Duncan has pulled me through the weekend as he's pulled me through so many difficult times. My grandmother, my dad's mom, was admitted to the hospital Friday night and it's been hard to think about much else. My dad has been good about calling and keeping me updated, but being down here in Denver, so far away from Fargo where she lives, has been tough. He tells me she's doing well, still under observation but feisty and tough, the woman I've known all my life. It's been easy to feel helpless and brood over, but Duncan, patient and big-hearted, has cuddled and played fiercely, distracting me from my head, leading me outside into the sun that only two days ago seemed the most important thing in the world. He's been gentle with me and we've spent long periods of time together, just being near each other. He seems to know my thoughts are elsewhere but has found a way to keep me grounded and in the here and now.
For nearly an hour today, after our long walk this morning and our time at The Ponds with Melissa and Kona––where he was snapped at by a nasty Chow mix with an evil face and a terrible snarl––we sat on the bed, the sun shining through the window. The little birds were darting among the bushes, picking at the small stones and mulch wherever they alighted. After a long while of just looking at each other and trying to match my breaths with his, I took his paw in my hand, stroked it, pushed my thumb between his pads and played with the soft, blond hair which sprouts up between them. They are remarkable things, dog feet, soft and tender, the last places that still smell of puppy, sweet like dew, but wild, like sage. Duncan did not stir as I held his foot, squeezed it, felt the bones and joints move under the soft pressure I applied, pushed my face against it and rubbed its coarse, rocky surface along my cheek and under my chin.
When I was done I moved on to his face, his short red snout, his jelly bean chin, squeezable and so blond on the very end that it looks white. When I was young and had difficulty falling asleep I'd slowly stroke the tip of my fingers over my face, running them down the point of my nose, across my lips, up along my jawline, swirling them across my cheeks, over the closed lids of my eyes and tip-toe across my forehead to the slope of my nose, where I'd begin the routine again and again. I did that to Dunc, playing with the short hair around his nostrils then back under his eyes, actually touching his short, brown lashes––fanning them under my pinky and watching as they sprang back into place like a feather––then on around his cheek to the warm sweet spot under his ears. He stretched out, pawed my face and fell quickly to sleep. Again I matched my breathing to his and soon I was asleep too, thoughts of Grandma and all my worries far, far away. Dog dreams are what I needed and that's what I got.