Dear big brown dog with the fat tail that sweeps objects off of the coffee table with one swish,
I know you don’t remember this, but at one time your nose didn’t even reach to that table in the center of our small living room, not even to grab the last of a sandwich or a piece of leftover popcorn on movie night. I know you don’t recall how I used to take you along in my car when you were so small I had to lift you onto the seat.
Because you’re a dog, and you live for the day, your memory doesn’t reach to the place where it first began, the first month into my marriage to a man I’ve known since I was a little girl. I wanted you to have him. I wanted you to be there at his side for hunting trips, drives to the big lake with a fishing pole, evening walks to the dam with a stick and nights when I was hundreds of miles away singing for my supper.
I wanted him to be yours, so I found you and brought you home to him and he gave you a name and something to chew on. And somewhere in between the pounds and pounds of kibble, the ever expanding collars, the jogs with your long pink tongue drooping out of your jowls, paws that slapped the earth with increasing force on your way to greet me at the car, you scooched on into my heart and became an essential part of a small family that only existed for one month without you.
I know you loved the ranch and the wide open spaces, the endless mud that the creek supplies and the water in the dam that never lets you down–all the smells and trails to follow, all the poop to roll in. I know you love it out here. And I know I’ve never properly thanked you, big brown dog, for giving all that up to sit in the passenger seat of the car on my 24th birthday as I drove us hundreds of miles away from the only home you ever knew, leaving my new husband behind to pack up the rest of our things. I needed you as we searched for a place to call home. I needed you there as I drove into the mountain town late at night and unlocked the door to a lonely apartment, unpacked my bags and rolled out my sleeping bag to lay on the floor.
I needed you to sleep right next to me. To calm my nerves.
And you did.
You always do.
Thank you for your enthusiasm and companionship we found on new trails and sidewalks, you attached to the leash, attached to my arm.
Thank you for waiting patiently in the small backyard, sprawling out in the sunshine or hunkering down in the snow and rain until I returned home from work and husband from school.
Thanks for wagging your tail and helping turn a bad day a bit better.
Thank you for showing remorse and regret when we left you in that apartment on a rainy night only to come home to find that you had shredded my favorite feather pillow to the point of no return.
It’s three years later and I think I still have feathers in my hair, but I forgive you.
I forgive you because you destroyed my pillow, but you have never touched my shoes.
I forgive you because you follow me, blindly faithful, even when I beg not to be followed…you follow.
And you are always eager to sit down next to me in the passenger seat–you do so time and time again. When I loaded you up and drove you back toward home, so close you could smell it, you didn’t run the rest of the way when we stopped to repair an old house, to work, to think on how we might get there in the end….
You waited as we worked it out. You nudged my dirty hands as I held my head and helped soak some of those tears up on your snout.
You cleaned up the pieces of burnt chicken that fell on the floor and went outside to wait with a stick, just in case I had the time today. Just in case I felt better. Just in case you could convince me that a little fetch fixes most things.
Thank you big brown dog for being right. Thank you for your perseverance.
And thank you for holding on to hope that someday we would bring you back here for good, back to the land of porcupines and wood ticks and water tanks and every specimen of bird just waiting to be chased.
But most of all, thank you for not running away, disowning me, howling in protest or indulging in a late night snack when I wasn’t looking, after, to your horror and in a complete moment of weakness, hubby brought this home to be mine.
And he began taking over.
And chewing on the shoes you always stayed away from. And eating your food, laying in your bed, hiding your bones in between the couch cushions and worst of all, stealing your sticks after biting your hocks during a game of fetch.
Thanks for not eating him when he does that.
I really appreciate it.
Because big brown dog with the fat tail that clears the coffee table with one swoop, you were meant to come into my life to take care of the man I love, to be his and he yours and walk off into the sunsets on hunting trips like a scene in one of those sportsman calendars.
But you could not be fooled, not by your name, not by your breeding, not by a small, black, one eyed monster biting your heals…
No matter what they say, from the very beginning,
on into the middle…
and until the end…
The woman who feeds you