Today was Duncan's 11th birthday and once again we celebrated in the best possible way by paying a visit to our good friends at Hero's Pets. Trevor and I woke up early, took him on a long walk down past the pond and along the trail that winds through the prairie dog town Roo has come to love so much. Then, after a nice breakfast and a quiet morning we headed off to Hero's where his new best friend, Nicole, gave him usual birthday greeting by literally showering him with treats. Tess gave him a nice raw meat patty, and Trev and I helped Dunc pick out his newest pal, a fuzzy pink pig, which--in following with the tradition of naming them all with the letter B--we have dubbed Bacon. Dunc certainly loves his Bacon!
It was a perfect day in every way.
Happy 11th, Roo! Papa loves you more than you'll ever know. What a good boy and best friend! I love you, my brother.
It was one of those perfect summer days I've written about so many times before. The sky was bright and blue and all the clouds were relegated to standing guard on the periphery, rising above the mountains or far out over the eastern plains but well away from any place Duncan and I might venture on our afternoon walk. There was a breeze, warm, but pleasant on my arms and the back of my neck, carrying with it the last of the perfume from the Russian Olives. But even better, down by the small misplaced pond, shrouded in tall pussy willows and awkward, gangly cattails, a sandhill crane was wading through the murky shallows, its spindly legs thrusting in and out of the water as it's long beak darted in, poking for minnows and frogs among the moss and mud. The cottonwoods, standing their regal watch, have started doing that thing they do best: releasing clouds and clouds of downy snow that drift lazily in the golden afternoon among the gnats and other tiny flying things. It is my favorite time of year, before the sun has bleached the depth of color from the world and turned the earth to bone. So I stood a long moment on the path while Duncan sniffed the tall grass beside me, his head vanishing for minutes at a time among the thick, damp blades. He was in search of something, but then so was I.
On afternoons like this I think of Mary Oliver, my favorite poet, and all the words she has arranged that so perfectly capture the feelings these moments arouse in me. And that is what poetry is or should be--a snapshot of a moment, a thought, a feeling, something that can be expressed in no other worldly way outside of the experience.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
And at that moment, when the trees were raining their cotton down so perfectly, the insects dancing around and among it, when the bird chorus fell into perfect syncopation, when the crane spread its wings and took to the air--perilously low at first, its breast cutting the tiniest of ripples along the surface of the pond before it gained its strength and launched heavenward over the willows--when Mary Oliver's words were lining up on my lips and tongue, Duncan lifted his head--his beautiful, red head, outlined in the loveliest of amber summer light--trotted out of the grass toward me, and dropped a thick, green, and very dead snake on my foot, the smile wide and glorious on his face.
Moments are precious to each of us, in their unique way. Right? That's what I tried to tell myself as I sucked all the air out of the known world into my lungs, did one of those allover body trembles, and danced away as quickly as I could.
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It was a bright morning, cool considering the heat that has been setting in early the last week or so. We'd had a day of terrific storms, tornadoes touching down, rivers running through the streets, flooding no one saw coming, so this morning was a welcome relief, a perfect morning for strolling lazily around our neighborhood.
I rarely answer the phone when I'm walking Duncan. All too often I pass other walkers, oblivious to their dogs while they talk to someone, ignoring the sounds of the birds, the rich green scents of the tall grass, the Russian Olives, the moist earth, wafting around them. I pity them and wish they could see the world as Dunc and I do on our numerous walks every day. But this morning, when the phone rang it was my father and as he rarely calls, especially in the morning, I thought I should take it.
"Good morning," I said while Duncan stopped and sniffed a low shrub.
"Curt, it's yer dad!" he called in his traditional greeting.
"What's up?" I asked as Duncan started off down the sidewalk.
"The Supreme Court ruled just now," he said.
I froze. Dunc's leash went taut and he snuck an irritated look over his shoulder at me.
"What is it?" My heart began to race. Yesterday we'd won the Affordable Care Act, to my great relief; surely The Universe wouldn't give us another victory so soon. "What did they say?"
There was a long pause. A very long pause. My father cleared his voice and then I heard the soft, muffled sounds of his tears.
"You won," he whispered and then sobbed.
