This seems like a good day to talk about love.
Usually, when we speak of love, we’re talking about person-to-person love, but there is also person-to-animal love. The most unconditional love is the love dogs have for their humans.
When I took Leda home from Greyhounds Only, she was damaged. Most of her tail had been amputated due to a racing accident followed by an infection. She was afraid all day, day after day—her whole body shook except when she was sleeping. She wouldn’t leave her crate except for a quick walk, even though I left the door open.
I was damaged, too. I had lost a husband and boarded up my heart.
Leda loved me first and won me over. Slowly, I pulled off the boards.
So often in Leda’s life when she was sick, I had no idea what was wrong and I wished she could talk to me. By the end of her life, I understood her without words.
When we were out on a walk, she would signal that she was ready to go home, to turn back early, with a simple turn of her head. Another turn of her head indicated that she didn’t want to take the stairs that strained her arthritic hips, she wanted to walk over to the ramp.
One day after a walk, instead of going back to her blankets in the living room, she stood in the open spot near my desk and wouldn’t move. I brought her blankets to her and she laid down.
That’s how it went for a few days, moving her blankets next to my desk during the day and next to my bed at night.
On Sunday night, on what turned out to be her last night, I got out of bed to lay down next to her.
Leda didn’t usually like me to do that. The few times I had done it in the past, when she was sick, she had moved her head away from mine. Leda liked her space.
But on this night, she let me stay by her. I stroked her long grey-flecked snout and held my head up to look into her round brown eyes as she looked into mine. As I petted her, I said, “So much love here,” over and over, at first not even realizing that I was speaking. But that’s what it was—so much love—from me to Leda and from Leda to me.
After a while, I put my head down and closed my eyes. It was late. Leda lifted her head and I expected her to move it further from mine, but she put her head back down so that her damp nose lightly touched my cheek.
We stayed like that for a few minutes, until she turned her head to sleep. I got back into bed, still feeling the place where her nose had been.
A few nights ago I had a dream about Leda. She was running on a bright green grassy hill, her long tail wagging happily in the sunlight. We didn’t interact but I was happy to see that she was happy.
When I woke up, I realized that I must have been dreaming about Leda in heaven, since she had her whole tail instead of her ‘tailette.’
I’m glad Leda is running on sunny grass with her whole tail. I’m glad that if you asked me where her nose touched my cheek, I could touch the spot.
A Piece of Poem
Even in times of uncertainty, some things are certain—good things. As a reminder, here’s part of Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver:
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Chewing the Cud of Good
Thankful for a gift several years ago from my friend Elaine, a special carved wooden box that never held anything until now. It is holding a bit of Leda’s fur.