Love and Animals

ruby redI’m trying to climb back on the grid, I really am. I’ve had my computer back for a few days and have completed all my paid assignments. But a lot has happened this month and it all boils down to my realizing how much more I want, and how much Rilke applies if I’m to achieve it.

You must change your life, said Rilke.

In the first and second and third place, I’ve grown powerfully tired of social media. I know this isn’t fair but after a time away it just seems like the worst of 20th century snail mail: chain letters, clippings from college roommates who assume they’re ranting to the choir, notes from bored aunts about everything they ate and aren’t-they-just-the-cutest kittens and babies.

I want more. I want please and thank-yous. I want diagrammable sentences rather than rebuses; polite declines rather than rebuffs. I want declarations and advance invitations and follow-up questions and direct answers. I’d wanted the Summer of Jane but at this point would settle for Dick and Jane. Or just See Spot Run.

For I’ve fallen in love with a dog, the terrier mix Daisy I was watching upstate alongside her brother, the dachshund Comet. I admire Comet but not with the passion I feel for Daisy. Daisy I’d like to know every day of my life; Daisy and I cried when we said goodbye. Though I was sorry she was sad, I was gratified to know our love seared her as well. I’d never really grocked the appeal of dogs before–didn’t dig the barking rather than purring, the endless streams of saliva. To be honest, their unchecked affection triggered my intimacy issues. But Daisy and I fell in love.

Never before had I experienced the joy of walking an unleashed dog. Three or four times a day we’d hike miles on her guardian’s untamed property. My friend would bound ahead, white ears and plumey tail bobbing in and out of sight as she flew up and down the hills and through the trees. But whenever I got lost—I had to learn to orient myself without city blocks—she’d circle back and patiently lead me to the right path. As I adjusted to the woods’ dark tangle, daisy y yoDaisy felt more comfortable leaving me to my own devices, but always would hasten back if I called. Sometimes she’d show up just to nudge me with her nose, as if to say, “Isn’t this all so great?” Eventually we got so she’d take a left rather than a right just because I whispered that request.

We fell in love.

One day she disappeared. At first I did not notice because she had been playing in the yard bound by the electric fence while I read on the porch. Then I heard Comet yelping and realized my friend was nowhere to be found. I strapped on the high rubber boots necessary to search the fields across the way—ticks and poison oak, don’t you know—and called until I was hoarse and then some more. After a half hour, Daisy emerged, her white coat bathed in blood, and fell in the middle of the road, panting heavily.

I screamed.

Hours later, when she was issued a clean bill of health by the animal hospital (the blood was another’s, apparently), we both calmed down, but Daisy was still frightened by whatever had happened in her private animal world. So I climbed in the crate with her—Grace did too, which hurts me even as I type this—and we did reiki on our white furry friend until her heart rate finally began to slow. (Grace is a true reikitty.)

After that, we three were bonded for life, so much so that both creatures would come running whenever I sang Ella Fitzgerald’s “Love You Madly.” (Comet would yawn conspicuously.) Every time this happened, my heart widened exponentially.

I adore Gracie—she goes beyond her comfort zone daily, which is all I ask of any living being—but realize I also crave a level of communion my once-feral permakitten will never be able to offer. I crave the unmitigated, uncomplicated love of my sweet canine friend, whose one wet look conveys more than all the texts I’ve received from suitors this year. IMG_6605It’s hard to write that last sentence. Needing something from anyone has never ended well in my experience, especially in my last big love affair. But it’s no mistake that a tick landed on a spot between my shoulders that it took a kind and observant stranger at the Apple Store to detect. It’s no mistake that I returned from Daisy to be greeted by the mother dove Ruby Red, quietly nesting a new egg on my fire escape. It’s no mistake I found myself kissing someone on a dark street just as if my heart hadn’t been mangled so many times over the last five years.

I want more and am learning to ask for it.

This doesn’t mean that I will get it how and when I want it, but it does mean that I am daring to ask. It’s like turning on a light in a room that’s been unvisited for so long that plenty of cobwebs have had time to form. Grubby and musty and even a little ugly. But beautiful, too.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy