The Smile

I saw Dave yesterday and he looked terrific. Every inch of him was smiling. With that underbite on full display, he wiggled down Dr. Miller’s hallway and into her office. I was working on Peachey at the time, but even I was distracted by the robust energy bustling toward us.

When Dave joined us, Peachey licked his face from one side to the other, pausing briefly to collect something from Dave’s left jowl. Unlike the last time I was with these two boys, Dave was energetic and returning the “hello, how are you?” and the “is that treats I smell?” interactions with the big, enthusiastic Peachey. Dave was still shaking and panting, but this time from excitement to see his friend again, not fear and confusion.

Dave also got to see Enzo again. Enzo, named for the narrator in The Art of Racing in the Rain, is a young Labrador, about one and a half years old. For much of his early life, Enzo was referred to as The Poet. If dogs an be introverts, he is the prototypical ISTJ—quiet, serious, thoughtful and judgmental. He would watch briefly as his Uncles Peachey and Gator,especially Gator, make complete fools of themselves for attention and belly rubs, then he would move to the opposite corner to ponder his next great sonnet or haiku. In spending more time with his uncles, Enzo has emerged from his poetic stupor to act more like a young Labrador and less like an angst filled, penniless old wordsmith.

When Enzo saw Dave entering the room, he froze immediately, except for his rump, which wagged side-to-side with alarming power and speed, and assumed a play bow. Dave saw the puppy’s excitement and did his best to acknowledge it, but indicated he had his paws and tongue full with Peachey’s kisses and he wasn’t prepared to play just yet. That didn’t stop Enzo. He continued to slap the carpet with his large chocolate paws, willing Dave to engage. I had been in the middle of a massage for Peachey, so Enzo was unceremoniously removed from the room. Dave stayed with Peachy and me, reclining on his comforter, panting from the excitement and the rush of adrenaline.

This was a completely different Dave. His eyes were bright, without a hint of longing. His face was relaxed and soft, with that grin wider and more inspired than the last time we were together. And his energy. Wow.

He had another story to tell me, but this one was much shorter and much happier. He told me about stability, relief, being with someone he knew again. He told me he could relax, knowing that he had a home. The nurse and long-time caregiver for his mother had agreed to take Dave into her family. Dave knew her and was comfortable with her. I have to believe he knows the tenderness and comfort his mother derived from her. Dave can maintain a connection to his person through his new home. Maybe that’s the relief I felt in him, the softness. Whatever it was, I felt it washing over me. When I left Dr. Miller’s office, I couldn’t tell who was wearing the biggest smile. Me? Dave? We both have an underbite, so it was really hard to tell.

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