I live with a dog named Guilt. Those large brown eyes melt my soul, entreating me to treat her kindly, protect her from the slam of the dryer and the squeak of my recliner when I insist that I must lift my legs. The local veterinarian claims that I own this animal that he has listed on his surgery sheet as Leah. My assertion is that I live with her. She doesn’t own me and neither do I own her.
Last week I placed a chain link collar around this creature’s neck. I drove her to a groomer. The groomer also boards dogs and perhaps cats. (The groomer said, “Hello, Leah! I have a nice doggie bed for you!”) That day I needed to drive across the state in my little car. The adventure would mean at least four hours of being cooped up in a two door, well, coupe.
Leah grew from living in a sweet black puppy shell into a grown dog body that has been known to startle a person or two. After the Vet replaced both her knee ligaments with faux materials, Leah proceeded to stretch from the eighty pound range to a lovely and rotunder ninety two pounds. She’s a mix of the common Black Lab breed, sporting an expanse of curls on her shoulders and back.
Leah and I have worked together since we first met. As a youngster she tended to spit up when she went on car rides. As she aged she grew out of that particular physical manifestation of nerves. It didn’t take long for Leah to learn that sitting and lying down on command meant treats and praise. We played goofy indoor games: catch! She’d look at me when I said that and just that quick, a treat would pop into her eager mouth. This simple game led us into the ‘follow me’ and later, the important heel on the left side and when we’re on property, heel without a leash.
All this and again I realize that I am sizeist. Leah is a robust, healthy gal. She is not a perfect robot. Leah has eccentricities. She keeps me realizing that she’s a doggie bag filled with anxiety. We walk on town streets and do that ably, no rut for her neck and no hauling on my shoulder.
Its that long haul driving that we can’t get around. Here barrels in Mister or Ms Guilt: our smaller dog is physically, well, smaller and due to her breed, calmer. Little Sally, Blue Heeler pup, approaches life with interest and full speed ahead, not reacting, just taking the world in. This is where the kennel door looms for Leah, leaving me with a Santa sack of guilt slamming down the chimney. I hate leaving good hearted Leah behind. I love-hate how it is, just is, a joy to include Sally on such forays as an afternoon snack at a bistro-bookstore. Our polite inquiry on whether we could sit out on their porch and drink our tea and lemonade with Sally was met by “All means!” And then a ginger cookie doled out for Sally. And all was sunshine with a light breeze.
So I love little Leah though I admit that I love her best when she is home, dancing in the afternoon, chasing a torn up toy for a moment or two. The lack of anxiety flavored with that faint taint of guilt, I laugh: joy and puppy play. No worries. No wondering what’s headed toward us. Just exuberant hilarious leaps and gambols. Until….. its time again for another road trip. Without…..