We had been gone for the Thanksgiving holiday and I took Finn, my one-year old, to pick up our dog Rose at “Dog Camp” which I’d never actually seen because my husband is a love and normally drives out to the middle of nowhere to drop off and pick up our sweet, purebred, reject show dog who is possibly the most sensitive soul in our family.
Nevertheless, today it was me. And Finn, who of course was no help at all in navigating the way to the middle of nowhere. But after a few wrong turns we made it. With Finn straddled on my hip and a leash in my hand, I waited while a woman with about four teeth retrieved my non-retriever. As I stood there taking inventory, I observed a few dog show awards from 1998, a Dream catcher, a small black and white television and a woman, possibly the mother of Four Teeth, who was busy watching Finn and I, but not speaking at all.
Rose bounded out of the kenneling area at rocket speed, as if there were something hot stuck to her tail, her eyes bulging out of their sockets. Once corralled in the back of my Volvo station wagon, she spun in circles, repeatedly catching her leash on her paws, not knowing what to do with her newfound happiness and semi-freedom.
At home, Finn sleeps and I eat and Rose pouts. I don’t notice it at first. She’s parked herself in our room, big black and white body on the carpet, sad muzzle on the cold bathroom floor, like a hairy teenager with a bad hangover. Hours pass, the rest of the family comes home and she remains unmoved. Maybe she’s sick? Depressed? Reese, my four-year-old strolls in while I’m assessing the situation; I tell her Rose was probably sad at Dog Camp. Without a word to me, Reese lays down on the floor next to Rose, her head inches from Rose’s, her feet aligned next to her paws. She takes one of Rose’s paws in her hand and starts talking in a low, kind voice, like the one I use when Reese is sad or sick or otherwise not herself. I hear her say, “you’re OK, Rosie, you didn’t like Dog Camp, but you’re OK, you’re home now, I love you, sweet Rose.” She makes these little sounds, these little comforting sounds to Rose, while stroking her snout with her stubby little four-year old fingers, fingers which, just months ago couldn’t find their way around a pen or a toothbrush. Her kindness overwhelms me; my heart is in my throat, savoring this victory, this evidence that no matter what failures we have in store for us as parents, no matter what fights, what cigarettes, sex, rock and roll and “you don’t understand me’s” lay before us, for this single moment a goal has been met; the kindness chip is in place and it’s functioning on all four cylinders.