Dark before dawn’s approach, clouds spitting intermittent drops, Henrietta and I rounded the retaining wall. Feet and paws climbed the grassy slope leading inside. With the exuberance of a six-month-old Labrador Retriever, Henrietta snagged a treasure from the flower bed. Confident it was nothing harmful, I paid little attention.
We ascended the deck stairs and approached the sliding door to our kitchen. I reached down to unclasp the fourlegs collar and she whipped her head quicker than Jack jumped over the candlestick.
“Whatever you’ve got, it must be good,” I said.
In the dark, without aid of spectacles, I was blind to what was between her molars and incisors.
I slid the glass door open to warmth and candlelight. We stepped inside and I reached again to free Henri from her jingle-jangle necklace. My second attempt was successful. Tucking her rear, she scrabbled for purchase on the kitchen tiles. Once safely on the carpet, she gave me the look. Even without glasses I read, Catch Me If You Can written all over her posture.
So different from Mara, who last year at this time, could barely hobble the steps.
I accepted Henrietta’s invitation. Several trips around the coffee table and she was tossing and flipping her valuable curl of mulch. I offered taunts of I’m gonna get it, and claps of encouragement. So what if the rest of the household was still asleep?
In that playful moment…nothing else mattered.
Dogs are perfect for that. Grounding us. Grounding me.
Since we brought Henri home in July, There has been a lot of comparison to the two labs that shared our life before her. Much of the side by side happens in my solitary mind, some out loud with the family. She does this….She doesn’t do that…..I wish she would….. I miss….Isn’t that a unique behavior…. Yesterday I was happy to have a snout pointing up at me while I chopped carrots. Mara loved carrots.
Just now, in real time, Henri looped her front paws over the arm of my desk chair and dropped a soggy shred of toilet paper roll onto my thigh.
And a reminder that Henrietta is Henrietta, not Mara or Elsa.
Thankfully, I keep learning the importance of seeing the dog that’s in front of me.
So…here’s my nudge.
Can you see the dog in front of you without remembering the dogs of yesterday? Even if it is the same dog?
Is every interaction an opportunity? For better? For love?