I was stunned. The blue sky turned bluer, the grass greener, and all the street noise around me seemed to fade away, leaving only the sounds of my father crying and Duncan sniffing the grass at my feet.
"We won?" I asked, not daring to believe it.
"Yes..." he whispered.
I laughed, loud and unconstrained. "Why are you crying?" I asked, feeling my own tears rising up.
"Because I've never been so happy for you," he said.
And then I cried, too. Cried and cried and laughed and laughed all at once. I couldn't help myself. And so my father and I cried together, hundreds of miles apart but suddenly very close.
And when we hung up, Dunc was sitting there waiting for me, his tail brushing back and forth in the grass, his tongue lolling out one side of his mouth.
I knelt down before him, wrapped my arms around him and wept into his shoulder while he leaned into me, gave my ear a quick, reassuring lick, and let me have my moment.
It was perfect. I left my home having lived my entire life in one world but returned later, led by my handsome, wonderful red dog, to an entirely new world where my opportunities had changed and my dreams were unlimited.
Ten years ago today I had no idea that my life was about to change. I might've been home reliving another tedious and horrific week at work, dealing with the annoying and seemingly helpless students who buzzed around my desk like annoying gnats. Or maybe I was at the gym, running on the treadmill or going through the horrific squat routine that always rendered my legs nearly useless the next day. Or maybe Ken and I had gone to dinner as we often did on Saturdays back then. I'd just lost my grandmother seven weeks earlier and often spent those nights revisiting old letters from her while wishing she'd visit me in my dreams to tell me everything would be alright. Whatever I was doing, I had no idea that eight weeks later Ken would arrive with the little red dog who would become my best friend and brother.
Duncan has changed my life in ways I never imagined on that cold November evening, the first night I held him in my arms, asked him if his name was Duncan, and watched as he winked in reply. He saved my life in the darkest of moments, and when his own life was in danger, I did everything in my power to return the favor. We have walked thousands of miles together, cuddled and cried together, ran and played, shared moments no one else would understand. My dog quickly became the center of my life and I haven't regretted it, not for a single moment.
He turned ten years old today, and while he may not understand the significance, he has certainly reaped the rewards, and I hope that he is somehow able to understand my joy at witnessing his own. There is nothing I won't do for him and so I made today his.
It started early with a long walk and a Frisbee toss that made me late for work, a fact I didn't mind at all. And when I returned we had another long walk, both of us relishing the cool rain. We stopped by the leasing office where the staff has grown to love him. Melissa, the woman who prepared our lease and was there at our first moments in this new home, sang to him and gave him treats, not minding one bit that his wet paws were leaving little puddles on the edge of her desk.
And then, as always, it was off to Hero's where they sang to him and literally showered him with a bowl of treats.
And then it was home were he had a dinner of chicken and peanut butter, and then got his presents: a giant bumblebee to match Buzz, his dragonfly, a great big smoked bone, two bully sticks, a new penguin to replace Percy, and two big dog cookies shaped like birthday cakes. The good folks at the dog park wished him a happy birthday, he played Frisbee again, and is now curled up on my bed going to town on his bully stick. He is a happy dog and my heart is soaring just being near him.
Ten years ago everything changed. Grandma was gone and I was struggling to come to terms with that, but I've sometimes wondered if she didn't find Duncan out there and nudge him in my direction, giving me someone who would stand beside me and watch over me after she was no longer able to do so herself. It doesn't matter if that's true or not. What matters is that he has been there for me in more ways than I can count, taught me more than I thought I'd ever learn, and has been a better friend than I ever thought I deserved.
I'd just settled down on my bed to write about Dunc's last day as a single digit (tomorrow is his birthday) when Roo climbed up, peeked his head over my monitor, dropped last year's birthday present (a green dragonfly that is now missing its legs and wings) and smiled big at me. That was all the message I needed. It's time to play.
There are times when it seems like forever since Winnie Bean left us. And at other times the hurt of her departure feels just as fresh as it did on that afternoon two years ago. But it has been two years and even though we have moved and our family has undergone some changes, her little water glass still sits on the table, always full, always waiting. She may be gone, but I will never abandon her.
