You cannot read. But in your superior way of sensing, you must already know.
Every birthday party I had until age 19 yielded pouting disappointment. The expectation always exceeded the reality. The day would pass and I thought it should be – would be – more.
As I grew older I learned to temper expectations; to dial down the glamour; to suspect – expect – accept – that something would fall short. So when reality did strike, eventually, it was okay.
I learned about the wax on the apple and its near certain un-shining.
And then you. I wanted you – wished – pined – waited. Until I had a yard. Until I was done traveling. Until I was really mature enough to care for another creature. I tried to be patient. I knew you were worth waiting for.
Your arrival – days after closing on our very first home – was contentious. I knew raising you would be hard. I was ready for the orneriest, naughtiest, most destructive doodle the world had seen. I cautioned myself that my first puppy would, most likely, be like so many other experiences thus far in my life – mixed.
I did not pick you from a squirming litter. You were simply the last cream female available. And when you were heaved carefully into my arms, I wondered how nine weeks could weigh 17 pounds.
We had to coax you out of your crate. You were afraid of the dark. You were afraid of everything.
I did not yet know ((nor could I comprehend)) how perfect you would be.
Your breath warm on my toes among power cords and USB cables in an Outward Bound cubicle. Even on the worst day – the most tedious – the most mundane – you curled at my feet. And things didn’t seem so bad.
Walks among the cottonwoods shedding in the park. An excuse to jog by the river. Warm puppy fur.
Whereas so many things had fallen short, you exceeded. You went above every expectation. Joy, satisfaction, love, comfort, companionship, loyalty. Your exponential overachievement stunned me. You were better than I could have conceived of.
You were beyond my understanding of what a dog could be.
Mellow. Affectionate. Empathetic. Sympathetic. My shaggy cream shadow.
Karma – the name was more appropriate than we knew.
Your wagging tail signals that you love me today – now – in my current condition. I am enough – just as I am.
Your deep sighs remind me to take a breath. To expel a breath. To think about breathing.
You listen to my worries – joys – triumphs – disappointments. You don’t tell a soul; your brown eyes keep my secrets.
Your muddy pawprints are everywhere: on the farm table; on the cream sofa; on the cream bedspread; sometimes on the pile of clean clothes. They are messages – “stop taking yourself so seriously.” “Get out and play.” “It’s okay to make a mess.” “No such thing as perfect.”
Your head is heavy on my lap. You plead for attention. Just an ear scratch. Just a stroke. And when I give in, I am richly rewarded. That animal-person connection. Warm fur. I slow down. I smile. Something deep inside shifts.
Even a glance at running shoes elicits sheer excitement. You howl. You stretch. You reassure me that yes – a run would be an excellent idea. Or if not a run, you’d settle for a walk and a dip in the creek. And then you bounce, Tigger pogo-stick style, along with my strides. Your exuberance is contagious.
Your gentle spirit redeems your mischief. Makeup brushes in the backyard. A yogurt container from the recycling licked clean. Yes. Even a mellow three-year-old gets into trouble. You have that look about you when I come through the door. But you’re still wagging, wiggle-wagging. You’re sorry – but not too sorry. It’s okay to cause a little unexpected trouble every once in awhile – even when you know better.
Your patience shows me how to wait. To be still. To make contact with the earth. To stretch out and stay awhile.
You put your head on my chest. Heavy when my heart is heavy. Soft when my being is light. Your eyes peer into my soul. You know things I don’t know about myself.
You are a dog. My dog.
And you are