Dog days

Last night I dreamed of my dogs.

This isn’t all that uncommon. I have been an avid dog lover for as long as I can remember. In the days when you could run up to an old dog and squeeze his face and kiss him everywhere and he’d kiss back, I’d take every chance I got to feel the soft teeth of dog fur on my palms with my chubby hands . I have two dogs. Daisy is a 12-year-old black Lab and Charlotte is a 5-year-old pug. They mean the world to me, and leaving them for college was almost worse than leaving my mother.

Dog dazed

Look, my mom can fly to me when I need it. I can call her and hear her voice and calm the chaos in my head as I navigate these four years of hell we call college just by her gentle, even lilting voice. She can send me carefully filled care packages with my favorite sweets and new books to read in the little free time I have. My mother is human and therefore has more facilities to stay present in my life.

But my dogs don’t have that privilege. They can’t fly right over to see me. I don’t even know if they remember half the time I’m still alive because I’m not physically present. I can’t call them if I need to hear their barking. When I went to college, I took all this into consideration. I would be absent from my dogs’ lives for quite some time, given the time span between breaks in which I would go home. This left me quite shaken considering what an integral part of my life they are.

When I was 12, I had a terrible accident and my ACL tore really, really badly. I was committed to the couch for six weeks of my seventh grade summer to heal. I was in a lot of pain and, frankly, emotionally unstable and miserable. It’s hard enough being 12 and to add insult to injury (literally), I was stuck with a huge leg brace for between 12 and 16 weeks. But Daisy stayed by my side throughout the experience. She would sit next to me on the couch and very gently put her soft black head on my lap, knowing I was in pain. I’m convinced she feels more than anyone could ever hope for. My mom calls her the “mother Theresa of the dogs,” and it’s true – she’s pretty unreal.

Daisy Lou

Daisy was the runt of the nest. Her mother was a black Lab from Topsham, Maine, who had become playful with the neighbor’s dog and produced an army of precious puppies free from a good home. We had just lost our rescue Rottweiler, Rosie, and my mom decided it was time for another dog to sit on the couch and scratch the back door. When we arrived at the farm to pick up a puppy, my mom picked up little Daisy, who stood out from her siblings with her signature brown markings and disproportionately large ears. She was tiny, less than a foot tall, and she dug her tiny claws into my mom’s sweater and made eight tiny holes that are still there today. My mother instantly fell in love with her big brown eyes and calm demeanor. A month later we took her home and since then we have only fallen in love with her more.

Daisy: cinnamon roll edition

Daisy loves to swim and sleep and eat and run and everything a dog needs to love. She chases ducks with reckless abandon and once swam nearly three miles after a family of mallards, eager to bring one back into her jaws as a trophy. She loves peanut butter and treats and especially small children. When we walk with her, she walks up to every child she sees and showers them with kisses. She pulls her ears back and trots to you when you call her name with love, and she knows the way home wherever we walk. She is patient unlike any creature. She loves to lay in front of warm fires and have her tummy scratched. She dances in the snow and curls up into a ball on the couch on family movie nights because she knows she’s as good a member as anyone else. She grew up side by side as a baby with my little brother and dug her way into our hearts just as she made holes in my mother’s sweater the day we met her.

Snow walks are the best walks

Daisy was our family’s baby until my older brother went to school and our house felt too empty. We were with two relatives and there was an eerie silence throughout our house, a silence that no one knew because of the many years we had lived with many relatives. My little brother begged and begged my parents for a French bulldog, thinking that their squashed noses and wrinkly bodies were just about the cutest thing he’d ever seen. Unfortunately, however, French bulldogs are hard to find in rural New England and my parents were concerned about the alleged array of health problems they pose. So they did us an even better one – they gave us a pug. She came from a long line of show dog heritages, weighing less than five pounds and having ears taped for perfect formation when we first got her. Charlotte the Pug became a member of our family on New Year’s Eve in 2010, and boy, has she made her mark ever since.

Char Char Binks

Charlotte lives for affection. I read somewhere that pugs were bred solely to cuddle Chinese emperors during the cold winters when they needed warmth, and she is apparently not far from her ancestors. When you sit down everywhereCharlotte will appear in ten seconds and plop herself on any part of your body, be it your lap or your feet or sometimes, if it pleases her so much, your head. Despite her compromised breathing apparatus, she will surreptitiously appear right under your feet and send you to your certain death as you stumble over her tiny body. But mostly, my God, she’s loud. She has canine OCD, which manifests itself in the incessant licking of her face. She cannot breathe normally and is constantly panting. She snores louder than a truck driver and makes this horrible rabbit-monkey-dolphin noise when she’s excited (or in other words, when she knows she’s about to be fed).

Charlotte’s favorite way to sit

But despite her generally nasty condition, you can’t help but love Charlotte because she knows nothing but love. You can yell at her and tell her to get out of the kitchen, but she’ll be back in five minutes with her head down and her big, greasy, marble-like eyes staring at you with such a desire for forgiveness that you can’t help, but pick her up and hug her. She has an incomparable passion for life that doesn’t seem worth manifesting in a dog, but if anyone deserves it, it’s Charlotte. Even her enthusiasm for just going for a walk makes my whole family laugh as Charlotte throws herself against the door and barely squeezes into her armor before falling to the floor unable to handle her own excitement. Every person she meets is worth a good sniff and everyone stops to comment on how cute she is. And shoot, she’s cute. She is a perfect pug. Her little paws are like pincushions and her tail is a perfect spiral. Her squashed face is so ugly it’s cute. You can’t help but love her when she looks up to you with all the love and enthusiasm in the world.

Charlotte’s winter walk getting up

Once, in my Catholic elementary school, a religious teacher had the audacity to say that dogs have no soul and therefore do not go to heaven. I don’t know how you can even begin to think that about a being that puts its complete trust in you to feed, protect and love it while giving you all the loyalty and love in the world. They are committed to their people all their lives. They learn from us, and we learn from them in turn. We learn that life is short, too short, and we have to chase after every bird and ball we see and a day’s sleep is a great day.

Maybe it’s because it’s the weekend before the finals or maybe it’s because I’m listening to the Glee album ‘The Quarterback’ but I’m sobbing like a baby as I write this because I miss my dogs so much. I can’t tell you what I’d give to sniff my nose in Charlotte’s fur and drink the scent of her wet wool coat or to wrap my body around Daisy’s and feel her silky ears and feel her deep, even breathing under her graying coat. Mom, if you’re reading this, give them a big kiss from me, okay?

Similar Posts