Last year I cried a bit and missed her, but today was a day of wonderful memories, and creating new ones. I called her out name while I made dinner for Pip and Olive, and held her urn close to my chest and rocked it back and forth, but I refused to cry. She's never far from me and if we both choose we can meet in my dreams. I will always wait for her.
“You know that place between sleep and awake, the place where you can
still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where
I’ll be waiting.”
There was a tornado warning as I was leaving work today. We were told to seek shelter in the restrooms but of course, none of us did. My friend Sean and I stayed in my office and continued our conversation about Batman while many others milled around in the hallway watching the rain and clouds outside. While we were never in any real danger, a Facebook friend did snap a rather dramatic shot of a funnel cloud over Havana and Colfax, not too far from my office. The most difficult part of the entire experience, though, was the traffic on my drive home, which left me flustered and annoyed and eager to take Duncan for a walk.
For some reason we have been playing a game for the last month or so. Duncan has long since learned the sound of our cars beeping when we lock the cars with our remotes and is typically waiting at the door with Pip and Olive, who immediately begin yowling for dinner while Roo dances and chirps around me, his tail wagging while he grabs my wrist with his soft mouth and pulls me inside. But lately I've been waiting to activate the alarm until after I've slipped the key into the door and turned the knob. Occasionally he's there, full of smiles and wags, but sometimes, if I'm very quiet I can make it down the hallway before he's alerted to my presence. If he's waiting he gets a treat, but if if I'm able to make it into the kitchen without him crawling out from under Ken's bed he gets plenty of loves but has to wait for a goodie.
Today, though, after a long drive through the rain and thunder among some of the worst drivers I've ever encountered, I wanted only to see him and kneel down on the floor and let him love me while I loved him back. The moment I opened the door he was there, ready for me, singing my name in that Golden way of his, dancing around me, and eager to play. I dropped my bag in the door and laid down. He chirped louder and plopped down next to me to lick my face while I wrapped my arms around him and laughed into his chest, the difficulties of the weather at work and the drivers on the way home melting away.
Some people drink wine or open a can of beer. I have a dog, and that's all the calm I need.
The alarm did not go off this morning, but the woman walking her screaming baby back and forth in front of my aprtment at 6:30 did. Apparently she thought it a good idea to get the child some air, forgetting those of us still cuddled up in our beds. I was fortunate enough to have Duncan next to me, snoring soundly, his chin perched atop my calf. Pip was curled up between my chin and chest, but once the screaming infant roused him from sleep, he mewed and jumped away to seek shelter and silence under the chair in the living room. While I was tempted to shuffle to the window and remind her that hundreds of people around her didn't want to listen to her child, Duncan kept me where I was a bit longer, a comforting paw curling around my foot and a gentle thump of his tail more than enough to convince me.
Eventually though, as she futally wandered back and forth in front of the building, Dunc and I got up, had a drink of water and decided a morning walk would be better than a stranger's cantankerous child. We ventured down our forty steps, across the street and into the prairie dog village which we both love so much. As the baby's cries faded under the quiet song of the birds in the willows and the cranes paddling around the pond amid the choir of frogs, I knew that Out was a much wiser decision than In.
And when we suffered a doggy bag malfunction, a 'breach" I think one of my blogger friends calls it, and I found myself wiping my hand down in the wet grass and then holding it out before me while we continued our walk, the day was not lost. After the grocery shopping was done and the laundry was folded, Duncan stayed with me, never far from my side, occasionally licking my calf or cuddling up next to me while I read or napped on the bed. His soft head and gentle breathing are enough to rectify all the screaming infants and breached bags in the world, and I would gladly suffer them with and for him.
While many of you were walking the beaches near your homes, or ambling through green coastal trails, or even taking walks through warm and teeming city streets, Duncan and I had this to contend with this morning.
Denver and the Front Range were the lucky recipient of up to seven inches of thick, heavy, fickle Spring Love, the kind that takes down branches, requires the big boots that have been put into storage until November, and turns perfectly reasonable drivers into complete and utter idiots, even though they've been through this exact scenario countless times. But we didn't mind. We got up early to venture down to the park, which we had entirely to ourselves, for some good old-fashioned winter frolicking.
So while you had your warm, sunny mornings, your bright flowers, or for those folks who live on the under side of the planet, a serene Autumn afternoon, I had this face and all the joy that comes with it.
