Wednesday, February 15, 2006
These Old Sweethearts of Mine
In fact, right now, right this minute, if I look down from my keyboard I can see two pairs of eyes in fur-covered faces. One set is closed tight as Stella, my 80 pound, 12 year old lab snoozes beneath my feet. The other set, belonging to a Tibetan Terrier named Ollie who is perched on the hassock a couple feet away, is trained outside the window, wide and ever-vigilant. Danger, Ollie would have you believe, comes in many guises: the mailman, the Fed-ex guy, the horrible Westie on the corner( the hatred of whom gives Ollie’s life meaning and structure) the squirrels plotting nefarious squirrel deeds up in the trees and, shudder, little black birds. If I move, within a short while my companions will join me. I'm part of a pack. Clan Brockway.
But these two are just a long line of darlings and beloveds, canine companions, angels in fur coats, who have blessed my family since I was born. I come from a long, long line of dog lovers. There has always been at least one dog sharing the family digs. In fact, in my entire life there have only been two year when I didn’t share a house with a dog. They‘ve been all shapes and genders, ages and conditions: Spook, a cocker my grandmother rescued as a puppy from an abusive home; Sunny, the Street Setter whose epilepsy didn’t diminish the fact that she was the smartest animal (and far surpassed many people) I have known; Corky, Sunny’s polar opposite, brain-damaged at birth but blessed with the gentlest disposition imaginable; Jason, a bona fide Champion Elkhound with a penchant for fine Italian leather; and Lily, a eight pound ball of ..well, we never were sure but she was quick!
And there was our first dog, “our” being my new family, my husband and me. We got Addie when we’d been married two years. She was our test baby. Raising her gave me the confidence to believe I might someday manage a hairless one!
Addie was amazing. She slept on the foot of our bed—and sometimes the middle—and, when David was gone, right under my left arm. She was my pal and my playmate and my confidante. When I had a bad bout of depression one year, it was Addie who comforted me best, just by letting me lay my ear against her side and listen to her heart beating steadily, strongly and purposefully.
She never required, she always assumed; I didn’t have to ask, I always knew.
After our daughter was born Addie became a nanny. I look at the pictures of those two now and I realize it’s no wonder my daughter adores animals and has a special bond with them. Addie was her first and best freind.
Addie taught her patience, and kindness and responsibility and compassion. One time, when we were all going fishing, Doodah decided at the last minute she needed to use the bathroom. We toldher we’d wait in the boat so out she hops and out hops Addie with her. Though we called, threatened, cajoled and begged, Addie would not get in the boat without Doodah. She kept running between the cabin and the dock, barking wildly, afraid we were going to leave her “kid” behind...
When Addie was diagnosed with a brain tumor and, soon thereafter, could no longer do those things she loved, she taught me invaluable lessons about what it means to live, to accept those conditions we cannot change and to enjoy to the fullest those things left to us. And when I stood beside her as she died, I learned about compassion, and faith, and saying "so long," but never "good-bye."
Now there are two more loves in my life. Stella is old and has trouble on long walks and Ollie the Fool is just hitting his stride.
Sometime people have asked me whether I have a muse. If a muse is the repository of all things lovely and generous and humorous and giving, well then, yes. I am blessed with two. No...make that nine.
For all the muses I have known and have yet to know...thank you, my old sweethearts.