Two months ago I welcomed an eight-week-old puppy into my home. Her name is Magnolia Blossom. “Maggie,” for a favorite E. E. Cummings poem, and “Blossom,” because that’s what beautiful things do.
I also have a thirteen-year-old dog. Her name is Betsy and she truly was the apple of my son’s eye. She surrounded him with love every day and he showered her with the same. I can look at certain photos of him wrapped in her embrace and see her willingness to be the vessel to take on his sorrow. The tilt in her head says, “Leave it all here with me,” and, in the heaviness of his posture, I know that he did. There’s no doubt in my mind that his time here was made longer on account of her love. She’s an amazing girl, and throughout my grief, my constant companion. She’s sat with me through my darkest of days and walked a countless number of miles with me those first two years. She never leaves my side, still. Age has slowed her steps, but not her unconditional love. She’s also grieved this loss. I recognize it at times in our similar and somewhat somber demeanor.
While I take great refuge in the sound of silence, I also miss the sound of joy in my home. The sounds of the living and everyday life… my laughter, my son’s laughter, Betsy’s happy feet jumping about on the floor.
The arrival of the new puppy brings a sense of joy back to my life and I see that for Betsy, too. For her, I see a returned pep-in-her-step as she prances about with a toy in her mouth. She can’t keep up with the speed of the little one, but she walks in a showing-off fashion with her toy held high as if to say, “Sure, she’s cute, but can she do this?!” She’s patient, kind, and incredibly tolerant of Maggie’s puppy shenanigans. She was born to be a mentor and Maggie follows her everywhere. We all need purpose and Betsy seems to have found a renewed sense of one having Maggie under her wing.
And then there’s me. I watch Maggie experience things for the first time and, through her eyes, I’m reminded to look at things for the simple joys they bring. She chases her shadow to the fence as though she can coral it and it reminds me of being a kid trying to catch my own. She stops and stares to the sky at the sound of a bird or a plane flying overhead and I’m reminded how beautiful it is to simply stand and look to the sky. She watches the wind rustle the trees and tosses her head while she tilts her nose up as though she might land the breeze. She loves to go for walks and she trots down the sidewalk with such poise. She’s so confident in her steps and I wish to find the same in my own. I can’t wait to take her for her first hike, first swim, her first visit to the ocean. She’s so full of wonder.
She’s already associated the ringtone on the alarm clock to be get-up-and-go-time, so the fun for her repeatedly begins every morning with a joyful energy that has her licking my face as if to say, “It’s a new day-hurry, hurry, getup-it’s a new day!!”, and nothing wakes you up with a smile quite like having your ears licked.
And her excitement wakes Betsy. She might not have the oomph to jump on the bed anymore, but her wiggly behind and wagging tail thump her happy drum roll on the wall. I watch them play together and I can’t resist sitting on the floor and letting them drag me in. It brings out my own joyful laughter. A sound I’ve not heard in my own voice, and a sound I’ve not heard in my home, for almost three years.
And somehow the sound of my son’s laughter comes to return with my own.