any sensible dog does. We led the way for the two nice Hispanic men moving the furniture; she had entertained them with her three tricks at the house and they were already old friends. Up the stairs we marched, the younger, handsome mover with my large green chair on his back and his cell phone cradled against his shoulder as he cajoled someone I supposed to be his girlfriend given the number of times I heard "Mi Amor" said persuasively. Five steps up, Tasha stopped. Stopped absolutely, resolutely, gave me one panicked look and sat. Sat like a stone sits. I tugged and cajoled from above, begging in English for her to come up, the poor mover had a chair on his back. The mover cajoled from below, in Spanish, and Tasha was now "Mi Amor" as he pleaded with her to get a move on. I finally had to pick her up and carry her up the stairs.
Another few words about Tasha: she is not small. As near as the Humane Society could tell, she is a mix of Australian Shepherd and Rottweiler. Fighting weight for Tasha is 50 - 55 lbs. So when I bent and lifted her from the step below me, I prayed my back would not choose moving day to go out. It didn't.
The next few days were... interesting. Tasha quickly learned to go down the stairs, but it was a fight to get up them the first couple of times and the second day, as we returned from the morning constitutional, she balked. As we approached the stairs she turned her back on them and sat. Wouldn't look at them, wouldn't go up them. Period. Tasha, come! I said, first sweetly, then impatiently, finally tearfully. Tasha wouldn't come. So I carried her up the stairs, every time we went out, for three days.
The third day, as I carried the 55 pounds of squirming, unhappy Tasha up the stairs, I lost it. The tears that had been threatening for well before the move started flowing and by the time I got to the apartment I was a mess. Tasha sat patiently by me as I cried, and I stroked her head and hugged on her, wondering what the hell I was going to do about this mess. I hadn't planned on this, and I knew I couldn't carry her upstairs forever. I hadn't planned to ever be divorced and living in an apartment and what if she couldn't make the adjustment? So I cried and she leaned on me in the way she does, quiet and loving and not understanding, but there for me.
The next morning, we went out for our walk. We got to the stairs; she turned her back and sat, not looking at them. I felt the tears threaten, but I had nothing but time, so I stood on the first step and waited. Tasha, come. I waited, and she came and stood with me on that first step. I took the next step, and waited. Some seconds later, she did, too. And so we went one step at a time, until we made it to the top.
One step at a time. That's how I'm taking this new life. Like I said, I think Tasha has a lot to teach me.