When I first arrived back home in California after the nine-day journey across the United States and had a small furry thing shoved into my arms, I barely noticed. I was more excited about getting out of the car, being handed the glass of prosecco and knowing that I wouldn’t be waking up in North Carolina the next morning. Or ever again, if I didn’t want to.
But as the days went by, the excitement about coming home (I cannot stress how important authentic Mexican food is when returning to California after a long absence) died down, my family went back to work, the invitations to hang out stopped flowing in, and I was left alone with the dog.
Breakups are hard, even if you are the one who initiates them. It had happened months ago, but returning “home” to where we had met, the places we’d gone, the people we’d known. . . I was reliving the emotions again. Or maybe for the first time. The last few months in North Carolina were about survival; I hadn’t really given myself over to grieving for what was lost.
You wonder what went wrong, what you could have done differently. Mostly you wonder what is wrong with you. Even the most confident of us can come up with lists of personal faults that seem so extensive we wonder if we’ll ever find anyone that can overlook them long enough to make us believe in love again.
But there was this puppy. Kizzy. This creature who wouldn’t let me sit still and mope. Who needed my attention, and wasn’t shy about demanding it. This tiny face watched my every move, making panicky noises when I picked up my car keys. Little bells on her collar followed me everywhere, demanding to be let in the bathroom when I had to pee, nudging me curiously whenever I ate something. Big eyes with a remarkable ability to spot the one thing on the floor you really don’t want her to find, but then run off so proudly and cutely with it, you’re not as mad as you should be.
Suddenly a household of five adults is spending several hours discussing the housebreaking habits and bathing schedule of a seven pound ball of fluff, willingly washing up her girly bits before letting her climb into bed with us for the night. I’m noticing that about 90% of all the pictures and videos on my phone are now shots of her doing something funny, like growling so hard her entire body vibrates at the sight of a falling leaf.
I believe animals can sense your moods. I think there is a little bit of Jesus in Kizzy. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that when I come back from a workout, she acts so excited to see me, as if she’s proud of what I’ve done. Or that she somehow gets calm and loving when I’m on the verge of tears, or cute and playful when I’m in need of a laugh. Or that she starts to growl and snuffle about if I’ve been sitting on the computer too long, begging for me to play fetch with her.
Last night we crawled into bed pretty late. She had stayed up to help me watch movies. Suddenly she came over and sat directly on my chest, growling at something outside that only she could hear or smell. This is a dog that jumps back scared if someone farts, but in that moment, she showed me she loved me, too, and was trying to protect me with her own wee little body.
She’s given me something to love, to worry about, to fuss over. Something to laugh at, to try to make happy, and a warm spot next to me on the couch every night. Maybe it’s silly to love a dog as much as I do, but I’m very comfortable being silly. And although she’ll never read this blog, I will tell her about it.
You saved me from a lot of sad, Kismet. May the internet know my love for you.