I’ve always enjoyed dogs and had been told that one day I’d meet a pooch who would rock my world. That once-in-a-lifetime canine connection against which all other puppy love would be judged and found wanting. I scoffed at that notion. I’ve loved each and every dog I’ve been lucky enough to share a roof with. But then I met HIM.
My soul dog’s name is Grady. I met him while I was in doctor school down in Miami. I had no business spending the kind of money a purebred Bichon Frise demanded, but the moment my eyes locked onto his, I whipped out a credit card dusty from non-use, paid $100.00 a month for two years, and never regretted it. For sixteen years he was my constant companion. He sat on my lap as I wrote my dissertation. He travelled with me across southern Florida as I administered neurological assessments to folks who had willed their brain to science.
When we moved to Madison for our internship, I knew he’d be lonely during my long days at the hospital. We registered with the local Bichon Rescue Society and Maddy came to share our lives. Grady loved her. She tolerated him. Together they added the sparkle my life needed. I’d pull into the driveway after a twelve hour day, see their wiggly-white bodies jump clear of the front window as they ran to greet me, and knew the best part of my day was about to begin.
Years later Grady developed diabetes and we structured our lives around twice-daily insulin shots. When he went blind we kept our house exactly as he remembered. When dementia had him wandering aimlessly, we held him close and murmured reassurances into his deaf ears. And we rocked him and wept the day the veterinarian came to relieve him of the burden of a joyless life.
Which brings us to Tugger. Another rescue dog. A goofy mongrel who came into our lives as Grady was leaving for whatever next adventure the universe has in store. I wasn’t excited about bringing a third dog into our home. In the beginning I resented Tugger’s health and energy. My beloved Grady had long lost his. Who was this vivacious squirmer tearing around the house, displaying antics and demanding laughter that only belonged to Grady?
When I took to my bed in the quiet of the now Grady-less house, it was Tugger who jumped up, curled his muscular body into the curve of my back, rested his head on my shoulder, and heaved a sigh of understanding. His loving persistence lasted beyond my grief and he rewarded me with endless kisses when I finally allowed him onto my lap. Tugger loves his sister Maddy. She greets him with the same tolerant disdain she held for Grady.
It’s Maddy who’s old, deaf, and barely able to see the piece of cheese I hold in front of her nose. She neurotically follows my every step, as if losing sight of me might cost her grip on whatever wispy thread keeps her tethered to earth. Tugger looks away when I cuddle with my girl and assumes his spot on my lap the moment I set her down.
Tugger is my writing companion now. He’s in the chair across from my desk, watching me as I type, waiting for me to shove my own chair back just enough for him to leap up. After nine years together it seems he’s not able to understand why I can’t spend every moment rubbing his belly. His big brown eyes, framed in lashes that enter the room ten minutes before he does, look up as if to ask, “If you wanted a life, why’d you get a dog?”.
I’ll end now and give him some time. Here’s hoping you turn from this and look into the furry face of your own companion. Let them jump on your lap and remind you that as long as you’re in their presence, you’re going to have a good time.