Four years ago this February my friend Susan unexpectedly, inconveniently, incredibly, fell in love. In a CVS parking lot. At 9am on a Saturday morning. With a dog.
The moment his liquid intelligent eyes gazed into her kids-grown, dogless- for- 35-years- baby blues, it was a done deal. If you knew her, you’d realize how completely out of character was what happened next.
After standing around for over an hour waiting for his owner to reappear, already armed with the knowledge of where calling any governmental agency would lead, Susan opened her car door and the newest member of her family hopped in. She spent the next few days calming her husband, posting notices around the neighborhood and scouring the newspaper for a word from Wylie’s…that was to be his new name…real parents.
Never before have I regretted not being on the receiving end of an animal’s unconditional love, but now I was witness to the positive physical effects of living with a being whose character, loyalty and devotion exceeds human expectations.
How can you not sleep better, have lower blood pressure, and shorter lousy moods with such a comforting friend at the foot of the bed? And how can you not appreciate your neighborhood, the beach, and long car rides more acutely when you share them with a dog living in a state of uncritical homage?
You can’t help but fall for Wylie’s honest, unjaded face. In four years I never once heard him bark. He doesn’t need a leash. He’s learned to close the door behind him when he goes out. I swear he gets the jokes we tell. He mushed his way into the lives of all those around him so completely that talk of where he spent the first four years of his life ceased immediately.
Then last month, in that same parking lot, as Susan was putting her grocery bags in the trunk, she noticed a woman in the next car staring at Wylie. She had just pulled into the space but was so taken with him that she didn’t even bother to turn off her engine.
“Usually people see his face and smile,” Susan said, “but this was different. Her look was intense. Instantly my hands got ice cold. I knew I should just ignore her and leave…but I couldn’t. She motioned to me and rolled down her window.
‘Where did you get your dog?’ she asked tightly. And then, before I had a chance to answer, she said the words I’d heard dozens of times in nightmares… ‘I had a dog just like that once.’”
In the few seconds it took till Susan responded, she already worked out her strategy. She had to tell the truth. If this was Wylie’s real mother, how could she not trust her to see that he was happy? Chances are he was already replaced. People’s lives change in four years. And if not? She’d deal with that if she had to.
“What happened to your dog?” Susan asked, loudly slamming the trunk of the car.
“My dog ran away about four years ago.”
The woman shut off the ignition and got out. She put her face right up to the window where Wylie looked out. She was so mesmerized, she didn’t even realize Susan never answered her question.
“What was your dog’s name?” my friend inquired. She said later she wanted to see if Wylie would react…if he would remember being called another name.
“Missy,” the woman answered wistfully.
The blood returned to Susan’s fingers. The stranger’s dog was a female! For the next half-hour the two women talked about dogs and love and loss and life. The woman was touched that Susan was ready to tell the truth. They hugged when they parted.
This story convinces me that dog lovers are a good breed themselves. And it reinforced all the reasons why I’m so glad Susan is my friend.