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A Toast To The Three-Legged Dogs

A chapter in - The Grateful Soul book


I fumble into my bikini in the dark, feeling for the tags so I don’t wear it inside out again. Quietly, so not as to wake my husband, I fill my shoulder bag with a laptop and phone, draping a long-sleeved shirt around the strap before adjusting my crutches. I clop out into the twinkling dark.

Hop, clop, hop, clop. I light some candles and cautiously inspect my shirt for scorpions.

I grin at the quickly fading stars, climb into my rocking chair with one foot propped on a stack of pillows and enjoy my tea, as night recedes and the quick tropical change to a new day begins.

Dawn is my favorite hour, especially in our heart-home of northern Nicaragua.

Life can be a bit wild here in the campo and it’s certainly not for everyone. We live in a place that is open-air except for the bedrooms. Bats sleep in the palm-frond roof, a resident skunk occasionally cruises through the kitchen and opossums race each other in the ceiling of our spare room.

As dawn light sweeps across the sky, I see my dog finishing her perimeter check of our property. She stops and spends a moment hanging out with the rooster, Bartolito, and the cat, Mousing. They must have called a truce for the morning.

A swath of ants move their eggs to a new location. Normally, this would not be weird, but they’re coming from under our couch, moving through the kitchen and out beneath a rock by the BBQ. I cheer them on and snort at how stupid I must look, my mouth agape at the wonder of their efficiency. An industrial half-hour of work and they are gone without a trace.

My attention is drawn outward and I notice our neighbors' pig as she ambles down to the water's edge and rolls around happily in the tropical sea. A herd of escaped horses cruise the beach.

From the field behind us, grackles and turtledoves stop on the edge of our pool to wash their peanuts or worms. They fluff their feathers and bathe thoroughly before taking off to their secret home.

I notice and cherish all of these things. I’ve achieved one of my biggest life goals: to live in the tropics for chunks of the year. A simple life of flip flops, few cloths, and time to enjoy the special moments that are sometimes missed when living a busy life elsewhere.

This year, that lifestyle is somewhat different than expected. Three weeks ago, I badly sprained my ankle and have been in a cast ever since. Rehab will take months. My intention this trip was to build a new website, write more, and learn more songs on my ukulele, but the surf has been exceptionally good and knowing myself, I would have let my goals slide if the Universe didn’t have such an ironic sense of humor. Now I turn my focus to non-sport activities and shift my life into a more balanced rhythm.

My husband recently called me “Lucky”. I’ve been plagued by health issues over the years, both illness and injury. I’m partially deaf, I’ve spent years on the floor with back injuries, I suffer from severe chronic migraines, and now there’s a cast up to my knee. He jokingly describes me as his old one-eyed, ripped-ear blue heeler.

If I could describe myself, I’m like that really stoked three-legged dog. Playing with her toys, hopping around, and still pumped about everything life has to offer: cheese, play, cuddles, repeat.

Our place is on a cliff, overlooking a beach where I can spy on everyone from my chair. A friend asked if I was losing my mind, watching everyone surf below me.

I replied with a contemplative no. Every morning, I list all the things I am thankful for, my supportive husband who’s off work, and makes me belly laugh often, to be in a country where I can get cheap healthcare, to live in a one-level house and have friends who stop by to draw on my cast, play music and drink beer. I focus on only the things I can do and not let anything else in.

There’s a Native American legend of the two wolves within. One light, one dark, good and evil. They fight in every person, every day. The question, “Which one will win?” is answered, “The one you feed”.

Like yoga or meditation, running or playing an instrument, choosing which wolf will win is a great practice. With every choice, you decide which way to turn. Feed the light or feed the dark.

I still have a good cry on occasion as I watch the future I’d planned vaporize in front of me. I feel blessed that my reactions are increasingly rare or short-lived. I quickly re-assess, and come up with a new plan.

I encourage my clients to create a practice of joy. Perhaps it’s taking an extra five minutes in the morning, sipping coffee as the world wakens around them. Maybe it’s a long walk in the fresh air with a dog trotting alongside. Maybe it’s listing things to be thankful for, as they embark on their daily commute. It’s amazing how one’s perspective can shift toward the light with little time or effort.


So, as I rock happily in my chair, I honor this learned philosophy. I wiggle my toes, decorate my cast with paint pens and with twinkling eyes and a glowing heart, I wonder what other gifts this new day will bring.

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