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On a Perfect Pile of Puppies: A Story of Abundance and Joy featured img
Category: Abundance

On a Perfect Pile of Puppies: A Story of Abundance and Joy

November 30, 2023

Yet again I have been persuaded—for persuaded is the word, a gentler word than convinced or coerced or compelled—I have been persuaded to bring into our house a small puppy, eight weeks old, full of snapping snoozing softness and sharp teeth and the type of boundless, boiling energy that rivals the way my children rolled and rumbled through our home when they were small, all awkward limbs and light and laughter, noise and naughtiness and tears and hope, filling the house and the yard and all hours of the day with the type of chaos that follows small and vulnerable things as they first make their way in the world, and I have wondered, as we have adopted not one, not two, but three dogs over the last year, I have wondered if it has been one way of filling the quiet rooms and empty spaces left as our children have grown older and busier and content with their own lives. I have considered the change, as together my husband and one daughter and three dogs and I have gone on wandering, winding, windswept walks and rangy rambles and joyful jaunts through the wild and the woods and the city park, we have rampaged through rain and snow and mud, and we have watched the puppies roll through grass and leaves and dirt, and we have watched them dig in the garden bed and the flower bed and the lawn, and we have watched them pull against their restraints, their leashes taut, leads tugging on human hands as they follow their instincts, as they listen to their nose, the symphony of scent playing first in one direction and then in another as they chase the tail of some mysterious, miraculous event that happened some time in the past— the ghost scent of happiness and sadness and maybe even joy.

Three dogs are more than a couple, more than a few. It is more than an afterthought or an accidental happening. 

Three dogs is a pack. A heap, a herd, a horde. Three dogs is an abundance. 

The puppies are cute, one black and white, one white and black, one brown with tiny white socks and a white splotch on the top of her head, all with long curling tails that wave like flags in the air as they run and romp and bounce from one place to another and soft floppy ears that are always cocked to one side, listening to the sounds I cannot hear, and large, liquid eyes that beg for any bite of food, playacting at hunger, as if they are not spoiled, as if they are not fed treats and carefully curated meals, as if they are not secretly slipped sustenance from sly, sneaking hands under the dining room table and have instead been long days wandering in the wilderness, subsisting on slivers and scraps and skirting the very edge of starvation.

My son says every actor has his dog movie, and maybe for a writer it is the same, essays and stories and poems about the companions that give so much meaning to our lives. Odes to the furry friends that greet us at the door with an enthusiasm no other family member ever has, their entire being alive with incandescent, butt-wiggling joy at our return. 

They follow me as I walk through the house, from room to room, with no respect for privacy or personal time. They lay on my feet, my legs, my lap, shoving and shrugging into whatever space they can find in order to be as close to the action as possible. And occasionally, as I watch them play, I wonder at the way they experience this thing we call life, at how they feel about this wild, complicated, painful, and beautiful world we wander through without paying much attention, without seeing the abundance that surrounds us, without remembering to recall the small things, the hallowed and humble and holy things, the sacred things we may never notice at all if we do not slow down and get down on our hands and knees to play with a small child or a small dog and look up to see things from an entirely new point of view.

As we walk on frigid mornings and sunlit afternoons and damp evenings in the wind and the rain, I wonder at the things I have begun to notice since bringing home our first dog—the overlooked, the forgotten, the undervalued, things we fail to see in the sedate steps of a life lived at an unsustainable pace. The sticks and the stones that a dog frolics with and gathers and chews on and brings to our feet like a messenger of an ancient order we have almost forgotten we once knew, one that lived closer to the land, in harmony with the ebb and flow of the tide, the seasons and harvests of the year, the rising and setting of the sun, the paths of the moon across a twilight sky. 

As I pet the soft, silky fur at the base of their ears I wonder at the way we are drawn to the young and the vulnerable, the innocent, the messy, the unrefined and uncorrupted, and I marvel at how it seems to take something outside of ourselves, something small and furry and full up of so much unrestrained glee that their very being helps us begin to remember what it was like to run unrestrained across fields and furrows and wild places that existed in our imagination back when we were unconcerned with what someone else might think. 

As I sit covered in the solid weight of a lanky puppy whose legs have outgrown her body, one who still considers herself a lapdog with her head hanging over my shoulder and her feet dangling off of the couch I wonder at the way we think we have outgrown love and affection and the pleasure of physical touch—the weight of a hand in our own, fingers tangled together, the gentle bump of standing shoulder to shoulder and sharing a nod and a shrug and a joke, the tight squeeze of an all encompassing embrace as we remember what it was like to hand out hugs, unaffected by the strain of solitude and self consciousness.

It is late afternoon, and I am home from work, and it is time to go out—the back door opens and the dogs are off, leaping from the steps in a flurry of frolicking, racing around the yard in circles and spirals and figure eights, barking at the leaves as they fall from the trees and the sound of a lawn mower three yards down the block. They run until they are tired, and then they return to flop in a pile at my feet, all panting breath and heaving chests and tongues rolling out as they seem to smile great doggie grins up at me from their places on the floor and say, “See? Isn’t it magnificent? For here there is air and sun and grass and dirt and growing things, and isn’t it good? Don’t we, after all, live in a wonderful world full of simple, satisfying, and altogether surprising joy?”