Joy in the Moment

November 11, 2009

Sometimes he worries about the woman.  Not in a physical sense; he knows the strength in her long limbs and her pony-engine heart.  He can smell the health in her skin when she works outside and hugs him, and her sweat is as sweet as the soil she likes to dig in.  He can smell the richness of her hair, the shiny scent of someone who’ll live to be an old, old woman.  But, still, he sometimes worries about her.  He worries about her joy.

He waits for her every weekday.  The squeal of the school bus arouses his knowledge that she’ll be home soon.  He stands by the window and waits, not daring to let his exuberance show because maybe, just maybe, she’ll be late today.  Then the blue van pulls into the yard.

Is it her?  Is it her? He breathes so hard against the glass that on winter days it’s hard to see out.  Is it her?  Yes! She climbs out of the van and walks up to the porch.  Why does it take so long to unlock the door? Sometimes she talks to him through the window as she fumbles with the key.   When she finally comes inside, his joy is unrestrained.

You’re home, you’re home, I thought you’d never get here!  Where’s Pink Ball?  Where’s Squeaky Tiger?  Where’s something I can bring to show how ready I am to play?

He finds one toy, two toys, as many toys as he can, bringing them to her in huge bounds of glee, dropping them at her feet before dashing away for another.  He knows she finds joy in those moments.  She shimmers when she’s happy; her joyful moments sparkle the air around her as if she was hung with Christmas tinsel.

They go outside together and she throws the ball for him.  His heart pounds so hard that he wonders why it doesn’t burst during those agonizing seconds when the ball clings to the air and refuses to come down. Exquisite anticipation! Will it come down?  Will it ever come down? Not everything comes down.  Sadly, predictably, the woman throws like a girl.  Chewy Rope never came down.  She threw it, and it folded itself neatly over one of the wires that bisect the sky above his yard and refuses to come down no matter how much he barks.  It remains tantalizingly out of reach, bent over that wire so high up and regarding him daily with its smug, frayed expression.

Sometimes she has errands to run after work and then – oh bliss! – they climb back into the van together.  How can she not find the joy in that?  The new sights, the new smells, the scent of roasted chicken when they drive past a certain market, the faint bark of an unknown dog unseen behind a mysterious fence.  Did you see that?  Did you smell that?

Most of the time she doesn’t seem to notice these miracles.  Most of the time she keeps her eyes on the road and reaches over to acknowledge his happiness with an occasional caress.  He likes to steal a kiss from her when the van rolls to a stop in traffic.  There’s so much joy in that.  Even the drivers of the cars beside them feel it.  He can see them smiling and laughing along with him.

Some nights when it’s late and quiet, she sits very still in their favorite chair.  She doesn’t offer to help him climb onto her lap for rock-a-baby.  The woman stares at nothing and he senses that she’s only peripherally aware of him as he pads around the house, looking for something to distract her from her melancholy.

On bad nights, he hears her crying.  From his post on the back deck where he guards the evening hours and sometimes watches to see if this evening Chewy Rope will tire of the game and finally fall to earth, he hears the woman crying.  He finds her on the bed and his heart aches for her sadness.  He knows she’s lonely, but he can’t help that.  He can’t do anything about the space beside her that should be filled with one of her own kind.

He climbs up beside her.  Her arms go around his sturdy body and he can hear the huge weight of her affection for him as she whispers his name.  Her tears taste like the ocean and his kisses sometimes assuage the sadness that’s grown in her.  Often there’s a battle when she smiles while the tears continue to wet her face – a congestion of emotion, an intersection of giggles and snuffles.

Although he doesn’t like to sleep on the bed (“You’re not a cuddler”, the woman always explains to him, as if he wasn’t already aware of it.), he stays with her when she’s sad like this.  He puts his nose under her hand and lays his head down with a sigh.   Maybe if he’s the very best dog he can be, she’ll fall asleep soon.  Maybe she’ll sleep tonight without the cries that sometimes disturb her sleep and his.

There’s heartbreak in this moment, but there’s joy too.  Surely she senses it.  He does his best, he does his job; it’s all very simple to him.

There’s joy in his purpose.  There’s joy in his immense heart.

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2 Responses to “Joy in the Moment”

  1. Mickey Mills Says:

    Everyone should feel the unconditional love of a dog. We could learn a lot from our canine friends.

    I love this story!!

  2. janet Says:

    sweet…I gotta get me a dog!

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