COMING HOME: What would dog say about past eight years?
WATFORD CITY, N.D. -- The big brown dog lying beside my bed is snoring a little this morning. The beard around his snout and his dog eyebrows have turned white.
When he gets up, he gets up slowly, sort of creaking as he prepares to hit the steps to go outside.
These days he’s spending a lot of time cooling off in the stock dam, cutting through the algae and little lily pads like an oversized beaver. Water is the only place where this dog is graceful, and we love him for that.
Especially me, because I can relate.
The husband, me and Hondo the Lab. This is how our family started eight years ago when we got married under the big oak tree in the middle of a cow pasture.
“It’s time we become a family,” my childhood boyfriend proposed just a few months earlier. And it sounded like a good idea to me.
It sounded official.
And so the day came and went, and my new husband carried me over the threshold of my grandma’s old house, and we started putting away dishes and books and placing picture frames filled with memories of little adventures.
And there we were for a few weeks, just the two of us and the little red barn. But something was missing.
So I went looking for Hondo, who wasn’t Hondo then. Eight years ago, he was just a little smush of a brown baby, born one of six or seven in a litter of chocolate Labs. I dialed the number, and the lady on the other end said he’d be ready to come home with us in a few weeks, and so we had a date.
A date to pick up Hondo.
There are so many different kinds of love in this world, and I’m thinking about it today because we’ve hit another anniversary, me and my husband and that big brown dog. Eight years together. Eight years of plans and disappointments, road trips and hunting trips. Eight years of “told-you-so’s” and “I’m so sorry’s” and “How late are you gonna be’s?”
Eight years of leftovers and arguments about nothing and everything at once.
I sometimes look at those droopy brown eyes, his chin resting on his paws, and wonder what he’s absorbed of our story. What has he thought as he lived between the walls of six different houses and in the back of three different pickups, and running in front of us on leashes on sidewalks then wild through mountain trails and the tall grasses of the ranch where he’ll likely be buried?
He’s been a quiet observer, barking only at cars pulling into the yard, howling with the coyotes and moving from room to room with us, content to wait for a belly rub or a dropped crumb along the way.
Eight years, and I wish that dog could tell us that we’re doing OK.
He would be the only one to know, after all.
Because he’s the only one who hears what we sound like when we’re angry, fed up and tired. He’s the only one who knows how we both squeeze into the easy chair together at night, eating an embarrassing amount of popsicles and arguing about an embarrassing array of terrible television.
He’s the only one to witness our morning goodbyes and evening hellos or the way we argue about unfolded laundry and moldy things growing in Tupperware in the fridge.
He’s the only one who sees us, who knows us the way we are when there’s no one around to judge us.
Last night, the two of us scratched his belly and threw him sticks and wondered out loud what his voice would sound like if he could talk.
But more than his voice, I wonder what he would say. Because he’s becoming an old dog now, but I think he’s always been wise.
Wiser than us.
And if he could talk, I think he would say, “Come on now, family, let’s go for a walk, chase the birds and throw sticks in the dam.”
Reminding us always that life can be simple for the husband, me and Hondo the Lab.