Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ode to Belly

She is the one I sleep with every night. Even now, after my husband and 2 kids have joined the mix, we breathe and sigh and are comforted by the bulk of each other’s bodies through the covers. She’s the reason I haven’t even bothered to pick up the book I’ve seen at the library, Babyproofing Your Marriage. If your husband ends up sleeping with the kids because he doesn’t think there’s room for him with you and your dog, that book probably won’t offer much help.

She’s 13. Yes, she’s still around, I offer to those who are afraid to ask how she is for fear that she isn’t any longer. We’ve been together sharing dreams and thoughts for so long, we share hearts. We talk without words each morning and night…she reminding me to stay in the here and now, not dwelling on her incredibly cute puppyhood and or on a day she’ll no longer be with me. Me asking her how she feels, is she comfortable? Have a given her a good enough life?

When we met, it was love at first sight. At the beginning of a long winter, I was looking around for someone to keep my bed warm who wasn’t male and human. I met so many dogs during that “dating” phase, visiting shelters and encountering sweet, soft, hopeful. Some were possibilities, but none gave me “that special feeling.”

I walked into the San Francisco SPCA on a Sunday morning in December. The routine was familiar to me by now and I was prepared to be disappointed, open to being entertained. I walked in and there were a brother and sister puppy, 11 weeks old, being held by hopeful adopters. I took one look at Belly in the arms of a young woman and my heart melted open. “If there is a dog like that for that woman, “ I thought, “there is a dog out there for me, too.” This was the first and only pure selfless, abundant thought of my life. Immediately, the woman turned to me and smiled, “Do you want her?”

“D- d- don’t you?” I stammered. She explained that her friend who worked at the shelter called her because she had to come check out these adorable puppies, but she realized she wasn’t quite ready to adopt. I held Belly and she hugged me. They had a rule there where you couldn’t hold your dog as you went to sign the papers and pay and I had to go across the room and leave her while I waited in line and did the paperwork. She cried a high-pitched wail the whole time she was waiting in her cage and I now recognize that I ached for her as a mother aches for her crying babe.

During a 5-day “pregnancy” in which she was kept at the clinic and spayed, I rushed around preparing her nursery and getting her toys and bowls and a training book for me. Of course I didn’t need her bed, she slept with me.

And now five of us cuddle in two beds. A time lapse camera would show the comings and goings, but one of remains still and cozy all night long, the center of our merry-go-round….Belly.

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