Good morning and Happy New Year! I promise not to take up too much of your time today because I know you are eager to get to your appointment at the Blowout Bar, or to refresh that mani-pedi. Or both. After all, who among us wants to greet the New Year with cowlicks and chipped nails?
So I’m sitting at my desk trying to write this essay. Instead, I’m allowing my mind to wander and my attention to be distracted. My eyes should be focused on the screen while my fingers fly over the keyboard. But every few minutes I swivel my chair to the right and stare at what may turn out to be one of the worst decisions we’ve ever made, or our personal Fountain of Youth.
We have a new dog!
I know there are those who will immediately conclude that we have finally lost what remained of our marbles. But you pet lovers will be supportive. Won’t you?
This action was not part of our long range plan. We are capable of rational thought. Having recently lost our second dog, we had decided it would be sensible to wait a while, to exist in a state of doglessness and see how we felt.
But I caved to an impulse. You’d think I’d learn. Last time I succumbed to an impulse I dyed my hair purple, a decision which left me completely miserable as the color coordinated with nothing in my wardrobe.
(Pause. I’m going to pet the dog now.)
If there is blame to be laid, then it must certainly land on my dear spouse. He never should have left me alone last Saturday when I was feeling particularly sad and depressed over the loss of our beloved Davis, the Lab. Of course, I never told him I was feeling particularly sad and depressed as I watch him go off to his golf game. But after all these years of marriage, is it too much to expect that he just know?
After he left, I thought about going shopping to cope with my grief. My favorite boutique was having a designer trunk show, something that normally would arouse my endorphins. But I couldn’t muster enthusiasm, which really caused me a good deal of concern. When a woman can’t get energized by the prospect of a shopping trip, you know she’s ready for latest psychotropic cocktail.
(Pause. I’m going to play with the dog now.)
I’m back. Where was I? But not being a big fan of drugs, I did the only other thing that would ease my pain. I contacted The Dog Lady.
The Dog Lady was a name, phone number, and email address that was sitting in a folder for such time, if ever, that we would be ready for our next pooch.
We, that is, myself, and he who can’t read minds, had already discussed the type of dog we would get if we were ever to get another dog. And this particular Dog Lady was a source.
I told myself it was a harmless email, merely exploratory. Probably there would be no dogs to our liking for a long, long time. Probably our names had to be placed on a waiting list. Probably she would immediately determine we were too old to be doing this. Probably all of the above would be true, so it was perfectly safe to send the email.
(Pause. He’s looking at me. I need to hold him.)
Probably, I was wrong. No, definitely I was wrong. Dog Lady responded within 10 minutes, stating that, after reading my requirements, she just happened to have the perfect dog for us. Perhaps if she hadn’t sent the photo, I could have let it go. As I went twirling around the house, it was clear that my spirits had lifted.
When he finally arrived home, I shared the photo with he who can’t read minds, and it was quite something to see a grown man melt!
We met Sam on a Tuesday. He’s an 11-month-old Jack Russell, who liked to be held and drenched us with kisses. He was every bit as cute as his picture, with personality to match, and we were smitten.
Once we made the commitment, I had to prepare for Sam’s arrival, which meant buying what was necessary to keep him, and our home, safe. Although he was almost a year old, it would be a while before he outgrew his puppyish ways. After my fourth trip to the store, I realized I should have thrown myself a baby shower, and registered at Petco.
(Pause. Sam needs more water.)
We have now had Sam with us for a grand total of 4 days, and we have become fast friends. He truly is the dog of our dreams, had we been dreaming about a dog.
We look at each other, that is, he who can’t and me, and wonder what we’ve done, as Sam bounds back and forth from one to the other. But truth is we haven’t stopped smiling.
Perhaps Sam will wear us out. Or perhaps he will keep us young. My money is on the latter.
And, yes, there is a chance that Sam will outlive us. In which case, we are considering a codicil to our will. Our kids will have to deal with sharing six ways, instead of five. Just look at that face. Tell me, wouldn’t you?
(Okay, Sam. I’m all yours now.)
Looking over the kitchen counter, I can see my husband. He is in the living room, sitting in his favorite chair, reading the newspaper, and leisurely enjoying his second cup of coffee. It is early morning, and he’s still in his pjs, bath robe and slippers. It is one of those days when he doesn’t have to rush off to work. The dogs are curled up at his feet, partially out of love. The other part is the hope that some left-over crumbs from breakfast will fall from his lap.
Although this scenario is one that has become entirely familiar to me, on this particular morning I am suddenly overwhelmed by a warm glow which I’m fairly certain is not a lingering hot flash.
They say that people start to resemble their pets. Or is it the other way around? Pets start to resemble their people. (“They” say so many things, who can keep it straight?) I don’t know if this adage is necessarily true in my case, but I wouldn’t mind if it was. My two dogs are very beautiful. On the other hand, I’m not sure how they would feel if they began to resemble me.
While our respective visages may not have merged over the fourteen years we’ve been together, we have noticeably begun to share other physical changes. For example, my dogs can no longer jump in and out of the back of our SUV, but require a helping boost. While I, myself, have never actually been required to jump in and out of the back of an SUV, I have equivalent difficulty simply launching myself out of bed each morning. What I am currently sharing with my beloved pets are all the signs of aging.
It isn’t every day that one buys a new automobile. Therefore, it should be an occasion marked with at least some measure of anticipation and excitement as I drive the shiny, as yet undented chariot off the dealer’s lot. So why do I feel like I want to go directly home, cover my mirrors, and sit on a hard wooden box for a week?
Yes, I am in mourning for my old car, which didn’t die exactly, but was economically disposed of as a trade-in for a newer, more fuel-efficient, somewhat smaller version of itself. I had convinced myself that its time had come and I needed to let it go before it became unreliable. The decision was buoyed by my adult children, who are secure in the knowledge that being of a certain age themselves, they now know what’s best for me. They couldn’t quite understand how their mother cared so little for her safety that she didn’t have a back-up screen. Hey, I’ve been craning my neck for years, and only occasionally have stone walls made contact with my rear end.
Minutes before we humans begin to stir in our beds, the dogs know. They are pacing around the room, instead of lying quietly on the floor as is their way on every other morning, patiently waiting for signs that the day has officially begun. This morning they are awake and alert, with two sets of imploring eyes fixed on us, as if their intensity alone could levitate us from the bed. Then, when it is my husband, and not I, who is the first to respond, to sit up and plant two feet on the floor, they are certain. It is Sunday and my old, arthritic yellow Labrador retrievers begin leaping with joy!
Mah nishtanah, I want to say to my dogs. What makes this day different from all other days? How do you know it’s Sunday? I scrutinize my bedroom for physical evidence. The clock reads about seven o’clock, the same time we awaken every morning. The same amount of light slips in between the crack in the draperies covering our east-facing windows. There are no unusual sounds; no church bells can be heard. And yet they know.