I’m sitting in a wrought iron chair on the back patio, cupping a mug of coffee while tendrils of steam dissipate in the crisp fall air. I spend more time out here lately.
We have two new puppies, Havanese litter-mates–Susanna and Wesley. The female’s half the size of her brother. We said we’d never do it again. No. More. Dogs. But here we are in training once again, ignoring the bad and praising the good.
We’ve puppy-proofed the yard, once suitable for labs that couldn’t escape from small gaps, but we’re still afraid these two will find an opening for an adventure or that a hawk seeking fast food will swoop out of the sky and snatch one of them away. So we don’t turn them out alone. That means I’m often out here before sunrise or under the midnight moon
They’ll soon harvest the yellowed waves of soybeans, I think. A volunteer sentry of corn stands tall in their midst; a doe and her babes lift their heads. A cabbage butterfly flits over clover blossoms at the edge of the field, and there’s a bluebird on the clothesline pole. Leaves are turning red, and a sudden wave of sadness washes over me.
I love fall, but I miss summer. And this is a bittersweet season for me now. It’s the second since cancer silently circled and encircled my mom’s brain, snatched her away. I shake away the thought that maybe the same enemy seeks to swoop down on me.
One of the neighbor’s horses whinnies. Crickets “crick,” and a crow caws. I hear no hawk screams, and none circles overhead.
The dogs are busy, one gnawing on a large stone, the other on a pinecone.
So I run inside for another cup of coffee. I’m careful not to let the door slam.
They don’t call them Velcro dogs for nothing.
I haven’t even made it to the coffee pot before they’re yipping and yapping and jumping at the door, crying out for my presence. I go back to retrieve them, but they run. They don’t want to come in. They just want me nearby. They want to know I’m watching.
They chase each other around the swing set, stirring up a mini sandstorm. They tear across the yard, ears plastered against their heads, tongues flapping. They dive through the dying black-eyed Susans. Wesley rips out a stem topped with a seed head and races down the hill while the ends flop from each side of his mouth. Susanna runs after him, tackles him, and they tumble and try to bite each others’ lips off. Later they trot through the yard together, stopping to snuffle in dirt or roll in some delicious aroma. Then they flop down at my feet and pant for the joy of it all.
These dogs have no worries. Their days are filled with fresh and simple discoveries and delirious delight. They gulp the moment, rest when they’re tired, and trust us to keep them safe and take care of their needs.
They just want to do all it in my presence. I’m thinking they’re going to teach me a thing or two or three about life.
In And Thereby Hangs a Tale, David Teems writes about what his dogs taught him about living the devoted life
Here is this dog, dragging me over to this dead heap of vegetation by the side of the road, this lump with no name, taking deep drafts of it as if the secret of life were contained in that one desperate intake of smelly air . . . Perhaps the secret of life was in that smell . .
He goes on:
Salem knew love was not in the destination. He knew it wasn’t even in the journey, as I had always believed. It was in the moment. Each one counted. He owned each one of them. He made the most of them. They were not unlike the front gate, his plaything, in and out of which he could come and go as he pleased. He possessed each moment fully, squeezing out of each of them a kind of nectar, a sweetness that nature provides for those who really pay attention. Time was his because he paid so little attention to it.
I put down my coffee and roll around in the grass with the dogs.