As I write this, there is a dog next to me. She (it is a “she”—my son checked the first time we visited her at the SPCA) is curled up in a tight black ball. Her eyes are closed but her ears are perked; she snores and wakes herself up. As I wrote that last sentence, she pushed her wet nose against my forearm and then settled back into position. There is a slimy spot on my forearm now. I don’t mind.
We call her Daisy. Part labrador and part everything else. A mutt, in other words. Seven months old—still a pup. Had we not claimed her, I expect she would’ve been put down by now. But we had to, you see. Claim her, I mean. One look at her trembling body in that pen, the way she kept her tail tucked between her hind legs and her ears flat against her head. How she wouldn’t even come to me the first time I visited her and then crawled to me the second time. I had to bring her home. Just had to.
The kids wanted a dog. They’re at That Age now. I’m not sure what That Age means, only that it’s what everyone said—my parents, my wife’s, everyone at work: “You really should get your kids a dog, they’re at That Age.”
She isn’t the brightest dog in the world. She spent about five minutes the other night chewing on her own leg, trying to figure out what it was. A little bit ago, she got up to scratch or belly and slid right off the couch. She looked at me as she tumbled—ears perked, tail wagging, her eyes wide as though wondering what in the world had happened. When she landed on the carpet, she rolled once and climbed back up. That’s Daisy.
It’s been interesting, watching how a dog can change things. On the floor below me are two socks, three tennis balls, and a rawhide bone. They’re Daisy’s toys. I figure she’s gotten more toys in the past week than I’ve gotten in the past year. And yet no one seems to mind how she leaves these things scattered everywhere or that she sheds or that after she drinks from her bowl she leaves a trail of water stretching from the kitchen to the living room. The kids seem to have the worst part of the deal. They’re outside now with the shovel, scooping up dog poop. It’s funny, seeing the grimace on their faces. I tell them it hasn’t been so long that I was scooping up their poop, too.
I could go on. I could talk about how to have a dog is to have the best companion in the world, how they’ll love you no matter what and always make your day brighter. I won’t, though. If you have a dog, you’ll agree. If you don’t, you probably won’t understand.
But I will say this: Daisy woke up this morning wagging her tail. We took a walk this morning in the crisp November air and met deer and birds. She’s discovered a love of fetching the tennis balls my son hits with his baseball bat. She’s gaining weight. She doesn’t lay her ears back anymore.
I won’t say Daisy has changed since that first day I saw her through the bars of her cage. I’ll say instead that she’s herself now—her best self.
And honestly? I don’t give any of that to the fact that she gets exercise and eats well and has toys. I think it’s love, pure and simple. I think Daisy’s better now because she knows she’s loved.
You hear about that all the time, how love can make people better, how it can give them hope and purpose. For the last two weeks, I’ve seen that for myself. It’s true, every word.