If only people could be more like dogs. Kind. Loyal. Committed to a fault. Always playful and interested. How about a treat? I really love you … was that a squirrel? Oh yeah. Back to you. I love you. So much.
You are either a dog person, or you aren’t. Some people run for the hills when a dog comes along. Oh. Ick. Dirty. Smelly. Others (like me) kneel with open arms for the wet kisses and hugs. Smells like a wet blanket? Good! Love it.
I’ve learned a lot from my dogs over the years. Like all you really need in life are the basics. Food. Water. A treat now and then. Some toys. Affection. And unconditional love.
There was a day about three years ago when I was lost in grief. My faithful dog had just died, not so long after my mother. I wondered how much sadness a person can bear. And then came Cali, this yellow dog that I found on an adoption site, who took my breath away. Five years old and sick as can be. Promising to be complicated and expensive. Hey, who needs it?
I couldn’t get that dog out of my mind. Her soft brown eyes drew me in time after time as I cruised that site looking for a puppy in Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Maine. And in the end, I learned the sick, complicated, expensive dog that haunted me lived less than five miles away and was absolutely desperate for a new home. Could I take this on? How could I not? Am I nuts? Well, yes.
This was a story that was supposed to have a happy ending. I adopted the dog and gave her a middle name, so if I had to raise my voice at her it would be like correcting my kids. Fast forward to today, and I had to unexpectedly cradle my beautiful girl as she took her last breath. I whispered the words I needed to say as she left me. And then she was still.
A consoling friend told me this afternoon that I had committed the ultimate act of love by being willing to break my own heart to allow her to go. I am not sure about that as I battle the grief.
My dog is now lying in a peaceful grave out back under her favorite tree. She has been laid to rest with a cherished toy and the season’s last flowers, all wrapped in a blanket of warm fleece. There is a cross made of rocks culled from around the yard, and from near a woodchuck hole that she stalked.
I was at odds at dinner time, when there was no meal to be made. I walked around the house, instead, seeking something I couldn’t find. And now, at the time when we would take a nightly walk up to the corner mailbox and back, I am alone.
It will take some time to acclimate to the absence of routine, and the big, warm body sprawled half across my bed. Some will think, God, it’s only a dog. Get over it already. Think about world events. Do some work! And others, like my friend, and legions of others who touched base today, will say, yes, you have lost someone dear, and it’s OK.
One of those people told me it was great that I had cared enough to save Cali. But in my heart, as I sit here, I know with everything that I am, that it was Cali who saved me.