Eat your heart out!
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There was an afternoon, an Easter Sunday, I believe, when I was 20. I'd taken my bike out for a long ride around Pocatello, across her green foothills, pedaling through historic Old Town, around her winding and circuitous edges, to all the places I'd grown accustomed to seeing through the windshield of Cleo, my car rather than out in the open. I was pedaling up the long line of Pocatello Creek Road, through the neighborhood where I'd grown up. It was a lovely day. The Mormon churchgoers were out in their shiny new clothes, the heathens were mowing their lawns or washing their cars, and I had the street mostly to myself. There was no such thing as iPods and I didn't own a Walkman so I could hear the sounds of the world around me: the birds in the willows along the creek, the barking of the dogs, the laughter of children from their backyards, the rush of hose water and slop of soapy sponges on cars, the voice of a small boy telling his father, "Daddy, look at that bird attacking that man on the bike."
I'd been staring down at the road beneath my front tire, reveling in the feel of my legs working the hill, the crunch of the loose gravel under my tires, the sound of my heart in my ears. That's when I noticed the large bird-shaped shadow descend upon me, it's wings spread wide, it's body hovering directly over and behind mine. I turned just in time to hear it scream and rush at me, snagging my hat and tearing it from my head. I nearly lost control of the bike as I ducked and swerved out of the way. I watched the crow, a big one, shiny and black, turn effortlessly and come at me again, this time from the front, its body swooping straight toward my face, its eyes locked on mine, a scream rising from its throat. I swerved again, put my foot down, yanked hard on the handlebars and turned around.
"Hurry!" the voice of a man called from his carport. "Get over here!" I pedaled across the street and skidded to a stop directly in front of he and his small son. "That was close," he marveled. "She nearly got you!"
"What the hell..." I stammered through my heavy breaths. "Why...."
"She's been doing it to people all morning. Even a couple of cars. We figure she's got a nest up there somewhere." His eyes scanned the line of trees across the street. "You want some water?"
I nodded as he hurried inside, got a glass of cold water, and returned. I guzzled it down, spilling half of it on my bare chest, barely able to hold the glass in my adrenaline-shaking hands. When I finished I handed it back to him.
"You can stay as long as you like, but I think she's gone. You could make a break for it."
And so I did, pedaling as fast as I could up into the mountains, my head turning this way and that as I kept a look-out for an attack that never came.
This morning I awoke early. There were errands to run and I needed to take my car in for a checkup. There wasn't time to take Duncan on our Saturday morning walk around the lake, so we crossed the street and strolled down the trail that winds through the prairie dog metropolis along the greenway. The birds were loud in the trees and the traffic hadn't picked up on Quincy where they're doing the roadwork, so everything was perfect. Despite tomorrow's imminent snow and days of cold weather ahead of us, the sun was bright and warm and I was enjoying sharing that moment with Roo.
And that's when I saw the shadow. I didn't have much time to react because no sooner had I seen it, and heard the rush of a body through the air, than I felt the soft weight strike my shoulder and stop. I'd ducked a little but when I turned my head I saw the grackle standing on my shoulder, perched as though I was the most natural place in the world to alight. Duncan, who'd also startled, turned and saw the bird, big and black, sitting inches from my face. His eyes widened and he moved toward me. The bird and I stared at one another for what felt like a very long time, me in what surely looked like shock and idiocy, it with what I can only describe as calm trust. It adjusted itself as I stood up, stepped back and forth, its soft nails clinging to my shirt tightly, but not enough to pinch. It was close enough that it could have plucked my eye out had it wanted. Instead, it screeched that rusty swing-set call, hopped forward, fluttered its wings very lightly, and touched down on Dunc's back. Roo jumped sideways, pulling the leash from my hand, and shook the bird loose. It hopped down in the long grass in front of him and allowed him to sniff its back. It screeched again, looked back at me, and then flew away as though there was nothing out of the ordinary, just another Saturday morning adventure. My heart was racing in my chest and Duncan was on full alert, his eyes alternately scanning the grass where it had landed and the trees above us where the grackle had vanished. After a few moments he barked and wagged his tail, I laughed, and we continued on our way, the soft weight of the grackle forever remembered by my shoulder.
