‘Joy’ is spelled D-O-G
During the start of this holiday season, joy has been elusive for me in some ways. I’ve tried writing this three times and each time found something… flawed… enough that it made me not want to complete that version, much less read it. So I sat on it and really thought about what joy means to me. I keep coming back to one particular moment of joy that seemed so… pure… that I hope to never forget it. And it wasn’t even my joy – but it was shared with me.
A few years ago, we trekked Dave-style from the Eastern seaboard back to the land of my roots for a week and a half. A chance to catch up with family, expose the kids to that family that molded me into the wackiness that is me, and make it a vacation.
As is my nature, one of the things I fretted about was the state of the household while everyone was gone. There’s something unsettling about being away from home for more than a day or two – not knowing that everything that makes up the day-to-day is still okay in the absence, or maybe that it even exists (ahem: Schrödinger, anyone?) One of the things I worried about most was The Dog. At that point in life, she had been with us for about 7 years and was the best dog friend I could imagine (of course, I’m not biased). She’s an outside dog, always has been, and pretty low maintenance.
I had talked Work Spouse into stopping over to feed and water her every two days. That would be sufficient: she’s a smart enough dog not to eat unless she’s hungry. She doesn’t need to have her food regulated. That took care of the basics, but I still fretted. An outside dog, unfenced and unchained, free to range as she wishes – would she get restless and impatient with her people gone? As the trip wound down, and time to head home grew closer, I grew more anxious that she would just be… gone.
And then the day was there. We pulled into the driveway after a 22-hour road trip back home.
The first thing I checked was the house – yep, it was still there; Work Spouse hadn’t burned it down in our absence. Then I started looking around a bit anxiously for The Dog.
The anxiety and worry faded to nothing immediately. From the moment I opened the car door, I could hear her yipping. If you have ever heard that type of yipping and barking, I don’t need to explain it.
Memory. Ecstasy. Realization. Happiness. Completeness. Exultation. All conveyed in that simple dog voice.
Her people were home. Her family, her tribe, her pack, were back with her. Nothing else mattered or was needed; she had waited patiently for ten days – I don’t know what adventures or loneliness she had during those days – and that was rewarded. Instead of being her more muted, middle-aged seven year old self, she leaped around like a puppy again.
It showed me joy, in a pure and innocent way, that nothing else – or nobody – ever could.