The dog fix

there is nothing like a dog’s love

Last Saturday evening, I was coming back home from a week in Tucson. While on the second plane that headed from Chicago to Cleveland, I saw a long golden fur stuck on my jean. I smiled because it was evidence of my blissful visit to my sister- and brother-in-law’s house where two large balls of pure love reside: a golden doodle named Riley and a pure golden retriever named Resa. I was in dog heaven.

I had arrived at their house on Thursday morning already sleep deprived. My body was certainly tired, but my mind was also jumbled and my spirit battered. My line of work requires focus on the global economy, and lately, that has meant paying attention to the ongoing war and geopolitical tensions. With age, I have gotten better at leaving work at work, but the tensions can sometimes creep into my psyche before I am aware of it. And of course, the loss of my dear Maris has been a thing that has been hanging over me. There are days I miss her so much that it feels like I lost her just yesterday. It has already been almost 4 months, but now I believe what my friends have told me… the pain and longing last a lifetime. So here I was, broken and tired, and that is how Riley and Resa found me.

These dogs are around 75 pounds each. Yes… EACH. They have the power to knock me over, all of 110 pounds, but I wouldn’t care. I had been there just a few minutes, and they were already all over me, as if we had been best friends all our lives. Riley, the golden doodle, put my entire wool jacket in his mouth and walked around the house. Did I care about the dog slobber? Nah! I just loved that he liked my scent enough to do it! As I always say… everything is replaceable… except for us and those we love.

While I was at Rose’s house, I got licked all over by Resa who is a golden retriever extraordinaire… honestly, I think she licked me more in the two and half days I was there than all 11 years of Maris’s life with me (Maris wasn’t really a licker… she was very stingy about kisses, even with me). Perhaps one adventure that sticks out was our 5:30am walk in the desert. I tagged along with Robert (brother-in-law), Riley, and Resa on their morning walk, saw the constellation Orion very clearly for the first time in a really long time, witnessed the moon setting behind the Tucson mountains, and the sunrise painting the sky in various hues of red and orange. The desert is a beautiful place, and even better with loved ones and terrific canine company.

Jeff and I are waiting for our little Australian Shepherd puppy to grow enough to come home with us. He is currently 2.5 weeks old and still at the farm with his dog-mother. While I am so excited with anticipation for our little Lucas (yes, that’s going to be his name), this is the time for me heal by spending quality time with my Maris memories. And I was so blessed to have Riley and Resa’s love and giving energy to help me get through this difficult time.

Thank you, Maris, for leading us to Lucas. I know that you made me a better dog-mommy in the last 11 years, and that you’ll continue to guide me with the next little puppy. Don’t worry, little Lucas, I am working on healing and will be ready to be your mommy in a few weeks. I can’t wait to see you, little buddy. And thank you, Riley and Resa, for giving me the love and the desert warmth I needed along the bridge between Maris and Lucas…

So many kisses…

Desert morning

The world through my eyes

in which I am the dog whisperer

Our family had a dog while I was an adolescent. Her name was Joy. She was a German Shepherd mix that we rescued. I remember that I was in middle school when the opportunity to adopt her presented itself. I was vehemently against it. I made my case to the family: owning a dog is a huge responsibility, and I don’t have the time to do it because of my academics. You might be asking, why was I putting all that responsibility on myself? Because I knew, even as a 12 year old, that I would be the one to take the duty seriously, but I simply did not have the time. But I was outvoted, we got the dog, and no one had time for her. Honestly, it is still traumatic for me to think about it. I have one photo of Joy from the early 1990’s, and I can’t even really look at it because I get so sad.

Can we make up for our past sins (no matter if collective) in the present? I sometimes thought of that during the 11 years Maris was in our lives. I treated her with respect for life I would have for any person I knew. She was my priority – I rearranged my social life, my schedule, finances, etc. around her happiness and fulfillment as a canine. I worried about her exercise routine, about her food… and during our walks, I let her sniff as many things for as long as possible because I knew that it would keep her canine brain active. I aimed for a fulfilled life for Maris. And sometimes when I looked at Maris’s face, I saw Joy. They were similar in some ways… the black-tan-white combo, and the big, kind eyes that would see through to your soul. It wasn’t too often, but I thought of Joy from 2011 to 2022 and hoped that my love for Maris would somehow make up for the love that Joy did not receive.

My young experience with Joy changed the way I interact with dogs as an adult. When I see a dog, I feel an immediate affinity to it… and I like to think that most dogs recognize this, too. Most dogs look right back and me and stare. I am sure there is a scientific explanation for why dogs do this, but in my eyes, they are connecting with me. In my world, they look back at me because they recognize that I am their ally, that I am communicating my deep love for animals to them. “Yes, dawg, I see that you are a beautiful soul… I know, I know… I get you. I love you, too.” That’s the conversation that takes place in my head. And this happens with most dogs – perhaps not the German Shepherd police dog I saw in Philadelphia airport who was all business and didn’t respond to me at all.

You might be thinking that I’m crazy, but from a psychological standpoint I think that my strong connection to dogs stems from my early trauma with Joy. Joyful her life was not, and her name was cruel irony. But it didn’t matter to her perhaps that she didn’t live a joyful life – to the end, she remained all loving and giving because that is what dogs do. It is the closest thing to unconditional love I have found in this world.

Happy together