Back when I worked at the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Doris Miller campus at Memorial and New Road, I’d leave the town of Golinda every day at 7:30 a.m. and return home about 5:30. And every day my canine family would line the fence and celebrate as if I’d been gone a year. The enthusiasm they exhibited morphed into everyday joy as I turned onto my street and began to look forward to the doggy delight at my long-awaited return.
BigDog, the Labrador Retriever mix, would bounce up and down in place as though on a pogo stick. Mr. Little, the Corgi mix, would shout his greetings with that barrel chest of his that belied his true size. Meanwhile, Heidi, the Rat Terrier, would howl and scratch at the gate like a teenaged girl trying to get at Mick Jagger. And every day I came home, I felt like a rock star. Every single day. Then I’d come inside and let the magic dissipate like so much fairy glitter scattered to the winds. Soon, I’d be back to ignoring BigDog and the rest of my admirers while I made dinner or paid bills. I took my fans — my family really — for granted. Yet they never reciprocated the indifference.
They just kept right on celebrating me every single day, rain or shine.
Dogs, it turns out, are long-suffering creatures who don’t mind repeating themselves. It took me years, but it finally dawned on me the impact they were having. It dawned on me how persistent they were. It didn’t matter if I returned the favor or not. They loved me and they weren’t ashamed to show it. In fact, they wallowed in it.
Then it occurred to me: I’m not so different from BigDog. He barks at strangers in the yard. I go on alert too. He doesn’t like anyone messing with his food. I once jabbed a classmate’s hand with my fork when he tried to grab my mashed potatoes. BigDog is fond of the opposite sex. I’m guilty there too! If I were so similar to BigDog and my canine crew, why couldn’t I cast an enthusiastic spell on someone I love, namely Gayle, my gal?
After rubbing the whiskers on my chin till they almost caught fire, I came up with a hot idea. Beating Gayle home from work, I raided a rosebush and put my plan into action on a warm, spring afternoon. After she turned down our street and slowly made her way to the house, I stepped onto the road in front of her car. Confused, she braked and held her hands up in a question mark while making a frowny face at me. I grinned and motioned for her to get moving again, which she dutifully did.
Reaching into an old grocery bag, I began skipping along the road, strewing home-grown rose petals before her. At the end of our driveway and our short journey, I turned and saw that she was laughing and had one hand up to her forehead in disbelief.
Of course, the dogs made cacophonous contributions to this “welcome back” ceremony. All of us, high on excitement, nearly danced with glee into the house. That homemade event was a bona fide happening and all of us basked in its glow.
But old habits crept right back in. The next thing I knew, life went back to grinding out the daily grind.
The dogs didn’t falter, though. They kept right on with their celebrations. Not long ago I realized that I had taken them for granted yet again and forgotten what they had taught me and were so patiently repeating every time I went anywhere and returned home.
Hmm. It’s not yet the right time of year for our rosebushes, but BigDog and gang don’t need roses to make me feel like a rock star. I bet I don’t need them for Gayle either. I just need love, enthusiasm and persistence — every day. Oh, and maybe a pogo stick.