While my day typically begins around 6 AM, Duncan's doesn't start until an hour and a half later. I get up, check the internet news, scroll through Facebook, shower, prepare my breakfast and lunch, feed Olive and Pip, and then start Duncan's breakfast, which needs to rehydrate for thirty or so minutes before it's ready. Only when he hears the jingle of food in his bowl does he amble down the hall, the hair on the top of his head mussed up, a grin on his face. We hug, he stretches and bows, and then we venture outside.
It was a nice morning, a little grey but not as cold as it has been and the sun was trying its hardest to peek out from behind the clouds. The geese had collected themselves across the golf course and another enormous flock was swooping in from the south, their calls echoing between the frozen, yellowed earth and the misty sky above. Everything in our corner of the world was exactly as it should have been: quiet, serene, safe.
At 7:30 we reached The Glen where Duncan ran wide circles along the rim of the bowl in the earth, careening between the trees, stopping every once in a while to sniff the patches along their trunks where other dogs had stopped. His ears were high, as was his tail and the smile never once left his face. I knelt in the grass and watched as he sped toward me, his tongue lolling from the corner of his mouth.
"What?" I asked him as he danced to a stop in front of me, his front paws jogging up and down in the frosted grass.
And then he lunged forward and kissed me. Not a sloppy, wet swipe of his tongue, but a quick brush of his lips against mine. I laughed and repeated my question. "What?" He did it again, and then again, and then once more, slowly forcing me backward until I was sitting on my butt amid the brown pine needles on the cold ground. I laughed again as he moved forward and planted another kiss on my face. When I held up my hands he did it again and again and before I knew it I was laying on my back, his gorgeous face obscuring my vision. For a moment the clouds broke and I could see blue sky above him and golden light until they were once again blocked by the ferocity of his affection. His tail wagged back and forth against my leg as he climbed right up onto my chest, laid down and kissed and kissed.
"You're drowning me, Roo," I cried as he persisted, relishing the sound of my laughter in the safe silence of the morning.
At that moment, eighteen-hundred miles away the world was no longer silent nor safe. Twenty small children and six of their adult protectors were being murdered and it will be a very long time until silence returns to that community. My heart has been slowly breaking today as the magnitude of what has happened sinks in, at the knowledge that there are presents under trees that will never be opened, that people will be outraged and horrified but that ultimately nothing will come of this tragedy. This country cares more about its guns than its children, than health care, than the kisses of loved ones. I am cynical and bitter tonight and only Roo, laying next to me with his head on my arm, can offer any sort of solace.
I would not trade a single moment with my dog for anything, but I would gladly trade every one of the kisses he gave me this morning for the lives of the people in Newtown, Connecticut. I would do anything to undo the pain of that community, to make it all go away.