My son and his family have left Margaritaville and gone on to SeaWorld and Legoland. I am dog-sitting. "Sandy" is a rescue from the pound--an adorable rat terrier who smiles and could win any speed eating contest paws down. She's crate trained and when we all call it a night, my daughter-in-law calls,"C'mon Sandy, let's go night-night." The agreeable little beast runs into the crate and plops into her bed. For my daughter-in-law, that is.
Last night it wasn't really that hard to get the dog into the crate--though she didn't go in when I called to her. We danced around a bit, and when, after a minute or two, I asked her in my serious dog-sitter voice to "sit," she did sort of a civil disobedience flop, and I scooped her up and put her in her pen, repeating sweetly, "Go night-night, Sandy." I switched off the lights without any further cajoling and went upstairs.
The howling commenced just as I settled under the covers. The calls were lonely and sad at first. I waited a bit, but it became evident the dog was winding up, not down. "Sandy," I said sternly from the top of the stairs, "No!" Full-out howls escalated into little siren-like wails. You would have thought that every dog on the planet had died, and she was the one left to mourn the passing of a species. I tried the stern "No" a couple more times. Then I brought the poor creature and her bed into my room. She walked around for what seemed like hours. Her tiny rat-terrier toenails tapping against the wood floors like a troop of angry fairies.
I remember when my children were babies. It was ridiculously hard work. The love alone, and the way it rearranges every priority you thought you had is so disorienting you spend those first months trying to get your bearings, stunned that motherhood tenderizes your heart in ways that are both terrifying and transcendent. And you undergo this personal re-modeling job while sleep-deprived night after night for months on end.
When Sandy woke me this morning and I walked her down to the patio to pee, she smiled at me. When I opened my car door, she was ready to hop in. We drove back to my old place--a house she's never been to. This cheery rat terrier who joined my son's household with an extreme fear of men, and for the second time in a week, is at a new house with new sounds and new smells, well into day two without the people who rescued her. She's had to learn it's not okay to bark at the cat--a questionably-groomed 18-year-old who lives on one end of my couch and sips special milk from a bowl on the end-table. That the helicopter flying over isn't here to kill her. That the grevelia leaves won't crush her if one falls on her. And yet, here she is at my feet, pawing my leg to get onto my lap. It's amazing how love lets us adapt. One day you can be in the bedlam of a shelter, and the next you are napping on the floor in a nice house with children who want to hold you like a baby. And then after more bliss than you could imagine, you find yourself in a new place with a stranger who drives you to yet another strange place.
Both man and beast are hard-wired for survival. I think we're hard-wired for love, too. It's adapting to those damn changes that's the hard part.