I walked her into the house and showed her the bed. She sniffed at it. She stood looking at me, dark brown eyes rounded and ears close to her head. Abashed? Frightened? Easy to assume, impossible to know because the only lense through which we can view a dog is a human one.
That morning she had been put into a crate, loaded into the cargo hold of an airplane, taken out in a strange place with roaring noises overhead, put in a van for a bumpy ride to a parking lot and finally put in a car to ride several hours to this strange house with a person she had met only a few days before. She stood frozen in place, not knowing what was expected of her or what was permitted. I walked her around the living room before squatting and patting the dog bed, inviting her to sniff it, which she did in that delicate way of being ready to leap back if it proved dangerous. She turned away.
To me, her action said, “That’s another dog’s bed.” But the dog had not slept in that bed for two weeks. The familiar feeling opened in my chest, part hollowness, part raked with claws, part a feeling of swirling into unending emptiness. Grief. I began to cry. Again. The dog who had slept here was never coming back. I did not expect this one to take his place or make everything better. I brought her home because life without an Airedale was unthinkable. I brought her home to have someone to wake up to in the morning, to fuss over, to be silly with.
This dog was a retired show champion who had had two litters and was recently spayed. She had lived as an indoor dog for only one of her nearly eight years of life. I wondered if she would learn how to play with a person or if she would always have the air of subdued gravity I had seen over the previous days.