The Mighty Viking

Conquering those things we must, one story at a time

Boys and dogs

This is a story about a dog.

Well… I think it is anyway.

It’s been, what, oh about 4 months since Mollie the Bouvier came to live with us.  She was just turning 1 year old, but she neeeed a new home. Even during her first home visit, she seemed to feel the need to keep an eye on the boys. She plunked herself down in front of Sean, and refused to leave when the visit was over. This reaction allowed the owner, who had serious misgivings about giving her up, to let go and be at peace with it.

You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with the picture of Sean and a mirror…

On her first evening with us, when I put Sean in bed, she hopped up in there, too. Sean thought it was great fun. He chuckled a pleased little chuckle, and patted her in his usual way, which is well-intended but not very gentle. She took it as her duty to endure this, and it became a habit.

I suppose none of this has answered the question of why I have a picture of Sean up here in this post

In the mornings, I give Sean his meds, we listen to Raffi, and play peek-a-boo. I talk to him sometimes, other times he jabbers at me. Charlie, the old geezer Bouvier, usually sits with me on Dustan’s bed. We do this until finally Sean drops one foot over the side of the bed – the signal that he’s ready to start considering getting up. It is then that I turn on the shower in the adjoining bathroom, go back in and assist him with standing up and walking to the shower.

A few weeks ago, Mollie started joining us for our morning soirée. Being still puppy-ish, she doesn’t sit still for long though. She hops up on his bed, over to me, back over to him, down the hall to check out arriving grandkids…you get the picture.

And somewhere around the same time, Sean started doing something interesting. He started greeting Mollie every chance he could. He has an odd way of saying “hello”. He lifts up his shirt to show his tummy. I have no idea why, it’s just a thing.

So every time he’d stand up to go to the bathroom, he’d say “hi” to Mollie. And then try to pat her back.

And then he started greeting Charlie.

And then the fish tank.

And well… anything and anyone he could.

And then, one morning, as we came into the bathroom, he looked in the mirror, and by golly, there he was in the mirror. He started saying “hi”, except he didn’t have a shirt on to lift, so he walked over to the mirror, and did something he and I used to do in greeting long ago- he bonked foreheads, with himself.

And he smiled.

And then he laughed, and chattered what I assume was a volley of affirmations to himself.

And just like that, he was out of the shell he had fallen into over the previous months, where poor health and pain had reduced his days to a steady march of surviving from day to day. I’m not saying he was cured. But he – the person named Sean, who despite his limitations lives, laughs and loves in his own inimitable style – that guy was back.

So I don’t know, is this the story of a dog doing what a good dog does, with no idea of how it affects her humans? Or is this the story of a human, doing what a good human does with a little of the right kind of outlet? Is this what humans need – not necessarily to be loved themselves, but to have someone willing to be loved?

Maybe we’ve been thinking about this all wrong. Imagine if every child could find a companion into which to pour his or her capacity for love. Perhaps if we can practice love, we get better at it. It may sound like a dream, but is this how we get kids to stop shooting other kids?

I don’t know if a puppy is the answer to life’s hardest questions. Life’s hardest questions seem to come so fast these days – seems we spend all our time anymore asking, without any time to really answer. The few answers we come up with are hurried, panicked hand-slaps at the dragons we face. Then again, maybe we allow too many questions in, ones we don’t have to answer so badly as the simple ones like, “who can we love today?”

Note I didn’t say, “who’s going to love me?” That’s a good question, something our psyche is all geared up and anxious to answer. But maybe the best way to answer it is to answer a question with a question.

“Who can I Love today?”

Oh look. There’s a mirror. Practice makes perfect.

 

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