I have just finished an amazing book called “Merle’s Door” by Ted Kerasote.  Even if you have never owned a dog I highly recommend reading it – it is truly lovely.  Beautifully written and a wonderful read.  Below are two passages that especially touched me – in fact made me cry TWICE on the bus (commuting to work) – IN PUBLIC – and not for the first time I am thankful that I tint my lashes making mascara unnecessary.

“Eventually, we went our separate ways, and she found someone else – someone who she thought would be more compatible with her needs.  To her credit, she was blisteringly honest about that they were.  Even though no one could foretell the future, she said, she didn’t want to take care of a husband in his old age, and the new man was younger than I.  Just as important, he played better for the folks back home. 

This was valuable information to have.  despite the fact that we had a lot in common, more than either of us had experienced in any other relationship, it was clear that I’d been barking up the wrong tree.  In response, I, too, found someone else, actually several others, none of whom seemed quite right, as anyone not embroiled in the hurt and anger of being rejected could have predicted. 

“And when Allison would stop at my front door – to ask how I was and to say she missed doing things with me, her face a mask of ambivalence and mixed messages – Merle would lean against her knee and swish his tail with a heartfelt gesture he used with no one else: “Oh, I’ve missed you.  How I’ve missed you.”  Unlike me, he didn’t then segue into an endless series of whys – why, if we remain so close, if we can converse so intimately, can you not be with me?

His attitude proved instructive – care for her, but let her go – and his consolation was far better than that which came from the thjerapist whom ALlison and I hired to facilitate our protracted separation.  Merle would come into my office and lay his chin on my thigh, not asking for water, a biscuit, or for me to accompany him on a hike.  He’d move his tail so that it undulatged his body, his soft, comforting motion washing up my leg and into my heart.  He had no hands to hold it, but he did so every day.

” I’d put my hand on his head and feel my frustration ebb away, my blood pressure go down – just like all the books say happens when a dog touches us – and, simultaneously, I’d feel him go easy under my hands, the soothing going back and forth, wordlessly but strong.”

and this

“Kneeling next to Allison, I touched Brower’s leg, and he opened his left eye a moment, looked at me, lifted his paw, and places it in my hand.  I clasped it with both of mine, and he closed his eye and began to breathe deeply. 

Allison had her face pressed to his neck, telling him that she loved him and would never forget him.  Up until this moment, the afternoon and seemed well scripted, everyone sad bu behaving nicely.  Then an abysmal moan came from her, a sound that I did not believe Allison capable of, a sound so awful in its grief that I had heard it only once before.  It was the sound that the mother of my six-year-old friend had made when, on our way home from school, he had been hit by a car and killed.  The sound of irreplaceable loss.  there would be other dogs for Allison, but not the dog with whom she had set out on her own and become an adult.” 

I came away with so much from this book, not the least of which being how reinforced my belief that living with dogs makes your life better was.  Also, I suddenly yearn to move to remote Montana (the book is set in Wyoming, but I yearn for Montana), to a lovely and diverse small town and to let Maggie & Scout become the joint mayors of the hamlet much as Merle did.

And this from a tried and true city girl.

Go, find, read – trust me, your life will be better for it.

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