All right, I’ll just come right out and say it — I’ve become one of those annoying people who, if encouraged in even the smallest way, spend a good part of any conversation talking about my dog. If you read my recent post, “The Liberating Poetics of Low Expectations,” this probably comes as no surprise. Dogs have been on my mind a good deal lately, and My Best Beloved, The Kindest Man I Know, finally agreed that, even though he is stricken with allergies, we can have a dog.
Enter Bailey, the Rescuepoo.
After my friends Lisa Pasold and Bremner Duthie came to visit with their dog, Barclay (which should, of course, be spelled Barkly), the urge to share my home and life with a dog, which had been a long time low-level nagging, felt suddenly URGENT. I’m not sure why, but I suspect it’s a soul thing — mysterious and hard to pin down, but no less real for all of that. I can’t explain it. It just was.
Although I’ve since heard a number of stories from people about how hard it was for them to find the right dog — months of searching, filling out applications, meeting dogs, applying for adoption, being disappointed — for The Best Beloved and me, once I’d seen Bailey’s photo on the www.petfinder.com site, it was miraculously easy. He was being fostered with a wonderful family through an equally wonderful organization called AFEW (Animal Friends for Education and Welfare), not far from us. Did we want to meet him that Saturday at an adoption fair. You bet.
He wore a little blue sweater and flipped over on his back, tail wagging, the minute we walked in. I’d brought a toy, which he accepted with glee. He licked My Best Beloved’s hand. He’d had a hard time of it, rescued from a “kill shelter” somewhere down south, weighing only 10 lbs when he should have weighed 20 lbs — he was a little skeleton — so matted he’d been shaved a few weeks before (hence the sweater). Nobody knew where he’d come from or what had happened to him precisely. He was a bit skittish around some people, especially if they moved too fast over his head. I was told he’d probably been hit and was frightened. I asked if he could come home with us that afternoon for a home visit. He fell asleep in Ron’s arms on the ride home. He’s been with us ever since.
A great deal has changed since that day a couple of months ago, but mostly what’s changed is me.
As a writer I spend a great deal of time alone. I like this. It’s not that I actively dislike people (well, not ALL people), but like most writers, my temperament leans toward the solitary. I write novels, essays and short stories, some of which take me to rather dark and, dare I say, perilous emotional places. (I’d stop if I could, but I’m actually saner when I’m writing than when I not, so it’s best for all concerned that I continue.) Also, as a recovered alcoholic, I have a ‘natural’ tendency to isolate, preferring to simmer in my own emotional stews. Then, too, like most of my family members, I have a history of depression, for which in the past I’ve been medicated. Whereas My Best Beloved is a glass-frothing-over-in-effervescent-excess-of-good-stuff kind of guy, I’m definitely an oh-look-I-think-that’s-a-dreg-at-the-bottom-of-the-glass type of gal.
In short, I’ve always thought of myself as moody, with a tendency to droop.
Or at least I did. Recently, I have found it impossible to maintain moody droopiness when faced with a little fur-ball who believes my coming back into the room after a five minute absence warrants a celebration worthy of visiting royalty. He’s my wee shadow. Sitting in a chair by the window, squirrel-spotting, as I write. Trotting after me from room to room. Lying on his blanket in the kitchen as I cook. Sitting on my lap like a little fur-covered hot water bottle as I read. Hopping up into bed with me in the morning, first to give kisses, and then to snuggle under the covers for a 15 minute cuddle to begin the day, and then repeating the process before he pops onto his own bed in our room at night. If I get caught up too long in dark thoughts I am interrupted (as though he knows I’ve taken a wrong turn) by the sound of a squeaky toy and the thump of his paw on my leg. Time for a walk. Time for play. Before Bailey, I feel like I’d forgotten about play.
Even My Best Beloved remarks on how much happier I’ve been the past weeks. He’s surprised, and so am I, frankly. I didn’t realize how gray the world had felt.
All that stuff you’ve heard about dog ownership is true, all those cliches …the joy of a dog is contagious; dogs teach you about humility and gratitude; dogs make you go for walks, which is good for body and soul; dogs love you, even when you don’t love yourself; dogs are nature’s/God’s clowns; dogs carry with them some sort of divine healing energy; dog teach us to live in the moment… all that stuff.
I was supposed to be the one rescuing Bailey… but I’m quite sure he’s rescued me, or at least we’ve rescued each other.