I know how you’re supposed to fill in the blank. But I’m no Dorothy. My go-to rejoinder for “There’s no place like ________________” is “the next place on the map, please.”. My favorite trip is the one I’m planning during the trip I’m currently on.
So color me ruby-slipper surprised when five days into our last trip I became seriously, painfully, unbearably homesick. Or, more specifically puppy-sick.
I was miserable. Asleep, I dreamed feverish Lily dreams – she was lost, she was sick, she was in distress. Awake was even worse – I teared up at the sight of every Golden Retriever I encountered. On the flight from JFK-LAX I was openly sobbing while I watched (and please don’t – it was a great book but a terrible movie) The Art of Racing in the Rain. Even that handsome Milo Ventimiglia couldn’t redeem the overwrought dumpster fire that was this movie. But I watched it all the way through and I cried and cried and cried. I was beside myself with longing for Lily. I just wanted to go home to her.
What is it about dogs and the people who become insane about them?
According to Jeffrey Kluger in a Time Magazine article (July 20, 2018), remains dating back 14,000 years have been found of humans who chose to be buried with their dogs. The word “puppy”, he says, “is thought to have been adapted from the French poupée, or doll—an object on which we lavish irrational affection.”
Irrational being the key word here, at least for me.
We didn’t want a puppy. We weren’t even sure we wanted a dog, so potent was the grief we still suffered over our departed pair of pups. I still look deep into the eyes of every taffy-colored Golden and windswept little white dog I see trying to find a message via the Rainbow Bridge from Chloe and Soho.
Their place in our hearts is immutable, a deeply-etched “Keep Out” sign hung upon it. And taking that step forward to a new dog seemed fraught with danger. “We’re too old”. “It won’t be like Chloe”. “Sleepless nights? Ugh.” “Housebreaking? Ugh ugh ugh.”
For a mere $13,000 we could have had a grown, trained replica of Chloe, but we chose not to be financially reduced to eating kibble ourselves for the rest of our lives. So that was a no. Instead we went a different direction. I don’t think we even knew what question we were asking, but the answer turned out to be Lily.
I won’t kid you. Those first weeks were tough! She slept through the night from the get-go but we quickly discovered that she is, um, let’s put it euphemistically, an independent thinker. Thank goodness we have a village to help raise her. Our family members, friends and neighbors delight in her. Her dog-mother, Tammy (and family), trainer par-excellence Wency, and dear courageous friends Christi, Lori, Dave and Karen and Kim have all generously volunteered to Lily-sit, all pouring out gentle love upon her. In her eight months on this planet she has known nothing but joy and kindness from humans.
According to Kluger’s observations about humans and dogs, “there are a few genetic scraps that make a powerful difference. On chromosome six (in dogs),,,investigators have found three genes that code for hyper-sociability—and they are in the same spot as similar genes linked to similar sweetness in humans.” So aha! The magical bond has a genetic source!
I’ve been home nearly a week, and that little restless voice is already starting to whisper to me to get out a map and start planning the next trip. But Chromosome 6 is telling me to play with Lily. She is at peak puppy right now, sensing our daily rhythms and finding her place in them, usually by our side. Never mind that she a) digs holes, b) eats horse poop, c) rolls in the dirt after jumping in the pool and d) fails to materialize after I’ve become hoarse calling “Lily come!” again and again. Chromosome 6 does not recognize these failures. It simply instructs me to bury my face in her fur and wrap my arms around her while she thumps her tail back and forth in joyful exuberance.
With apologies to beer and Ben Franklin, I firmly believe that dogs are proof God loves us and wants us to be happy.
It’s so (irrationally) good to be home.