Whichever hour I woke, I would set the coffee on and get dressed. With a cup full of light, sweet brew, I’d sit on the top front step. She’d be beside me, sometimes close for warmth, sometimes sprawled on the cool cement.
I wish I could say it was idyllic. With a state highway, train tracks, and industrial river traffic, it was either less or more noisy. I came for the movement of land and sky. She came to heal me.
At the time, I called it “keeping me company.” She found her place in my life when she was five years old. Her cinnamon coat had mellowed in seven years since. The brassy red undertones had grayed to frame her wise brown eyes.
Every day there were twitterings among the hedge of lilac debris and growth, every day in every season. Rarely, monumental osprey would scree through our brief sky, or a hawk would float toward the grasses beyond the house. Once, during a spring salmon run, there were bald eagles feeding from logs stowed in the river against pylons.
I suppose these were good reasons we hadn’t any rodents around—squirrels, chipmunks, they tended to stay farther up the road instead of on the hard, harsh bluff.
Unless we were both panting, stillness was found beneath the rumble of progress. She taught me to be gentle with my body and voice. The shame I feel now for shouting and swatting her rump when once I found the contents of the kitchen trashcan had been professionally excavated…. I learned from her to listen without my ears to everyone and everything that entered my field of influence, a field smaller than I had imagined.
I still haven’t learned what she tried to teach me about humankind; she simply assumed everyone was friendly until they proved they were otherwise. Yeah, that will take me more than her sum of 14 years.
Through her, I found when and how to be kind—always and all ways.
At the end of our time on the top front step, she had healed me as much as she could. Her body was covered in masses, even on her leg. What she hadn’t been allowed to learn was how to heal without internalizing others’ woundedness.
There came a puppy across the drive that would run the chain link fence repeatedly until it was unwound. One morning the ritual of barks and whines finished and our second dog, still under a year old, howled in a way that brought me running. She had enjoyed her last chase, come panting to the back porch and died of a heart attack.
I miss Cinnamon’s stealthy nose nestling beneath my restless palm and her cheerful greeting even when arthritis forced her to deliver it to you with a limp.
I didn’t really like coffee anyhow. Neither did she.
©2012 Sandra Davidson