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Ever wonder where you'd end up if you took your dog for a walk and never once pulled back on the leash? (Robert Brault)
I do not know our new neighborhood very well at all. I know the little green-way just west of us, the one that passes through the prairie dog metropolis and then forks north––toward the lake that sits adjacent to the prison where a former Illinois governor now resides––and west toward the sleepy little neighborhood where all the houses are variations of the same design, only the colors and yards are different.
Duncan had a purpose this afternoon, walking at a strong and steady pace, practically pulling me behind him as he trotted past the prairie dogs who he's only recently become enamored with, to the fork in the trail where we usually turn north. Today, though, north didn't even enter his mind. Without a second thought he headed west not bothering to glance over his shoulder at me to see if it was an acceptable choice. So west we went, the mountains and foothills vanishing behind the slowly greening trees that rose up before us, their shade nearly useless, but the grass beneath them tall and cool. Eventually the trail turned south, crossed a bridge and ended in a cul-de-sac. Duncan hardly noticed and kept moving, ignoring the barking dogs behind the fences and the joggers who hurried past, the sounds of this bright, delicious spring afternoon concealed behind their earbuds. He turned a corner, turned another, crossed the street, and didn't stop until he'd reached his destination, where he settled down in the grass, rolled over on his side and smiled up at the lilac bush hanging in our path. I plopped down next to him on the edge of someone's yard, pinched off a sprig to bring home, and held it to my face while Duncan watched me with what I know was affection and pride.
I have loved lilacs ever since I was young. I passed an enormous hedge of lilacs on my way to and from school each day as a child. There were nooks and crannies concealed among their leaves and delicate purple petals where I could hide from my friends and jump out at them as they passed. I never paid the scent much attention and only knew that their arrival––a huge explosion of purple and white––meant the end of the school year was drawing near. It wasn't until I was much older that they meant more: a fast journey back in time to walk the streets of my childhood and revisit the faces of long lost friends.
It seems that in my dedication to the Russian Olives and the Lindens I almost always forget the lilacs and lament my carelessness as Spring draws to an end and summer closes in on us. Just last night I mused aloud about the lilacs, wondering if I'd missed them again or if there was still time. So while it was a surprise that Duncan had somehow led me to them this afternoon, it wasn't really. He has a way of doing these things, taking me to the exact spot at the exact moment, where I'm supposed to be. He has done it a thousand times before, and if The Universe is willing, he'll do it a thousand times more.
In answer to the quote above, which I've posted before, I do know where my dog would take me. He takes me where my heart belongs.
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The place we moved is new. Very new. The last of the sod was just put down yesterday, a relief considering that the sidewalks and parking lot have been nothing but mud since we moved in a month ago. I felt my spirit lighten as the dirt vanished, replaced by nice, clean strips of green grass, its lines as visible as the lines that I love in my carpet after I vacuum. But the trees are also new, some of them little more than awkward, gangly twigs protruding from the ground, and new trees mean no birds, no squirrels, and no bunnies. Dunc and the cats use to sit for hours in the window and watch all three, the bunnies scampering from one shrub to the next, the birds and squirrels staring back from the Linden that grew right outside my window. And because everything is so new and sterile, it's been difficult to notice spring, to throw myself into it as fully as I typically do.
But today, walking on the trail down by the lake we passed a flowering tree that had grown over someone's fence, reaching out almost frantically in the afternoon breeze, waving at Duncan and me as if to say, "Hey! I'm here! It's Spring! It's May! Rejoice!" So I did. We stopped under its branches for a long while, Duncan gnawing at a stick while I buried my face in the blossoms and breathed in deeply.
And as I did I remembered May Day last year, which was beautiful but in an entirely different way. The late snow and bitter cold killed the blossoms I cherish and was looking forward to each time I ventured out with Dunc. The park was covered in white and the only joy in trudging through the six inches we got that morning was watching Duncan dance and cavort as if this snow was the most precious thing in the universe. And then it was gone, melted away and replaced with an instant summer, dry and hot and bright, with dancing heat waves creating mirages of puddles and rivers in the roads.
