We had a slow, stinky ride home on the King car, in the snow. Arthur always hangs close, sits on my foot, smacks his chops nervously and rolls his big brown eyes up at me each time we stop, as if to say “Are we there yet?”
He smells ripe. He never, ever has a bath before I pick him up, and his doggie aroma offends even my very tolerant nostrils. But he is warm, and solid beside me, and as I stroke his furry vest, he heaves a mighty sigh, and tears spring to my eyes.
I lay my head against the cold window and watch the snow, and the people on the street, rushing for cover. For home. Arthur and I are displaced. We used to have a family, and now every other month, we are together again, trying to remember each other, trying to feel homey, without feeling the pain of what we have lost. Ok, I can’t speak for him…
Perhaps it’s a lack of sleep, or the residual post-new year’s eve alcohol remaining in my system, but today I feel all alone in the world, and the world feels like a vast amount of space. Sometimes I think that Arthur is one of the single threads that keeps me grounded. We are bound by a love that doesn’t require words to express emotion, and a simple desire to share each other’s warmth and quiet romps through the woods. I crave his presence when he is not here, but then when he returns, I’m reminded of movie nights with take out, and a shared blanket, and him snoring happily at our feet. He is a pack animal, and in his world, a pack is more than two.
My landlords make it possible for me to have Arthur in my life still. On my modest income, I can’t afford a dog walker, but my landlady lives on the main floor of the house, and she is retired, so Arthur spends his days in her company. If there are evenings when I have to work, she and her husband keep him, and spoil him with their love. He is rarely alone when he is here. But I worry all the time that something will happen. That he will get hurt, or sick, and I won’t be able to manage the vet bill, and then he will be taken from me once and for all.
We make it three quarters of the way home, and an adorable little girl gets on with her mum. Arthur’s ears perk up, and he stands at attention. The girl is excited, and obviously doesn’t have much experience with dogs because she grins a big, toothy grin for what feels like forever, while staring directly in his yes. He cocks his head to one side. I feel him bristle, and I lightly tell him that he’s ok. Arthur’s patience is shot. He begins to sing in protest, and the laughter of the little girl and the other riders only spurn him on to greater operatic heights. I see the driver eyeing me from his mirror, and I try every trick in my Ceasar Milan repertoire. Stupidly, I have forgotten cookies, so all I can do is try to reason with him. Which as you can imagine, is futile. I whisper softly in his ear “Shhh….we’re almost home. Then I’m going to give you a big bowl of kibble, and make you a soft fluffy bed to lay down and sleep while we listen to music and remember what it is like to be together.”
He yawns mightily, squeaks a little, and then hunkers down to endure the rest of the wet, slushy ride home. The end of the voyage includes not one, but two pack-laden homeless people who want to make friends with him. I know they are harmless because he thumps his tail in the puddle of melted snow at our feet.
Tomorrow will start with a big walk, then a trip to get more cookies, and we’ll end with a bath (for him, not us). He’ll smell like oranges, and be silky to the touch, and I’ll feel like myself again because tomorrow isn’t today.