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Before I roll out my workout mat, I play tug or fetch with Mabel, then give her a bone on her bed. Or, sometimes, Mabel chases water from the hose, so there’s also a rug by the door, where she loves lying, and I love that it prevents her from slipping when her paws are wet.

However, Mabel inevitably ends up on my mat with me despite all her options, including the sofa if she’s sleepy. Perhaps my efforts are pointless when, truthfully, I find it endearing if Mabel joins in on my exercise, provided she’s not trying to eat my ponytail, a more likely act now that my sweet girl is on yet another hiatus from daycare due to a fluke poop test coming back positive for Giardia.

I got the call amid a week where I’d pivoted so much that I was already dizzy, and my emotional reserves were empty. Everyone I know seemed to struggle with the big stuff, including my baby sister, whose dog was diagnosed with perianal adenoma. I know so many people are dealing with destruction, even death, around the world, so feeling guilty that I can’t be there for those I care about as deeply as I want made me feel even smaller.

So, I took the next step and called Mabel’s daycare. “Yes, I understand why you need to pull her from play. Yes, I’ll be there as soon as I can. Oh no, she’s boarding in two days while I see my beautiful, best-laugh-in-the-world friend Pam in Portland.”

As I drove, I thought, “I can’t cancel on Pam. I haven’t seen her in years. Last year, I had to cancel a Gavin-friendly day trip Pam had planned when she was visiting family because he had emergency stomach surgery. But, if Mabel’s daycare can care for her, there’s no way my dog can play with other dogs, so she’ll be an anxious mess being cooped up in a place where she’s used to and loves partying all day.”

Well, the decision was made for me, and as I wrestled with my guilt, a useless emotion, I called the airline to see if I could at least get Pam’s miles back because, yes, my friend is also so generous that she purchased my ticket. And, before I phoned Pam, I thought, “If it were anyone else, this could be the end of our friendship, yet another cancellation.” But, of course, I knew better. Aside from being the kindest person I’ve ever known, Pam becomes sweeter when she’s stressed, where I shut down and need time to process.

I did my best not to put my guilt on Pam, who responded precisely how I expected, with a melancholy kindness in her voice. My regret is mine to work through. And, when I finally had time to process my disappointment, I was reminded how useless and energy-zapping guilt is.

So, the lesson taken away from not filling my soul this weekend with time with my friend of 30 years is to channel my inner Pam. Because if I’m more gracious amid disappointment, I won’t feel as guilty. If I’m warmer and fuzzier to others’ strife, even when I’m struggling, I’ll feel more peace.

And, here’s hoping now that Miss Mabel’s had ear, eye, and respiratory infections, now Giardia, that her immune system is pure gold because Pam also deserves a medal for the longest flight to Belize in January to celebrate my upcoming 50th birthday.

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