This year is very different from last year, but despite that I am still grateful spring has been kinder to us this time around, even though it takes more work to enjoy the bountiful colors. And so, with my face pressed into those precious flowers, I promised Duncan we would seek it out, all of it, and do our damnedest not to miss a single precious moment. I have been reminded how quickly things change, and how suddenly a moment can pass.
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I have a way, it seems, of loving those things no one else finds particularly useful. Take for instance the darlings of my spirit, the Russian Olive trees which I have written so profusely about in the past, and will no doubt write about again in the coming weeks. To most they are weeds, terrible, stubborn thorny pests that plague the landscape, not beautiful to look at but so sweet to hold in the tender embrace of my nose. I do not always look with my eyes, and love is bigger than the box of my heart.
And that is why I have fallen in love with the Grackle, the most common and ordinary and seemingly unspectacular of birds. An iridescent black with a piercing yellow gaze, and a call that is not melodious or sweet, but grating and metallic, this unloved bird with an unkind name has somehow found a spot in my heart because it plays to my memories of childhood and takes me to places long forgotten.
When I hear the grackle call, its body fluffing up, expanding like a blackened marshmallow over a campfire, I recall the swing-set in my grandparents backyard, and the hours I spent there with my sister or my cousins, our little legs pumping forward and back, forward and back, in that endless drive to climb higher and higher and to perhaps leave the ground behind forever, the scrape of the chains rubbing back and forth, metal on metal, forward and back, forward and back, an anchor to the earth. I can see the vague shape of Grandma through the screen in the window in the kitchen, her eyes sometimes catching mine, her smile big, her lipstick impossibly red.
I miss her, but when Duncan and I venture down the trail past the pond, to the place where the willows are thick and yellow and the Russian Olives are only just beginning to don their grey green spring coat, where the rush and whoosh of the nearby roads fade away and the delights of our sound garden can come to life, the grackles appear, perched on the thick fat ends of the willows or in the branches above us, and sing the rusty chain song that takes me home to my grandparents immaculately trimmed yard in the 70s, when all the world was before me, when I never had reason to doubt, when Grandma promised I'd never be alone.
Everything matters, as I was reminded once again on our evening walk around the lake. From the green halo which is slowly--too slowly--overtaking the trees on the edges of the park, especially the willows, which are sobbing for the inevitable but tedious arrival of another Rocky Mountain spring, to the throngs of people that had overrun the trail, most of them--myself included--in shorts and t-shirts. They jogged and biked and walked, leisurely and without any sense of time, while others struggled with their puppies, gangly yellow labs, hounds with ears nearly dragging the greening ground, Pomeranians that jogged along the edge of the path looking like dusty cotton balls caught in the playful, warm afternoon breeze. They were pleasant, these people, smiling as we passed, some offering hellos and passing pats to Dunc's head as he hurried past, his nose low, his eyes trained on the shrubs where the rabbits roost. The smells was there, too, that rich, moist, dark-earth fragrance of spring, thick as the flavor of copper but as light as the few cloud wisps that drifted overhead. It mattered that families had gathered with loaves of bread to feed the geese and ducks in the same way that I had fed them when I was a child and my grandparents had taken me down to the river or to Tautphus Park in Idaho Falls. The ducks crowded the shore, mindful of the eggs they'd just planted in their new nests, but unwilling to ignore a free hand-out from the visitors. It mattered that I pause in our walk to visit with the elderly man who'd stopped to sit on a bench and stare out at the sun playing on the water, a look on his face that reminded me of my grandfather after Grandma passed away. When Dunc sniffed his freckled hands and allowed him to scritch his ears and mumble incomprehensible words to him I wondered if some kind soul had stopped for Grandpa on those long, lonely afternoons and if the moment had meant anything to him, enough to bring a smile to his face. It mattered that the sky was finally gold and blue and warm enough to smile into and that there was no hurry to head home, only to enjoy the sound of Roo's feet on the path and his tail as high as a flag, flapping and wagging with each step he took.
It has been a difficult month for me but afternoons such as this one remind me that even when I think nothing matters, it all does, and there is an infinite world for which to be grateful.
