If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”
~ Will Rogers
I’m always interested in learning how people arrive at a name for their dog. Maybe because in college, I had a dog named Oliver and a cat named Cherry Pie. Long story. As most good pet names are. When trying to come up with a name for a puppy, I didn’t know where to start. After a long time with a lot of bad ideas, I glanced at the coffee table and saw a movie, loaned to us by a friend. That’s how Indiana Jones became my girl, Indi.
I got Indi in the beginning stages of fertility treatments. It seemed almost cliché to get a “baby” while going through that process. Still, I needed someone upon whom I could dote and focus my attention. However, I was uncomfortable with the fact that a lot of people saw (or thought I saw) my dog as my “child.” It was always innocent, something said in jest, like the canine equivalent of the Crazy Cat Lady. Except I only heard it as pathetic. “Oh, well ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ to you too, because you’re a dog mom!” Yikes.
Today, Indi is close to nine years old. Not terribly old for a beagle/hound but old enough that I have the beginnings of that nagging feeling that “someday” is coming too quickly. It’s the someday that every dog lover dreads, even from the first minute you smell the puppy breath. It’s part of the deal, the horrible part. But I wouldn’t trade the inevitable pain for the years of joy, either.
Her first night home, I put a box with blankets and one of my shirts next to the bed. I lasted about 10 minutes. The constant crying and trying to get out of the box were all it took. I reached down, scooped her up and put her next to my pillow. She was asleep within two minutes and I have been fighting for my own space in that king sized bed ever since.
Indi is my constant companion. From room to room, floor to floor, she is my dutiful shadow, as if I’m holding an invisible leash and she is forced to follow me. She is loyal, loving, smart and funny. She is also stubborn, stubborn, stubborn and stubborn. If I want her to come in from the back yard before she’s ready, she is instantly deaf but if I open a crinkly cheese wrapper, she comes running from a mile away.
There are at least a dozen words I have to spell or I pay the price for her intelligence. “Walk” became “w-a-l-k” became “w” because she goes ballistic when she hears the word and you’d better be absolutely ready with shoes on and poo bags in hand or she’ll just about come out of her skin waiting for you.
Say the word “bath,” even just in conversation, and her ears skin back and her tail tucks under. Words like “Mikey” (my brother) or “bye bye” send her tearing through the house, instantly ready to greet or go.
She could be a standby for Greenwich Mean Time because her belly tells time down to the minute. If I’m late, she goes to the kitchen, gets her bowl and brings it to me. Not very subtle, but highly effective. She knows the difference between “baby,” “ball” and “bone” when it comes to her toys and can almost take paint off the wall when she throws her head back and howls at the person who dares to walk on the sidewalk in front of her house. She is fiercely protective and ridiculously affectionate. If you’re outside, she can sound positively vicious but if you are invited indoors, the butt never stops wiggling.
I know that none of these traits are particularly extraordinary for a dog. It’s just their nature. But it’s their ability to remain consistent with these traits that’s so overwhelming. There’s no passive aggressive game playing, no playing it cool. If they love you, they simply must show it. They forgive immediately, and then it’s over. There’s never a day where Indi’s just not feeling it, where she needs some space. Never a day when she can’t get past the fact that I scold her for getting into the trash or chewing a piece of paper I left lying around. She is just always, always there, and she has been there through all of it, good and bad.
The humdrum days when it’s just dishes and laundry and sitting on the porch. The lazy days of long walks and afternoon naps or car rides with those giant ears flapping in the wind. Or back during the days of constant despair after my miscarriages, lying on the couch, crying for longer than seemed possible, with her laying in the crook behind my knees, her chin resting on my leg. Not doing anything, but there. That presence – especially during and throughout the really hard times – is what puts her so distinctly among the most intense memories of the last nine years. And what makes my stomach queasy at the thought of that not being the case forever.
I know she didn’t survive those things too, but she lived alongside me while I survived them and so I can’t separate her from any of it. I was there/she was there. We were there and her very presence was the closest thing to total acceptance of who I was at any given moment that I’ve ever known. Days when I was in a fog, she was there. When I couldn’t see beyond the next hour, much less the next day or week or year, she was there. Inching along with me, always remaining at my pace, never demanding more than I could give.
She made (and continues to make) my day-to-day life better. These days if I decide to go home at lunch, I get the greeting of a celebrity and the explicit message that I am pretty great simply because I exist. And four hours later when I walk back in the door, the whole process starts anew and I am pretty great all over again.
It makes me utter this prayer an awful lot. Of course I’ll never achieve it, but it’s a worthy goal.
So is it coincidence that “dog” is just “God” spelled backwards? Probably.
Clearly Adam wasn’t naming God’s creations in English, so he wasn’t sending any secret, ironic message. But I smile when I think… maybe God was.
Because when I think about who is best able to reflect back the most of God’s loving and forgiving qualities, it isn’t me, or my friends, or my family I think of. It’s my dog.