I lived with pets for the first 42 years of my life. I was preceded in my family by a grouchy, black cocker spaniel mix and a large Siamese cat. Dogs and cats were a part of life until separating in 2014, and rental agreements prohibiting pets.
Truth be told, at first I liked the quiet. And the clean. And not having to worry or be responsible for a pet. Daughters were enough. I was burned out.
But a funny thing happened in a quiet home. Quiet became silence. Silence became stillness. And home wasn’t home. There was a void. And the girls saw what it was before I did. They started asking to get a dog. As kids do. But I felt it. I am dense, but at some point it sank in. And our landlord agreed to allow a small dog.
We knew we wanted to rescue a dog, knew a bit what we were looking for, and through Operation Paws for Homes in northern Virginia, found Harper (named for Anna’s favorite athlete Bryce Harper and for author Harper Lee).
From someone who takes a philosophical approach to life, dogs teach us more about life and about ourselves than we ever teach them.
Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil, or jealousy, or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace. – Milan Kundera
When I walk Harper through town, just the two of us, something different happens to my mind. I am slowed from running, not in a hurry, and watching what she sees. Hopefully not a squirrel.
I need more “mindful” and less “mind full” in my life. And dogs can help get us there. Harper helps me get there.
Harper was found on the streets. She is skittish around big machinery; you can see some of what she’s been through. But at eight months old, she is one of the most chilled out puppies I’ve seen. And she puts smiles on the girls’ faces and laughter in their hearts in a way I haven’t seen in my house over the past two years.
Most everyone in our neighborhood knows Harper and speaks to her by name when they walk by and she’s in the yard.
She sleeps in the bed, against the back of my legs. On nights the girls are here, she often rotates sleeping with one of them. As I write, she is crashed out on her dog bed in the sun room. She is constant, consistent, boundless, loving unconditionally. Except maybe food and walks, those might be her terms.
There are days when I come home from work, and Anna or Ava will tell me that they took Harper for a walk around the neighborhood, and detail their route and what they saw. This has quickly become one of my favorite things.
I understand Jim Harrison when he says:
Barring love I’ll take my life in large doses alone–rivers, forests, fish, grouse, mountains. Dogs.
In our case, Harper has added something to our family that we couldn’t have found any other way.