Visited By Love

Sometimes in a period of dryness – when  gestures of love have become habitual and shaming – something happens to arouse the sleeping heart, to soften and bring moisture to one’s sensibilities.

This little dog appeared at dusk on a frigid evening, collarless and unidendifiable by any means. He may have sought his liberation or been abandoned, yet now he shivered from the cold and craved attachment. My own dogs shivered in excitement, lunging forward – mouths agape and tails-a-wagging. The small one skittered in alarm, retreating as I coaxed the reluctant Music and Star into the car. Now the young Jack Russell Terrier came into my waiting hands, surrendering gratefully against my body. He breathed a sigh and so did I; the stress of both our days was instantly replaced by calm. It felt like calm. It felt like coming home. But even as my eyes were wet with tears of recognition, the rational me drove to Bienville Animal Medical Center. The rational me observed as the kind attendants scanned the lost dog for a microchip and telephoned possible owners. The rational me let them take him from my clinging hands. 

I felt bereft without him, and over the next few days I called repeatedly to see how he was and if someone had claimed him. By the weekend no one had and he wasn’t eating well. I was told that on Monday he would be moved to the shelter. I brought him home on a weekend when I had numerous holiday obligations. Love isn’t rational, and by this time it was love that moved me. Love made me foolish and brave. It made me take on that which others warned me to think twice about. I wasn’t ready to think twice; I was alive with youthful energy. Abandoning the limitations of my age I vowed to manage the complexities of loving three dogs and a feisty cat – with grace. I quickly discovered that the little dog loved the small green bed that the cat had rejected. To him the bed meant settle down, so the bed went upstairs, downstairs, and into the back of the car. This gave me respite now and then, but I also discovered he had never been on a leash. A leash brought on darts and dashes and dramatic flips in the air. I let him run along beside the other dogs – at least for the moment.

Their were moments when our time together was idyllic, when I was sure all things were possible. The puppy seemed to learn the patterns and rituals of the older dogs. He learned that the small blue bowl was his – that venturing toward the large green bowl or the large red bowl brought a NO from the one who provided the food, and nervous growls from other members of his pack. The little dog loved to play: to run and pounce on toys that were tossed and to spar with Star in a circling, prancing dance that made me laugh in delight. I loved to lean back in my chair at night to watch a movie, the little dog curled in sweet surrender upon my chest. The other dogs stood guard on the porch against night-time marauders. All was well.

On Sunday a friend whose old dog had recently died came by to visit, and her instant rapport with the calmer than usual Jack Russell Terrier gave me hope that a good home would be provided, and I wouldn’t be spending the rest of my days being super mom to three dogs and an increasingly prickly cat. I was becoming a little ragged. She told me she needed twenty-four hours to decide. That afternoon I left the dogs for several hours to make Christmas wreaths with my siblings for the cemetary, and after that a family party. On returning, I found three nervous and clamoring  dogs and several “accidents” in my studio.

Monday morning I woke to the tapping sound that meant little Bobby was more than ready to go out. Yes, I’d begun to call him Bobby now and then. My grandmother called my father Bobby when I was growing up – an endearment that made me realize that my barely approachable artist father had once been a little boy with a loving mother. Bobby somehow suited the little dog, and he was responding to the name. Bobby learned to walk on the leash very well by himself, but it wasn’t easy with all three dogs attached to my arm. I was often pulled this way and that – not to mention frequent entanglements. This picture was taken at Gulf Islands National Seashore, and a woman we met who was walking her aged Golden Retriever told me I had a good heart. A good heart? Well… More likely a foolish heart, growing more emmeshed by the minute. The mind and body were having very different reactions. Try panic attacks, and increasing concern at not hearing from my friend who was almost sure to adopt the little dog. Arriving home, I found a message informing me that she just couldn’t do it. Dear God…

By Tuesday morning, I was having a meltdown – and praying desparately for HELP. I was due to go Christmas shopping with my sister, while the dogs were all going to doggy daycare at the vets. Bobby was getting his shots. Music and Star were settled first, then I brought in the little dog, walking beautifully on his leash. Exclamations met his appearance; a woman with two puppies and two children were sitting with an older man in overalls – a wooden cross on his ample chest. At their response, I blurted out the story of finding the beautiful little creature running loose with no leash and being unable to locate owners or find him a home. The woman simply turned to the man and said “Take him, Richard.” Richard was slower to surrender to this sudden appeal to his manly heart, yet soon the little dog was pressed against that same heart, his chin was receiving a doggie kiss with pleasure. I lingered there, discussing this and that, but it was clear that this was the answer I had been praying for. So I hugged the large and tenderhearted man and was hugged in turn; we were in agreement.

All day I was exhilerated and energized, enjoying my time with my sister – shopping for books and eating lunch unencumbered. It was only in the evening when I entered the studio to play with Music and Star that I suddenly felt the absence of the little dog – the small blythe angel whose love had so softened my heart. Then I sank to the floor and wept with such abandon that all play ceased and my own familiar and furry angels came to comfort me. Music nudged me and gazed into my spilling eyes, while Star licked the tears from my cheeks until I had to smile if somewhat tremulously. Oh dogs… Oh love… Oh little dog… Goodbye…

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2 Responses to “Visited By Love”

  1. Christopher Says:

    Leif, what a wonderful ending! How is that for kharma!
    Here’s a funny video I saw today on Pet Tube:
    http://pettube.com/Selfish%20mother%20dog
    Happy new year!

  2. leiflife Says:

    Christopher, your response caused me to reread my blog and think about the kharmic aspect of things. I see what you mean. It was actually a very difficult blog to write, but I needed to write it and to know for sure that the story – or kharmic circle – was complete.

    I also looked at the video, and I have to say that my heart went out to the mother dog. From the looks of her, she deserved to eat a meal in peace.

    Happy New Year to you, dear friend.

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