Where You Should Be

In the months leading up to my departure to Thailand, I’ve found myself in a constant state of “preparation”. Whether I am working practically every day to ensure I have the funds to leave, or spending my few and far between off days making sure everything is in place for me to live across the world- I am never not thinking of what needs to happen for me to make it over there. For someone who takes pride in living in the moment and knowing that she has no control over the future, this chick sure has been spending most of her time worrying about the damn future.

The realization that I had lost my sense of presence came in full force this past weekend on the way down to the Reservation for another spay and neuter weekend. It practically punched me in the stomach as I found myself, in the middle of the highway, kneeling over a dying horse that had been struck by a trailer in front of us. Even in that moment, I wasn’t fully there. It was mostly a blur. Gregg pulled over, and I followed him out the door into the middle of the highway. As he threw his body on the frantic creature that was struggling to his feet with four broken limbs, I followed suit and gained control of his neck and head. The rest of the team didn’t miss a beat. Steph helped control and comfort him to relax, while Ellie grabbed the appropriate drugs needed to help end the suffering of this poor boy. We were a well oiled machine that acted in the best way we knew how. I could see the pain and fear in this beautiful boys eyes, as we took away his pain before he had to bleed out on his own. None of us could have predicted that this would happen, yet here we were. After we helped the firemen remove his limp body from the road, we washed our hands with our water bottle from inside the rv. I had been so in the moment, I didn’t realize until after that I hadn’t put my shoes on, and my socks were no match for the blood that was coming from our unexpected patients body. As we drove off, we mostly sat in silence while we processed what had just happened. During many situations in animal rescue, your brain works in overtime to protect your heart until the job is done. I often don’t feel any sort of sadness when I have a patient in front of me, there is rarely time for that- I have a job to do. But as I sat on the floor of the rig in the pitch black, my brain was too exhausted to keep protecting my heart, and I felt it break almost instantly. It was in that moment, as I stared down at my blood tinged leggings, that that realization kicked in. There was no doubt in my mind that I was exactly where I needed to be. I had been so focused on Thailand, I had completely forgotten about what was right in front of me. It was as if the universe literally threw a thousand pound horse in my face to wake me up-and boy, did it work. Knowing that that horse would have died alone in the middle of the road if we weren’t there, it became sickeningly evident that I needed to be smacked back to the reality I was living at this moment, not my future one.

That weekend, I made it my own personal mission to take in every second with these people that had become my family. We sterilized a whole bunch of animals, saved a whole bunch of lives, and laughed through it all.

I quickly began to notice that through living in the moment again, it was as if the universe continued to show me things that I may not have noticed otherwise.

On the last day of surgery, I looked out the front windshield of the rig to find a family of eight feral dogs digging through the dirt and bare bushes in search of food. All were intermittently lifting their paws when they walked- the thorns and burrs were in full force. My heart dropped and became lighter all in one moment as I was immediately brought back to one of my first clinics as a student five years ago. I had gone out with Aaron during a clinic one day to do “field work” in hopes to catch some feral dogs. He will still to this day, talk about how he never expected the blonde chick in pink scrubs to be the first one to climb under the abandoned house to pull out feral puppies and their mom.

I remember that day like it was yesterday, and seeing this family right in front of me brought back every emotion possible. I ran inside to grab as much food as possible and made my way out to wear the family stood. They all began to scatter upon my arrival, but I ignored them and slowly dropped the mounds of dog food in separate piles around the area. It’s amazing, how I can spend twelve hours on the rig assisting with spay and neuter for the community, but that the five minutes I sat with those dogs meant more to me than I can put into words.

Later that day, Holly and I left the clinic and began to drive to the next location. It was dark, and we were deep in conversation. Apparently, we were so deep in conversation that we didn’t realize we had driven almost two hours in the wrong direction…we had made it to the Grand Canyon. It would have been too late to drive all the way back to where we were supposed to be, so we decided to stop halfway and wake up early the next morning to complete the drive. The Universe surely wasn’t finished with me just yet. With our hotel coffee in hand, a tripod pup in the back seat with his head rested between us, and her Bluetooth speakers as our music- we made our way through the desert. Her indie playlist made for the most magical background noise for the views surrounding us. The sun began to rise as we sat in awe of the the mountainous surroundings of red clay. I was completely beside myself with tears rolling down my face from gratitude as I heard her say,”my heart is so full”. We finished the two hour drive in almost complete silence as we just breathed and took in the moment- something I had not done in months.

The hurricane of emotions I experienced throughout the weekend reminded me to actually feel again. It is, indeed, possible, to work hard for what you want, without compromising the life you are living right now. I would give anything in this world to have that horse run another day, but through that unexpected loss, I gained a little of myself back. Life may not be where you want to be, but damn, is it exactly where you should be.

4 thoughts on “Where You Should Be

  1. Susan Mankin says:

    Beautifully written. I heard and felt your heart. Fur babies and humans have all been touched and benefited from your efficient medical knowledge and tender heart. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Jen Allen Castaneda says:

    Great writings. I appreciate not just your message byt want to thank you all for doing such amaxing thibgs for these beautiful creations. Im thankful as i know these animals are. Finding purpise in and being present is such a gift. One we often become to busy to realize we left the present behind. It stunts our growth and peace. Glad you are getting to enjoy this time with these people and animals!

  3. Wendy says:

    Alex – your dedication and warmth of heart for all of the animals you help are an inspiration to us all. From the bottom of our heart – Hopi dog rescue truly appreciates your story, your time and your commitment to the animals on the reservation that weekend – especially after such a traumatic experience. You have made untold many lives better in so many ways.

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