A personal letter to my dog

Dear Buzz,

As I sit down to write, I’m looking back at the chicken sandwich I just made and left back in the kitchen.

And there you are.

buzz-smiling-right

Your head pops up over the counter. Do want chips to go with your sandwich?  Didn’t I just feed you?

Buzz?!!!

Notice how I’m wagging my finger.

I think we need to have a talk. Maybe this letter will suffice.

Your paws are now working the edge of counter like a jazz pianist ready to get in his first good lick.

BUZZ!

That’s better. Gliding on all fours across the hardwood floor, you turn in circles and coil up in your bed.

Now where was I?

I’ve been meaning to write to you for some time, because I know you’re a reader.

The three-page rough draft the printer spit out and you devoured.

The jelly jar label you fished from the garbage. This month’s church newsletter with the focus on prayer.

I get the feeling, more and more, that words matter to you.

But why a letter?

I think it has to do with being able to literally hold on to something important we’d like to keep.

I haven’t seen you getting into email but if you did you’d soon discover that even the most private, personal mail can be deleted, as in forever.

With a letter, the words you read can linger and speak to you, perhaps for quite a long time.

There’s a letter I still keep in the top draw of my desk.

The envelope is postmarked November 15, 1965. It arrived in the mail one gray fall day when I was ten.

It came from a friend of my folks during a very confusing time for me as a kid. Someday, when we’re on a good walk, I’ll tell you the whole story.

neil-ward-letter4

For now, just know that the man who wrote me this letter had something very specific in mind. He wanted me to know that no matter what the future held for our family, my mom and dad’s love for me would never change.

When I’m experiencing one of those days that goes sideways, I pull out this letter and read it. Once again, I’m reminded that love doesn’t turn and exit in our moment of pain and loss. In fact, I believe, it’s just the opposite.

And that’s where you come in.

¤

About two summers ago, our little family of four was on the doorstep  of a big transition. Our daughter was searching inside for a dog she’d never had. This unleashed our curiosity to search online.

What we soon found were short, little, real-life tales in the form of personal want ads. They were like the three bios I saw recently:

There was Zorro:

I enjoy sitting in laps and love to go on walks. I spin around when I know it’s that time of the day to go out and see the world. I’m a quick learner, enough to know I don’t like things that meow.

There was Hope:

I will need to have a fully fenced yard. I love sleeping in the bed with you and will not tolerate being crated. I’m a lovely lady that needs a quiet place to my own, even if I am working on my house manners.

And then there was King:

I’m just a mellow, seven-year-old couch-loving Rottweiler who just wants to be loved. I don’t enjoy the company of other dogs, therefore I should be an only dog. My ideal forever home would be a place where I can live in peace and be spoiled rotten.

One day, we found a friendly face, black lab-boxer mix, that could have read something like this:

My name is Buzz. I’m fully trained and love to run. My home life is changing, which would leave me home alone watching CNN all day. Could a new home be in my future?

We met Ike and Emma, who had raised you since birth, at a nearby park.

The couple’s current job situation meant they’d have to leave you inside all the day. Ike,  whose eyes became wet, said they just couldn’t do it. They wanted you to have a family, preferably with children who could run with you, throw the ball to you, feed you and learn to carry plastic bags on rainy walks with you.

There came the moment at the park when Ike walked you around the corner so he could tell you good-bye. What did he say to you in those last few moments together as he hugged you for the last time?

That evening  you sniffed every inch our place like there was no tomorrow. And when tomorrow arrived that next morning, we watched you settle in.

¤

Your big jowls said you were a diplomat.

Your ambitious tail created so much wind, I thought it belonged in the Book of Genesis.

By leaps and bounds, you learned to speak fluent tennis ball.

Whenever you beheld the bare thighs of an anxious UPS man in shorts, you were ready for dinner.

And you could read. Not just the contents of the IAMS bag of dry dog food. You knew how to read people.

You could read my gratitude. I’d say the words“High five!,” and you’d lift your right paw. We would shake, and you always mad direct eye contact. Which reminds me, I’ve got a bunch of Starbucks cashiers I’d like you to meet.

Recently, you read my look of astonishment. I think you know where I’m going with this. I came home, opened the door, and stepped on an empty bratwurst wrapper. Next to it were the chewed-up paper towels. The coffee grounds, orange peels, and all the rest.

There you were licking a paper plate with ketchup on your nose.

You did quite the job, Buzz.

You read my anger. I bit my tongue. I didn’t bark.

I laid my house keys on the counter and knelt down beside you.

Your eyes told me how good it all tasted. You had that look of I’ll never do it again. Honest.

buzz-thoughtful

I wiped the ketchup from your face.

What did you do? Do you know?

When I was mostly sure your look of remorse was real, I patted your side.

In that moment, I realized I had forgotten to shut the pantry door on my way out that morning.

Even though you had crossed the line, I had failed you.

In that moment, I realized  I also needed a second chance. To which you began to lick my face.

In that moment, I felt a little more human and a little more forgiving. There was garbage all around us. The empty pickle jar would find its proper resting place soon enough. And nothing was going to come between you and me and the next tennis ball that needed to be thrown.

Thank for reading.

Until next time,

Mark

 

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