The woman was walking her dog on the sidewalk. I saw them. She had a Cocker Spaniel, it was wearing a red vest. The dog was well-behaved.
I love Cocker Spaniels. Long ago, I had one.
“Her name’s Lady,” the woman said. “She used to be a service dog, but she’s not anymore. She’s retired.”
Lady is brown, with long floppy ears, and a calm face. She is gentle, and she is thick in the middle. She has two eyes that seem wise.
Lady’s quite an animal. Her previous owner passed from a stroke in 2017. Lady was eleven when it happened. This woman has owned Lady ever since.
“She’s a good girl,” said the woman. “But she likes to be really doing something, you know, working. I don’t have any jobs for her to do though, so I just invent games for her.”
And at the end of every day, Lady crawls on the woman’s lap. She rests her head on the woman’s tummy while she reads a book before bed. Lady usually falls asleep before anyone else.
Lady also gets up a lot earlier than the others in the family. But she makes no sound. She only waits by her new mother’s bed, sitting at attention, until everyone else wakes up. Old habits die hard.
This dog looks just like a friend I had once.
My old Cocker Spaniel was just like this one. One day, she just showed up on my porch, covered in knots and burrs. She was one of God’s own saints, sent to earth to show me what it means to slow down, eat more saturated fat, and take longer naps. She was my friend when I needed a friend.
We spent the rest of her life together. She would wait for me in the windowsill every evening. Whenever my truck would pull into the driveway, she would lose her mind.
When she passed, I gave her a funeral in the woods. I hiked a mile into the pines to bury her. She was wrapped in a sheet. I cried until sunset.
A few years ago, they built an apartment complex over her grave, with fitness room and swimming pool. The world keeps changing, it keeps getting bigger. I guess you can’t do anything to stop it.
The woman let me pet Lady. I did more than pet her. I kissed her face. But Lady doesn’t lick. She’s been trained too well. She does, however, like kisses.
“When she first came to us,” the woman said, “we were still grieving our Lab, Max. He got hit by a car. It was the most traumatic thing I’ve ever been through.”
The woman was in her front yard at the time, gardening. Max ran into the street near the highway. She heard tires screech.
But not long thereafter, Lady made a home in their house. She became a member of the family.
And at the time, Lady was grieving, too.
“She really missed her old owner,” the woman went on. “She was a wreck, she’d sleep all day, just depressed.”
They tried to play with Lady, but Lady didn’t play. She’d spent an entire lifetime working, not chasing sticks. The first time someone tossed a tennis ball, Lady licked herself, wished her family the best, then went inside.
“We had to teach her how to be a pet,” she said. “And I think we both kinda brought each other back to life again. She needed us as much as we needed her.”
I gave Lady a few more strokes to the head.
A Cocker Spaniel has a glorious patch of soft fur that runs between their eyes. Beneath this fur is bone that has a groove perfectly shaped for your finger. It’s like God designed Cocker Spaniels to be pet in this exact place.
I used to pet my girl in this very spot until she would fall asleep at night.
Lady and I said goodbye. They walked away. Lady kept close beside her mother. She was a good dog. All the qualities of man with none of his vices, wrapped in fur.
Later that day, I drove across town to an apartment complex. I drove in circles until I found the place. The fitness room is located exactly where I once buried a dear friend.
I almost sang a song to my old girl, but there were people around. So I wrote this instead.
Kiss your dog today.