And then suddenly, after seven years on the property we've called home, five of them in our cozy, one-bedroom apartment, it was time to go for one last walk down the thirty-seven stairs, out onto the sidewalk, painted bright under the morning sun, stroll down The Run for one last meeting with Jeffrey, his cats, and the squirrels which gather at his patio for their morning meal, across Bowles to the park where we could run and throw a good, bright and new tennis ball, and enjoy the memories of all the mornings, evenings, and afternoons we'd done this very thing, while looking to the future, the new people, the new friends we'd make, the new paths we'd amble, and the new apartment we'd call home.
Dunc was all smiles, oblivious to the adventures that awaited us. I took him off leash at the park and let him run and run and run some more, until he was panting and content to roll onto his back and show the blue sky his pink belly. And when it was time to head home, we walked down past our first apartment, ran into Scott and his Golden, Zeus, who gladly ate the treats I offered, and told them we were moving. Duncan glowed red and gold against the newly greening grass and the birds--returned from wherever--sang us a spring song.
And then, hours later, when everything had been lifted and carried and moved from one place to another, when our bones were sore and our muscles tired, we assembled my bed and climbed in, cuddling up against one another, Dunc spooning me, one paw thrown over my shoulder as he snored.
Our new home is truly new; we are the first to live here. It will be awhile before everything finds the places it needs to go, until the boxes are emptied and carted down to the recycle bin. But that's okay, because we have each other. And the path looms ahead.
There are few things that are certain. One of them is that at those moments when you feel happiest and most secure life is sure toss a few curve balls in your direction. The other is that when you're at your lowest and most vulnerable, nothing brings a smile to your face as easily and as certainly as watching your good, red dog––your best friend, your brother––catch a ball and bring it to you as though there is no finer treasure in all the world, and no one more deserving of it.
I love you, Duncan. You are the finest, most certain truth in my life. Bless you, bless you, bless you.
"You," the woman called from the open window of the car that was coming to a stop next to us.
I pulled Duncan's leash in tight until he was standing next to me, his tongue lolling out but barely visible in the deep blue dark of early evening. We were standing on the edge of the park, which is almost completely dark this time of year, except for the baseball diamonds and the lights from the street. Behind the car, the traffic moved quickly past, their headlights bright in our eyes, illuminating us where we stood.
The door opened and the woman--a big, burly thing with an enormous mop of platinum blond hair--climbed out, slamming the door behind her with force.
"You," she said again, and this time I recognized a heavy Russian accent. "I see you every day," she announced, stepping away from her idling car and toward us.
I smiled my bravest smile. "I'm sorry," I apologized. "Do I know you?"
As she approached I could just make out the traces of a smile, although because she was Russian it was difficult to be certain. "No, but I know you. I see you all the time. With your dog," which she pronounced, "Dohguh."
"I see in the morning on my way to work. You cross this busy street and your dohguh stays right by your side. I see you every night on my way home from work. And again--your dohguh is right beside you."
I nodded and smiled and kicked a pebble awkwardly with my toe. "Yes, I walk him a lot," I told her.
"Sometimes I see you in the afternoon. I watch for you. I always see you."
I didn't know what to say so I just smiled.
"You love him, no?" she asked, stepping toward him and holding out a meaty hand. Duncan sniffed her tentatively then relaxed and wagged his tail.
"Yes, very much," I told her. "He's my best friend," I said.
"No," she said, scratching his ear. "He is more to you. I can see that. I see that every day for long time," which she pronounced "lohnguh time," hitting the T with a gutteral crispness. "He is your brother, this dohguh. He is more than friend to you."
I blushed and did the only thing I could, which was nod and say, "I love him very much."
"And he loves you." She scratched his chin and then looked up at me. "I have wanted to tell you that for lohnguh time. So tonight I did."
And before I could say anything else she moved back toward her car and climbed in. "He loves you very much," she called out through the window, which was now rolling back up. "Very much." And then she put the big car in gear and pulled away, her tires crunching the gravel and sand as she passed.
We walked home, my brother and me, a smile on my face, a wag in his tail. Duncan, I'm sure, knew nothing about our exchange, but on a deeper level––in that Golden heart of his––he's known all along. This was nothing new to him.
If you like this post, my good dohghuh and I would love to hear from you. We've been waiting a lohnguh time.