Last December our dog Luna died. It seems she took an era with her. Funny how animals define and contain entire chapters of our lives. When they go, we see the clear end of a decade or more. We see the whole thing collapsed like an origami balloon folded in on itself, the beginning place lying flat against the finishing place. She was a puppy, and then she was old. And in between we grew and shifted and watched our own eyes change in the mirror.
Her passage was hard. Letting her wade gracefully through old age was easy enough. (She was grace personified, or doggified as the case my be.) It was watching her suffer wordless, circular canine anxiety as her end drew near that tore our hearts. And when she was gone, sleeping forever, she left a blank space in her wake with a great gravitational pull.
My youngest daughter asked me every day, no less than five times, holding hands, walking to school, “When are we getting another dog?” And then she’d carefully place the cherry on top of her longing: “Life is sad without a dog.” If this is a true statement in a logical world (someone help me with the philosophical accuracy here), then the following statement should also be true: “Life is happy with a dog.”
At least that’s how—one day—I heard what she was saying, and I decided to act on the veracity of that claim, though I was not sure how or when I would make this happen. I would have to consult with my husband, make sure things were copacetic. What dog would we get? How old? Where? We’d wanted to help an abandoned one. But sometimes you just do not have to think at all or ponder long. The Universe takes care of the decision-making for you.
A few days later, I was walking down the street, and a young man was walking towards me with a small puppy zig-zagging aimlessly on the end of a leash. The dog-let was darling. Still with a bit of fuzz to him. Wolf-like in his face. A long tail that wagged from shoulder to shoulder. I asked the man where he’d gotten him, hoping perhaps there was a litter somewhere with more puppies still available. He told me that he’d found the dog—rather the dog had found him—at a festival of peperoncini in a small town on the Calabrian coast called Diamante. The dog had escaped a cage (and an undoubtedly ugly future) where he was being kept with 13 other puppies, slipped through the bars (he was only 4 weeks old), pulled on the man’s pants leg and kindly asked passage to Milan and a better life. But now he, the man, realized he could not keep the dog. He was a chef, and work was just too demanding. He was looking for a new owner.
I volunteered us on the spot (SFX: Universal gears locking into place). Two days later, the decision was made, and the dog was brought to us with equal doses of sadness and relief, along with his bed, his toy giraffe and his name, Pepe. That was one month ago.
We still miss Luna. But the gravitational pull is no more. Puppitude has taken over—a new chapter, a new decade, a new origami balloon in the making…