This is Mable.
Mable is a mini black lab who was removed from an appallingly neglectful situation early in her life, and placed into foster care. Now Mable is a part of our family: sleeping in a commandeered comfy chair, drinking the water that drains from the houseplants, chewing up rolls of toilet paper, and patiently bearing our daily doses of affection.
Having her here is familiar and happy.
We loved a dog before, but one unassuming afternoon in February he and I were out to get the mail and he was struck by a truck that was racing up the hill in front of our house. Thrown to the side of the road, he died instantly, leaving a tiny pool of black red blood on the leaves. My granny, coming out to gather her mail too, carried his body to the house for me, hoping he was only stunned. This is the first time I have seen her cry. I had rarely seen my husband's tears, but we sobbed together as he buried Louie's body out by the garden, as it began to snow, as I watched from the house.
Louie's boy Oliver was at his grandparents' that day, so we told him the next morning, before we went into the dogless house together. I pulled his knobby nine year-old body onto my lap in the front seat of the truck, and he was silent for many minutes, learning forward against the dashboard to bury his face in his folded arms, trying to comprehend, a single tear marking the deep ache in his chest.
He was sad that we had already buried the body; he wanted to keep the red collar.
That day we collected all the photos we had of Louie and taped them to Oliver's wall. I held my grieving son close and slept in his bed that night; he had lost his bed mate. For months afterward he would occasionally sob for missing Louie at night.
It's ridiculous, all this fuss over a dog, isn't it? Maybe. We each felt his sudden end keenly, though I am grateful to have been the only one to experience the violence of it. Louie's death is two seconds of my life, burned permanently in my memory, sealed by the sound of my scream. If this is the most traumatic thing I ever witness, I should sing praises of gratitude for the mercies of God upon my tender heart.
So now we have Mable (and an invisible fence), and in her a companion who is overjoyed to see us every single morning, every single time we come home, as if we've been away at sea for ages. If we all greeted each other with such enthusiasm, how much more loving and welcoming the world would feel!
Our thanks to you, little Louie dog, for making yourself at home in our family and for curling up in our hearts. We will forgive your incomprehensible rolling in feces and your grating barking at strangers and remember instead your perky ears and clicky toenails and your perfect weight and warmth in our laps and how much we loved you.