Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Barks in Translation

The family dog prances up and down while we pour her food into the bowl each day. She scoots immediately to her dinner dishes, sniffs to make sure her meal is there, looks at us, and calmly walks away. The kibble still rests untouched in the bowl. Why? Why does she do this?

There are some things I cannot understand about the dog, such as why she insists on pooping under the piano at night, or why she pulls paper out of the garbage cans during the day. I have asked her why, but she does not give a reason.

She is our dog, one of our pack, so there are some things that I can translate having spent much time with her the last couple of years. If I come home and she is waiting, she will howl something that sounds much like this: Where have you been? Why were you gone so long? And why did you leave me? And then she will lie down suddenly grudgeless and content, her behind touching the chair of my desk. She can roll her eyes, just like my daughter can, in an expression that reads, “Can you please take the small boy off me?” She has learned to tattle on him, too. She barks at him and then runs to look at me with those large, perfectly blue eyes and says, “Hey, did you see that?” She’ll even sit in on the resulting discipline of my son and smile gently about it. My favorite thing she says is the clear and enthusiastic ROWF in the middle of the day when she says it’s time to play outside. Yes, this ROWF is why we have a dog. We love her and the way she talks to us.

These days, she is an old dog. She heaves her stiff legs and bulky body up the stairs at night and will glance back at whoever is chaperoning her ascent as if to say, “Dude. Why did you put the bed up here?” In her age, she has gained wisdom, and will lie close to us when we need comfort. She cannot tell us how to solve our problems nor can she bring medicine, but she knows her warmth and fuzziness somehow make it all better.

I love this dog, understanding or not. She was my husband’s before she was ours, and I love her for that, too. Considering our often hectic schedules, she is a constant presence, and a soothing one. I cannot imagine life in this house without her. My husband, knowing that we will be lucky to have even another year with this dog, is moved to silence when he strokes her, conveying through the pressure of his moving hand, all his love for her, something that is perfectly understood.

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