"Happiness is a warm puppy." (Charles M. Schultz)
Last night, I dreamt of my dogs.
This isn’t all that unusual. I’ve been an avid dog-lover for as long as I can remember. Back in the days when you could run up to any old dog and squeeze its face and kiss it all over and it would kiss back, I would seize any chance I got for my chubby hands to feel the soft tines of dog fur on my palms. I have two dogs. Daisy is a 12-year-old black lab and Charlotte is a 5-year-old pug. They mean the world to me, and leaving them for college was almost worse than leaving my mom.
See, my mom can fly out to see me if I need it. I can call her and hear her voice and have the chaos in my mind pacified as I navigate these four years of hell we call college just by her gentle, even lilt. She can send me carefully stocked care packages filled with my favorite candies and new books to read in the little spare time that I have. My mom is a human, and therefore, has more amenities to stay present in my life.
But my dogs, they don’t have that privilege. They cannot fly out to see me on a moment’s notice. I don’t even know if half the time they remember I’m alive because I’m not physically present. I can’t call them when I need to hear their barking. Leaving for college, I took all of this into consideration. I would be absent from my dogs’ lives for a pretty long time, considering the span between breaks in which I would be going home. This left me pretty shaken up, considering what an integral part of my life they are.
When I was twelve, I had a terrible accident and tore my ACL very, very badly. I was committed to the couch for six weeks of my seventh-grade summer to heal. I was in a lot of pain and, quite frankly, emotionally unstable and miserable. It’s hard enough being twelve and to add insult to injury (literally), I was confined to a massive leg brace for anywhere from twelve to sixteen weeks. But Daisy stayed by my side through the whole experience. She would sit next to me on the couch and ever so delicately lay her soft black head on my lap, knowing that I was in pain. I am convinced she feels more than any person could ever hope to. My mom calls her the “Mother Theresa of Dogs,” and it’s true—she’s pretty unreal.
Daisy was the runt of the litter. Her mother was a black lab from Topsham, Maine, who had gotten frisky with the neighbor’s dog and produced an army of precious puppies who were free to a good home. We had just lost our rescue Rottweiler, Rosie, and my mom decided it was time for another dog to take up room on the couch and scratch at the back door. When we arrived at the farm to pick a puppy, my mom picked up little Daisy, who stood out from her brothers and sisters with her distinctive brown markings and disproportionately large ears. She was tiny, less than a foot long, and she dug her tiny claws into my mom’s sweater, making eight tiny holes that are still there today. My mom fell instantly in love with her big brown eyes and calm demeanor. We took her home a month later, and we’ve only fallen more in love with her since.
Daisy: cinnamon roll edition
Daisy loves swimming and sleeping and eating and running and everything a dog should love. She chases after ducks with reckless abandon and once swam almost three miles after a family of mallards, eager to bring one back in the clenches of her jaw as a trophy. She loves peanut butter and treats and especially little kids. When we take her on walks, she will stroll up to any kid she sees and shower them with kisses. She pulls her ears back and trots towards you when you call her name with love, and she knows the way home no matter where we walk. She is patient unlike any creature. She loves to lie in front of warm fires and have her belly scratched. She dances in snowfall and curls into a ball on the couch on family movie nights because she knows she’s just as much of a member as anyone else. She grew up side by side as a baby with my little brother and dug her way into our hearts, just like she did holes into my mom’s sweater the day we met her.
Snowy walks are the best walks
Daisy was the baby of our family until my older brother left for school, and our house felt too empty. We were down two family members and there was an eerie silence throughout our house, a silence that no one was familiar with because of the many years with many family members we had lived. My little brother begged and begged my parents for a French bulldog, because he thought their squashed noses and wrinkly bodies were just about the cutest things he’d ever seen. But unfortunately, French bulldogs are hard to come by in rural New England and my parents were concerned about the supposed slew of health problems they present. So they did us one better—they got us a pug. She came from a long line of show dog legacies, weighing in at less than five pounds and with her ears taped for perfect formation when we first got her. Charlotte the pug became a member of our family on New Year’s Eve in 2010, and boy, has she made her mark since then.
Char Char Binks
Charlotte lives for affection. I read somewhere than pugs were bred solely to cuddle Chinese emperors during the cold winters when they needed warmth, and she apparently is not far removed from her ancestors. If you sit down anywhere, Charlotte will appear within ten seconds and plop herself down on some part of your body, whether it be your lap or your feet or sometimes, if it so pleases her, your head. Despite her compromised breathing apparatus, she will stealthily appear right beneath your feet and send you falling to your certain death as you trip over her tiny body. But most of the time, my God, she is loud. She has dog OCD, which manifests itself in incessantly licking her face. She can’t breathe normally and constantly pants. She snores louder than a trucker and makes this horrible bunny-monkey-dolphin noise when she’s excited (or in other words, when she knows she’s about to be fed).
Charlotte's favorite way to sit
But despite her generally annoying state, you can’t help but love Charlotte because she doesn’t know anything but love. You can yell at her and tell her to get out of the kitchen, but she’ll be back in five minutes with her head down and her big, greasy, marble-like eyes staring up at you with such longing for forgiveness that you can’t help but scoop her up and snuggle her. She has an incomparable passion for life that doesn’t seem like it should be worthy of being manifested in a dog, but if anyone deserves it, it’s Charlotte. Even her enthusiasm for just going for a walk around the block sends my entire family into peals of laughter as Charlotte throws herself against the door and barely wriggles into her harness before falling onto the ground because she can’t handle her own excitement. Every person she meets is worthy of a good sniff and everyone stops to comment on how cute she is. And shoot, she is cute. She is a perfect pug. Her tiny little paws are like pin cushions and her tail is a perfect spiral. Her squashed face is so ugly that it’s cute. You can’t help but love her right back when she looks up at you with all the love and enthusiasm in the world.
Charlotte's winter walk get-up
Once, in my Catholic elementary school, some religious teacher had the audacity to say that dogs don’t have souls, and therefore, don’t go to heaven. I don’t know how you can even begin to think that about a creature that puts its complete trust in you to feed it, shelter it, and love it, all while giving you all the loyalty and love in the world. They spend their entire lives dedicated to their humans. They learn from us, and in turn, we learn from them. We learn that life is short, too short, and we must chase after every bird and ball we see and a day spent sleeping is a great one.
Maybe it’s because it’s the weekend before finals or maybe it’s because I’m listening to the Glee album “The Quarterback,” but I am sobbing like a baby writing this because I miss my dogs so much. I can’t tell you what I would give to nuzzle my nose into Charlotte’s folds of fur and drink in her wet wool coat scent or to wrap my body around Daisy’s and feel her silky soft ears and feel her deep, even breaths beneath her graying coat. Momma, if you’re reading this, give them a big kiss from me, OK?