Homecoming

I woke up at three this morning to feed Ecko so we could head for the airport at five. Everything had been packed, all my connections were confirmed, I was checked out, signed in, ready to go.

Ecko has proven himself to be a phenomenal traveling companion. He boards the plane with me, does about twenty minutes of complaining about having to be stuck there, then lies down and “disappears”. Most people don’t realize he’s there until we start to land and his head pops up between my legs. Lots of surprised comments, then, along the lines of, “Oh, I didn’t even know there was a dog!” These, of course, are the best kind.

Over a thousand miles away, Ted was worrying about my old dog, Kiefer. He didn’t want to get up, or couldn’t, or wouldn’t … whatever. He’s old, and the heart and spirit had seemed to go out of him. Ted told me that he wasn’t sure Kiefer would live until my homecoming, and he didn’t like it at all.

He never said anything to me until I got home, but he made sure I was aware of it then. So, after Ecko had had a quick run in the yard, I went upstairs expecting the worst.

I was met halfway down the hallway by Kiefer. He couldn’t wag his tail enough to show his delight at seeing his “Mommy” and young friend again. He spent a long time rubbing against me, walking in little circles so he could lean against me first with his left side, then with his right. He wanted every part of him petted. He’s usually pretty reserved when it comes to licking people, but I got lots of kisses and affectionate nuzzles. He buried his nose in my hair as if to drink in the scent of me.

Ecko was cool about it, too. He knows that, even if I’m showering Kiefer with love, I won’t run out and he has his own special spot in my heart that’s no one else’s. Kiefer knows this, too.

To a dog, a week is an eternity. A week without “Mommy’s” voice, hands, footsteps, music … even trimming toenails is “Mommy’s” domain, and Kiefer wants only “Mommy” to do it. Ted can feed him, and he loves Ted, but there’s only one “Mommy,” and absolutely no substitute will do.

There’s also only one Ecko, and being the social pack animal they are, dogs will definitely notice if part of their group is taken away. Kiefer is too stiff and old to play, but the two dogs curl up side by side every night when they go to bed. They drink from the same water dish, often at the same time. They sniff the same places in the yard, especially if one has marked it as “his” with a fresh pee spot.

The first couple of days are OK, but then … then, the missing starts, the novelty of not having to share things stops, and something’s just not right.

Joy was certainly evident when Kiefer saw Ecko and me, but stronger than that, I think, was relief and assurance. Nothing could be too wrong if the whole pack was safely together in their warm house. It couldn’t be all that bad if all the familiar footsteps were going up and down the stairs. What was there to worry about if all the right hands and noses were reaching out to touch you?

Kiefer is a very old dog. Every day he lives is a blessing, and I know one day I will face the world without his presence in it. This thought hurts me to one of the deepest places in my heart, and I don’t look forward to that time at all.

But I won’t deny it or ignore it. When the time comes, Kiefer will tell me. And when he does, I must have the grace and wisdom to be thankful for every moment we’ve had and not try to grab for any more. Whether life is measured in moments or decades, days or years, it has a beginning and it has an end.

Sorrow is natural; love is wonderful. The two are often intertwined. You can’t have one without the other. This, too, is a blessing.

I’m very glad to be home, and I can think of at least one old dog who shares that joy. He’s curled up on his bed upstairs. As far as he’s concerned, when and if he wakes up tomorrow doesn’t matter, but the fact that “Mommy” is there means the world.

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4 Comments on “Homecoming”


  1. Our doggie companions bring us so much love and joy… it is so clear that the bonds between you, Kiefer and Ecko are so strong and special. I wish that a dog’s life wasn’t so short. To think about the day you will have to say goodbye to them is too hard to think about. At least we (as in dog lovers) know that the time we have on earth with our special animals can never be replaced. I hope Kiefer (and Ecko!) have many, many, many, many more days on earth with you!

  2. halfnotes Says:

    Mamadoggylove,

    I hope so, too. They’re great yet temporary companions. I’m thankful for each one’s unique gifts to me.

  3. Glenn Says:

    It strikes me kind of funny the way a dog will adopt a “Mommy” or “Daddy” and the joy we find in accepting that role.

  4. halfnotes Says:

    Glenn,

    From a “pack” mentality, it’s not so strange: dogs look for a leader, and for Ecko and Kiefer, even though they have guided me, I’m still their leader. I just call it “Mommy” because I happen to be a female pack leader! And as for the joy … well, that goes without saying. Dogs, unlike people, are “safe”: they love unconditionally, and so we feel OK about loving them unconditionally back. We also see that if one of God’s creatures can love us this way, then we should be less judgmental of ourselves and others and express that boundless love, too.


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