I fell in love with him the moment I cupped his small body in my hands. His closed eyes searched for me, as his body folded into a secure ball around my thumb before relaxing back into my palms. Then his eyes opened for the first time. I knew he couldn’t see yet, but I saw for him. And I saw ahead to a day not far away in dog years or light years – depending on how time is measured – when we would share our set of senses again to encounter the world as hunting partners. You and me, I thought, we will have adventures.
Some pick a pup out of a litter based on size and gender. The biggest boy or the runt girl. Our problem was, we had too much time with the litter raising them and no set strategy on how to pick a pup. Steve preferred black and white or tri-color markings, which meant the biggest pup, with a distinctive orange spot on his back, was not at the front of the line. We didn’t know then we would keep the entire litter, and every time I held the big puppy that looked like a long-tail polar bear cub, complete with white eyelashes, I knew we belonged to each other.
We named him Boss. It was the name of a fine gun maker – we named all the pups after guns, but Boss’s name also fit his feeding style – Boss Hog. He was the one pup in the litter who fed the most. He woke up and searched for his mother’s teat and fed until his stomach extended, and he rolled off to sleep, the others still waking and searching for their first meal. He slept in my hands and made delightful milk yawns and puppy burps. A roly-poly pup is perhaps more puppy than those who are slow to feed and thin. In this way, only days and weeks into life and with all the worry of keeping the litter healthy, the heartiest pup was my favorite.
It’s only three years later and his littermates rival Boss in every way. Hugo shows more drive, Cogswell listens better, Purdey is the smartest, and Colt finishes the most dinner first. Colt now steals the show for meal time antics, dances, and pig-joy grunts. Cogswell taught the others how to spin for joy. Purdey scampers, and Hugo stalks. Boss, however, has something the others don’t. It’s a winning trait only when it exists in shared chemistry, as it can’t be accomplished alone.
Boss is good in bed.
That may sound scandalous or improper, to say the least. But Boss is a lover, not in the sense of what two humans share, for better or worse. Boss is so heady in his human-love he smells my morning breath as if it is the scent of wild jasmine on the wind. He looks into my eyes, and the look is an uncanny mix of worship and prayer, adoration and beg, surrender and pledge. It’s never enough, his stare into my eyes can last minutes. I’m the one that breaks it.
I’ve never enjoyed sharing sleeping quarters with people. A bed, to me, seems like a cross between a sleeping bag and a tent, part single-issue sleeping quarters, part communal shelter from the elements. While I am comfortable with two people in a tent, I don’t want to share a sleeping bag with anyone. The first and only time I did share was when Cogswell was four months old and settled himself into my sleeping bag. We were camping in the back of the truck, and he did it to find warmth and, I imagined, comfort. When I woke in the night, he was laying on his back asleep beside me like a miniature person– who could throw him out?
These days, my bed is more base camp tent than sleeping bag. There are a number of dogs jumping on and jumping off. They have various scratching and cleaning rituals. I wonder if I’ve lost my mind along with my sleep boundaries. Except for Boss, the dogs behave like five little monkey’s jumping on a bed. But, every night, when the others have found their habitual sleep spots around the house, Boss stays close to my side and makes it a point to stare in my eyes as long as I can bear the seriousness of his gaze.
Each time our eyes meet this way, my heart opens up as it did the day he first opened his eyes. I remember the fog, like the clouds of another world, and how we still saw each other through it. There are those who say what I felt and feel is misplaced motherhood. Others question allowing a dog on the bed or admitting that you enjoy having him there. His face to greet you in the morning like a tail-wagging ray of sunshine. And, when I let out the last big breath of the day before I fall asleep, he echo’s the exhale, only longer and deeper.
He’ll figure out birds one day, I think. Or not. Some of us live a dream, and some of us are dreamers. It doesn’t matter how much potential we see in ourselves and others as much as it matters that we really see each other. Every day.