Today, my husband and I went on our usual morning walk without the dog. It was so much easier.
When I sat down on the floor to put on my shoes, I didn’t have to time my reaching to tie my laces with her running circles around me—and over me. Nor did I have to endure a face wash—she does drink from the toilet—or concussive barking just inches from my ears.
I didn’t have to check for cheeky squirrels, sly UPS men, suspiciously serene Seventh-Day Adventists or earnest Boy Scouts who must surely have a ball hidden somewhere on their person before leaving the house.
I didn’t have to tell her to drop the horse turd—that one, too—and I didn’t have to call her back as she drifted aimlessly—randomly, coincidentally, who me?—towards the neighbors’ yard, the one with the chickens.
I didn’t have to tell her don’t bite my hands when we got to the logging road where she likes to open up and charge—top speed—ahead, back and then ahead again, always three passes, always shooting by within a hair’s breadth of us, and always, on the last pass, jumping up to nip at the hand that feeds you! I say to her as she looks at me with that whites-of-the-eye, mad-dog grin and hurtles on by.
We didn’t have to endure long-suffering sighs when we rinsed her feet off in a bucket before letting her back inside—feet, I will add, that needed rinsing because she willingly—joyfully—waded into a fetid swamp filled with water that was just as wet—shocking, I know—as the water in the bucket.
And I didn’t have to dodge around her while I got breakfast as she, with unerring precision, managed to place herself in exactly in the next spot where I needed to go.
It’s so much easier doing these things without her. And, as I am sure you know, it is wholly pointless. I just want her home. The vet will call later today—good news, bad news—and then we’ll know. I say that breezily, but I know you are not fooled.
My dog—all dogs, it seems to me—embody presence. They just want us around, and we just want them—please—to be there, too.
And as I struggle today to focus on a writing project that I routinely describe as biting me on the butt, I will remember that I didn’t ask for easy. I asked for presence. It is enough. It is always enough.