I’m an unabashed, unashamed borrower-of-dogs.
From Sophia, my old corgi girl. My first dog and my litte sister. A quintessential corgi personality. Impossible to photograph, impossible to train out of begging for food at the dinner table.
To Joey, my brother’s Norwich Terrier, who conquers hearts and gains admirers wherever she goes.
Or Tanner, the English Shepherd mix who might just be the perfect dog. A rescue, too, who’s found his forever-ever home.
Then there’s Hailey, the most opinionated dog on the planet. I have never met another dog more convinced that she’s right and you’re incredibly and incurably wrong.
Ella, my dog-cousin. She looked me in the eyes one afternoon, and the wordless knowledge passed between us that she owned me and there was nothing I could do about it.
Younger than the others, though fast growing out of her gawky teenage years, is Clover. A free spirit and mountain dog with a soulful face and a hound dog’s bark.
There are others, too, that I’ve held and held back. And still more that I’ve stopped on the streets to say hello. Corgis that have brought tears to my eyes. German Shepherds that won me over in a matter of moments. A Chow-Chow-mix who was the sweetest dog I ever did see, but who definitely did not understand the concept of me spending a night on his sofa. And my parent’s first dog, who I know only by pictures. A protective mutt they found in a barn.
Here a mutt, there a pure bred. From rescues, puppy mills, pounds, breeders, accidental litters.
Dogs who evolved to stand at our sides. Who we brought into our tents, homes, families. That lick our fingers and faces. That leave marks on our lives, and maybe even our skin.
I still have the scar from when I was bit in the face as a child. An accident on both our parts – mine and the dog’s. Neither of us meant any harm, and there were no hard feelings. I loved that dog, Oscar, before and I loved that dog until he passed away, a very old man, years after. When someone tells me they don’t like dogs because they were once bit, I lift my chin and trace the thin mark of stitches against my jaw.
Like a dog, forgive. And love again. Other lessons: stop to admire the leaves on the ground, the grass. Appreciate a blanket and a sofa. Stay hydrated. Stretch you legs. When it feels good, lean in to it. Sigh with contentment. Love your work. Love your play. Get dirty. Shake when wet. Kiss the ones you love every day.
Mine is a life lived in dog-years, a heart marked by paw prints.