Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Dog That Always Smiled

Once upon a time, some far, far away time … I used to be terrified of dogs. I am not sure how all that started, because my dad worked with animals all his life and raised us amongst them. We didn’t have pets, but we were around his work animals, and our family’s animals, in the mountains.

And yet, there was something about not being able to relate to dogs, that scared me. Maybe it was that one time in sixth grade when Tarzan, dad’s German shepherd snuck up on me, behind a bush in the darkness that startled me for life?! I don’t know what it was … really. But I could not be left alone with an unleashed dog till about seven years ago, no matter how tame the dog was promised to be, or how small.

Seven years ago, I met two dogs that changed my life. One of them died yesterday. And I wanted to take a moment to be grateful to Ms. Molly, for her generosity and patience with me.

The dogs that changed my life: the stoic Ms. Molly and
the ever inquisitive Dakota, the beagle

After J. became my boyfriend seven years back, it took something like 6 months (I think) until he built up the courage to introduce me to his dog. To say about his dog that he is a rambunctious beagle is to utter the understatement of the year! Knowing my fear of dogs then, J. didn’t trust Dakota to be around me. But he introduced me to his parents’ dog, Molly, first. He kept warning his parents to keep Molly away from me, and he kept telling me she is big and loud but she is a mush. I was dubious! “Big dog” to me, meant trouble. Definitely not “mush”.

I met Molly on a rainy spring afternoon. She was indeed big and absolutely gorgeous! I don’t remember her barking at me. I remember her smile and her whole body wag. Most dogs wag their tails in happiness and content. She shook her whole body and her tail. She was pure white, with dark, beady, black eyes. The corners of her mouth and her eyes looked drawn back, as if she was smiling.

I had brought her treats, and her mother, J.’s mom, assured me that she will forever be my friend, as “the way to Molly’s heart is always through her stomach”. Isn’t that the truth with all dogs?!

Over the years, she was always there, as part of the family, of course. She was just a mere presence. She was never needy nor bothersome, or if she was, she was not when I was around. She was so stoic. Always still and patient, as if she knew a bigger truth than life, but she had no way of sharing it.

Little by little, by watching her, I started understanding her body language and I started trusting her more. She was almost always calm, polite, waiting her turn to speak and to be fed, waiting patiently to go outside. Even not leashed, she never strayed far away from home.

She loved water and was the heart of lake parties, tirelessly bringing back balls her parents would throw in the water for her. She was at our feet when we opened Christmas presents, and under the table, when we ate our barbeque. She was mindful of other pets, even the neurotic, rambunctious Dakota, of her live-in step sister, Annie, the cat, and children. She was the easiest dog to be around. All she needed was a bowl of water, a cookie and some food. She had so much love to give.

Her parents suspected that she might have been mistreated in her previous household, because she was a bit defensive against guys in caps, and when you hid something behind your back from her. A bit untrusting. But her deep, short bark told you she’s not happy. But for the most part, when she was not just seated, in her meditative gaze, her whole body was wagging with joy, and her face always bore a smile.

And thus she taught me that dogs are not indeed killer machines, but just faithful companions of all creatures. I have always thought she made a house into a home: to this day, when I think of a perfect home, I picture a big, white dog just like Ms. Molly snoozing in front of the fire place. Me?! The dog non-lover! Want a dog in a home to make it perfect!

Age related weakness and diseases took her away. But as I always say: pets never die. They’re forever, and when time comes, they just move out. And wait for us, patiently. Somewhere we can’t just visit.

I thank you, Ms. Molly, for teaching me your love and allowing me into your life. You were such a precious gift to me, and to everyone who knew you. I hope you are pain free and smiling somewhere, and your all body wag will never stop.

I miss you, and you’ll always have a place in my heart, in the very corner reserved for doggies only, which appeared within me about seven years ago, when we met.

I could have never given you what you gave me – a new, happy, fuller, joyful life. But I can promise you I will always love you.

Happier and healthier times (2005):
Ms. Molly loving the water

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