The morning after the puppy moved in, I started seeing things I had been missing for weeks.
I noticed a grasshopper, resting vertically on a support beam of the shed; it stayed in the same spot for more than 36 hours. I found three phoebes’ nests in the rafters of the shed porch and the lean-to. A sudden resurgence in the black-eyed Susans occurred. The asters, bright as Delft, danced in the cooler autumn breeze along the roadside, and in the fields along Route 231, the cows lay on a long low hilltop, still as stacked and rolled hay farther down.
The pieces of my fractured world, which had been deconstructed by grief over the dog now two months gone, were falling back into place, into a single piece again, reassembled by the presence of a little, innocent, happy ball of golden fur, reinforced by the adhesive of her joyful antics and surprise at every day’s new world dawning.
Friends and strangers alike seemed relieved that I had moved on, even if I had transported myself into the chaotic world of a small canine, growing like a weed — eating weeds, in fact, which was one of her first accomplishments in life: dandelion salad, dressed with dew. People at the grocery store in Gray, pedestrians outside the post office in Portland, cyclists in Freeport — all stopped to inquire about the dog and tell me I had made the right decision in bringing her into my life.
I was touched by how many people seemed to derive a sense of permission from my strictly self-serving decision to get another dog. I had felt myself slowly losing it without a canine companion and got the new golden to save myself — though she was not as deep a mahogany color as I had hoped to find and lacked the blockier head of her sister, who had almost won my heart instead.
I heard about Baxter and Lilly, Augusta and Hunter, Sebago and Max. I read reminiscences from readers about scores of dogs still loved and missed by owners who could not yet bring themselves to embrace new ones.
I made follow-up calls about Samantha “Sam,” now Sasha, the German shepherd-golden mix I had fostered for several days before she, too, moved on, to a family of four in Connecticut who loved her immediately, adopted her in two weeks and transformed her in three with the palliative of pure love. The rescue organization’s liaison forwarded photos of her to me, one showing her lounging peacefully next to the family’s in-ground pool (which at my abode would have been a mud puddle or vernal pool). The son, his head on her side, was reclining peacefully, too — a boy and his dog.
There were photos of the family hiking with the dog, portraits of four plus one, a shot of Mom with her new charge, the Dog Who Couldn’t Be Alone, and now never is. Sasha (“She’ll always be Sam to me,” I confided to a friend) is well-groomed, as coiffed as a once-abandoned dog can be, toned up, conditioned — and I observed in the photos, she presented as bright-eyed and calm, the numbed look of trauma gone, the deadened stare of just-barely-surviving healed, already, miraculously, in less than 21 days.
I kept hearing in my mind the soft voice of the young daughter on the day she met Sasha — who I feared at first might not be elegant enough for Connecticut — when I asked what she thought of the dog. “She’s so pretty,” she whispered, as though she did not want to startle the then-Sam with the recognition of her own beauty, unaccustomed as she likely had been to the appreciative cooing of a child not much older than she was.
Sasha, it turns out, is probably twice the 4-5 years of age she originally was estimated to be. I almost wept to read that the family had been so disappointed to hear that news from the vet, because already they had bonded with her to the degree that they could not bear the thought of a foreshortened life with the dog who couldn’t tolerate a moment without them in it.
This — witnessing beauty in an ordinary being and anticipating, with quiet dread, how fleeting the heart-to-heart bond across species can be — is the way love brings focus to those who open to it and eclipses the possibility of problems with the promise of loyalty and friendship, and the fulfillment of mutual need.
As I write, my own new dog lies asleep at my elbow, having wedged her body into what she recognized was an envelope of pillows made for a pup as well as a lower back support for me. She is wending her way to a midnight snooze on the crown of my head, I know already from brief experience.
Occasionally now I think I might end up temporarily, predictably, with fleas or a tick or two; but instead of looking for trouble or surrendering to vague anxieties, I simply change the bed linens every day. Then, at bedtime, she makes it to the coverlet first and squeezes into some part — if not all — of the bed I might otherwise occupy, and I lie down on whatever space is left.
As I said, things are returning to normal. I know my place and it’s exactly where I want to be.
North Cairn can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: