all of the selves we Have ever been
Going to the Dogs
And they call it puppy love.
Not because we’re in our teens.
Far from it.
But because we are in love with actual puppies.
Several of my friends have taken the leap and fetched themselves new puppies during this pandemic. For adults trying to behave, the boredom, social isolation, and absence of children and grandchildren have been overwhelming. (Sit, Lilli! Sit! Stay!)
An apartment dweller, I enjoy these new relationships vicariously. I am as eager for the weekly pup reports as a girl on a pink princess phone engaging in romantic gossip with her classmates. I drink up the giddy happiness of my friends who sound like teenagers in love.
In my career as a social worker and therapist, I have read the literature and seen with my own eyes the improvement a pet can make in the lives of patients suffering from heart disease or painful grief. Science has shown that the bedside presence of a loved one is an analgesic. Any pet lover will tell you that pain relief can come as effectively on four legs as it does on two.
About the time I started receiving updates on the new canine love interests of my friends, I came across a pertinent passage in the novel News of the World by Paulette Jiles. Though set in an earlier period of American history, so much resembles the times in which we now live.
The main character, Captain Kidd, travels the rugged southwest in the years following the Civil War. A former soldier and printer by trade, Captain Kidd goes from town to town in Northern Texas reading newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. He is alone, a 71 year old widower. His adult children and grandchildren are back in Georgia. The landscape he travels is rugged and dangerous. He is at risk of losing the family home. His money is gone, and he sold his printing equipment to pay debts. The government of the Reconstruction is corrupt. There is anarchy and lawlessness throughout the state. “Men have lost the ability to discuss any political event in Texas in a reasonable manner. There is no debate, only force.”
Captain Kidd is asked to escort Johanna, a ten year old orphan, on a rugged 400 mile journey to her relatives in San Antonio. For four years, Johanna was raised by the Kiowa people after they killed Johanna’s family. Johanna was recovered by the U.S. Army, but she has forgotten much of her past, social customs, and the English language.
As Captain Kidd faces the inconvenience of traveling with a terrified, minimally communicative little girl, he is also being stalked by a child sex trafficker who wants Johanna because “the blond ones” bring good money; they are a “premium.” Captain Kidd experiences fear and frustration. He talks to himself: he is old; he has raised his children. Why is he doing this? But even as he questions himself and curses his circumstances, something inside him shifts and his heart opens:
“…he was drawn back into the stream of being because there was once again a life in his hands. Things mattered. The strange depression and spiritual chill he had felt…was gone.”
Some needs are universal and timeless. We take their fulfillment for granted until loss or difficult circumstances remind us that we have those needs. We choose love and purpose where we can find them: on two legs or on four, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad…
So, rollover pandemic…
Come, Molly! Come Festus! Come Alexis!