Willow is 8 today. She came to our house on May 16, 2009, but the breeder’s paperwork said she was born March 28.
By the time we visited the farm, all of her littermates had been adopted. We could take the little puppy who was alone in her cage, or we could choose from a litter that was two weeks younger.
We already had a name in mind. I picked her up, asked “Are you Willow?” and she snuggled against my chest in affirmation. No need to see the others. I checked out the younger pups, but Willow was still The Willow.
I have bonded with other dogs in my life (Hello up there, Poppins. Hello, Tucker), but no one ever had a hold on me like Willow The Best Dog There Is™ – she who jumps up on the bed when the alarm goes off and leans in for a spoon. She who won’t relinquish the orange ball. She who we were sure was part greyhound because her long golden-retriever coat was late in arriving and she ran like the wind.
I started calling her Willow The Best Dog There Is somewhere along the line, and added the ™ just for fun. I know other people love their dogs as much as I do. Sometimes – and those who do understand this – there’s just something deeper between human and canine.
Happy birthday, Willow.
It was the evening of Feb. 7, 1959. Dad took me and my two brothers for a ride in the car. I don’t remember the pretext or where we went. I just remember when we got home, Mom was sitting in the living room and a dog was sitting in front of her.
Lady was a good dog – a medium-sized, brown and white mutt with maybe a beagle’s face but a stub of a tail. She ran like the wind playing keep-away with a dishpan of all things. For most of the next 10 years she was an integral part of the family, joined eventually by a succession of cats.
There was only the one dog while we were growing up, but the three boys became men and keepers of other dogs.
When I write and share photos of our lovely companions, Willow The Best Dog There Is™ and Dejah Thoris, Princess of Mars, I sometimes remember Lady, the patient and loving canine who introduced my family to the joy of dogs.
Three dogs through the years have especially seized my heart – Poppins, the little collie mix who appeared, abandoned, at the door of the radio station one summer day; Tucker, the undersized German shepherd who arrived in my arms (hands, really) as a tiny puppy; and Willow, who melts my heart daily (Yes, Dejah, you’re a special dog, too, but Willow got there first).
It all began with Lady, though, whose coming was so momentous that it’s the first event in my lifetime to which I ever affixed the exact date.
Willow wants to chase the ball, but she wants to protect the ball. She won’t give it up.
But you can’t chase the ball if you hold onto it with all your strength.
Let the ball go, let it fly – then thrill to the chase.
The dog curls underneath and rests herself against my foot, so that I can feel the pressure of her body on my ankle and the warmth of her fur on my toes.
It is the most reassuring and comforting feeling I can imagine.
Just as I wonder if it means as much to her as it means to me, she sighs – contentedly, I think.
… where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.
– – –
Life is a basket of blessings, and every so often – actually, no, every day – we need to run our fingers through the basket and remind ourselves of the reasons we have to be joyful, to be grateful, and to be enthusiastic.
(Not that Willow and Dejah are necessarily enthusiastic in today’s illustration, but their presence and comfort fills me with joy and peace, and it gives me a reason to go out and do my thing with enthusiasm.)