A dear friend loaned me a book of poetry she’d discovered and purchased for her bright young daughter. I’m not a poetry fan (Why does everything have to rhyme? What’s with the weird use of punctuation and line breaks?) The thought of an introduction to poetry excited me even less. The suggested reading ages were 9-12 years old but she assured me that it was worth an hour of my precious time. It had a dog in the title; how bad could it be?
I loved it.
But not because I’d discovered my inner poet during that hour. Instead, because I’d recognized a theme that has been woven throughout my relationship with Harley. It was so simple that I’d just accepted it, expected it, enjoyed it but never identified it. Even now, I struggle to name this element that has bound us together for nearly ten years. Togetherness is too simplistic. Love is too broad. Attached at the hip is inaccurate. Soulmates fits like a borrowed pair of jeans—right size, wrong shape. What is it?
Maybe it doesn’t need a name, an identifier, a noun that embodies all the pieces that make up its complex structure. Maybe an image is a better option. Yes, that’s a better option. But it can’t be a photograph or painting or a rendering at all. It’s a series of mental pictures wrapped in the warm rush of emotion, the kind that brings a gentle smile to your face and a softness to your eyes.
This is my picture show. Harley and I are strolling through the freshly watered soccer field at the park. Our paws are wet and cool, a pleasant break from the desert heat. He stops to nibble the tender blades, tugging the tall tendrils missed by the mower yesterday morning. As he trims the errant grass, some of his snack gets sidetracked in his jowls, thick with slobber waiting to be launched with a casual toss of his houndy head. He slowly lifts his eyes to me, the realization that I’ve been staring at him patiently, lovingly, spreading across his earnest face. He moves closer to my side and finds that place on the outside of my right thigh where his head fits like the last puzzle piece of 10,000, sliding into place with a satisfying snap. He nuzzles that spot, leaving grass, dirt, slobber as his gift. The left side of his face, his ear, his snout, then each on the right side, rubbing his love deep into the leg of my khaki shorts. As he swivels his head back to his left, he pauses, the side of his snout still caressing my leg, and looks up into my eyes. There is kindness, appreciation, love and a longing for more walks like this, more time for joy and silliness. As he lowers his head and wills his long, lanky body forward, he hesitates and looks back at me. “You come, too.” he says. Of course, I’ll come.