Once upon a time….not really that long ago there was a big, yellow mutt who loved the snow. Since he was an itty bitty puppy he simply loved the white, fluffy stuff that accumulated on the ground on a cold winter’s day. He would run out to the fenced in area, dig his nose into the snow and come up with snow on his nose. When we laughed at his snow covered nose, he gave a ‘what are you laughing at?’ look and went right back in it. He play bowed and rolled, he romped with bundled up Ryan and Sahana. He took his time to finish his business and did not care at all that I was freezing and needed to get inside.
The snow in our yard was never left untrampled in all these 10 years. This year is different. The snow in our yard remains pristine. The snow digger is resting in my heart. In his last winter in 2019 he did not get any snow to play with. He bid adieu on January 31st, 2020 and although I don’t much think of what comes after death, I like to think Sage is playing in snow somewhere today.
We had our first snow storm without Sage and all through it I thought of him. I felt the raw pain of losing him all over again.
4 year old Sahana said ‘Mom, may I please have a dog?’
Mom said, ‘Not right now!’
4 year old Sahana said, ‘When can I have a dog?’
Mom said, ‘When you are older and can take care of it?’
4 year old Sahana said, ‘When I am 10?’
Mom (to end the conversation) ‘Sure!’ Thinking the little girl won’t be 10 for a long, long time.
Well, she turned 10 in the blink of an eye.
What can I say about Sage? Take a look for yourself, but do hold on to your heart. The cuteness overload in these pictures have wreaked havoc in mine.
Sage is the most wonderful, most Sagely, kindest, gentlest, smartest dog that ever graced the face of the earth. What, you think I am biased? Well….! He is the gentle salve for Sahana’s teenage angst ridden, troubled soul, he was the non judgemental listener to Ryan’s halted reading when he started to read, he is my silent companion and the soft presence just under my feet when I settle on the couch with a book, and he is Sean’s shadow and a supervisor to all his chores. Nothing comes into our house without a quiet inspection of a reddish brown nose and a long snout.
He has faults too. He considers himself an honorary lap dog and wants to get his 94 pound body on to guests’ lap to show them his affection. He also feels it is a privilege for humans to scratch a particular spot on his back, right where his tail begins and in letting them do so he is doing them a favor. When they stop, he uses his wet nose and long snout to give a gentle nudge to remind them of their sacred duty.
But this blog is not about my dog, Sage (did I say, he is wonderful?)! This blog is about the parallel universe that we discovered because of Sage. The universe of dog lovers.
We learned the protocol of never exchanging greetings with a dog’s human before greeting the dog. That is a big no-no. We scratch the dog, pet him/her, shower him with attention, focus all our energy on our dogs playing, try desperately to untangle the leash which, inevitably gets entangled while the doggies wag, and jump, and play bow and play. We smile at them, comment how cute they are together, we exchange information about our dogs – their name, age, chewing habits, vet care. All this conversation happens, primarily without eye contact and without formal introduction. We don’t need those. Introductions in these cases are redundant. We just pick up and go with it. When our dogs lose interest, we do too. We mumble a ‘Have a good day’ and move on…till we see the next pup on our walk.
Dog lovers universe is very black and white, there are no 50 shades of grey in between. You are in if you completely, utterly and unconditionally love dogs. You are out if you don’t completely give yourself up to canine love. You don’t have to own a dog to belong, you just have to feel the love for dogs (and animals in general). We are pretty inclusive that way. We applaud the works of those tireless humans who dedicate their time and energy to save, foster, care for and adopt dogs and try to give them their forever home. We encourage our children to volunteer at animal shelters in the summer. We inform our fellow citizens of this parallel universe that their dog has gone to the bathroom and whether they need plastic bags to pick up the poop. We discuss the nitty gritties of doggie behavior for hours and think nothing unusual about it. We feel most comfortable in dog parks and automatically bend our knees without thinking when big dogs come bounding at us. We, as I said, earlier, bond quickly, deplore puppy mills and we stand united in our condemnation against those who do unspeakable things to man’s best friend.
We understand the joys of watching a puppy tumble, a young dog run leash free, a senior snooze in the sun. We feel the warmth of the wet nose just by hearing a description, we love each others’ pups and firmly believe puppy kisses are good for the soul. We read SPCA newsletters cover to cover and get overjoyed at every successful adoption story. We wish the dog and his/her human well. We watch back to back episodes of Dog 101 and look forward to more. We baby talk to the pictures of our friends’ dogs that they post on Facebook and engage in lengthy conversation with perfect strangers on social media about dogs.
And only we understand the full depth of sorrow of fellow members of our universe when they lose a canine child. No words of consolation suffice, so we just sit by their side and hold their hands and feel their grief.