The souls of dogs

I received two books for Christmas: one, Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom, I had really been hoping for, and the other, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. I will admit that I knew nothing about the second book-I had barely noticed it in passing. In fact, I remember seeing the cover, with a partial of a sweet dog's face, and actually avoiding it, for fear that it would make me think of Marley & Me (which I read long before the movie came out, which I did NOT see), which would inevitably make me think of my old man dog, Kooter. I didn't want to think about that. 
I was happy when I opened the packages from my sister, thinking of starting Have a Little Faith the next morning, if at all possible. My mother said immediately, "You need to read The Art of Racing in the Rain." I nodded, thinking I would open Mitch's book first. I have read Mitch's other books, and I remember finishing the last one in full-out sobs, it was that striking for me. He's a great writer; his books are concise, yet full of real, raw, life-changing emotion.
Just after New Year's, my mother asked if I had read the book yet. I had not, as I was finishing a book I had started in August, The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society. (As a sidenote, let me just say that book was fabulous. I loved the characters, the ease of writing, and I would have read it all in one day, if possible. Go read that book!) She kept asking me if I'd read the book yet, every few days.
I started the book last Monday, and was immediately hooked. I was laughing out loud within a few pages. By page 39, I was already in tears, with my husband looking at me like I was a nut. If I didn't have a child, or a job, or 7000 things to do, I would have finished that book the same day. But, I can only assume there was a reason it took me all week to read it, no?
I don't want to ruin it for anyone, but I can say this:
If you are a dog lover, you must read this book.
It has given me insight into the mind of my dogs. Although I know it is fiction, I truly do believe there is truth behind the sentiment of this story. It is written from the dog's point of view, and it is fascinating to look over at my Daisy snoring on her dogbed, and wonder what exactly she thinks of me, what she would tell me if she could.
I finished the book five days after beginning it, sobbing uncontrollably, sitting in my oversized chair with my sweet boxer Max laid out next to me, all four of his mighty paws in my lap. I was thankful to be home alone, knowing full well that my hubby would give me that look if he saw me (The same look he gave me when I finished The Five People You Meet In Heaven, while pregnant. He came out of the bathroom to my sobbing in bed, trying to explain just why I was so incredibly struck by the story, between hiccups.)(Go ahead and run away screaming now; I know I'm a bit emotional about things, or SENSITIVE, as my mother likes to call it.). I was unable to stop my tears, pushing my face into Max's neck. I then went into the living room to find Daisy, who spends most of her time sleeping on her dogbed these days. I frightened her with my sobs, waking her. I laid on the floor next to her, sobbing, telling her I loved her sweet face.
I know, I know. (RUN. NOWWWW.)
See, the thing is, I've always talked to my dogs, telling them what I'm doing, how I'm feeling, and having one-sided conversations with them. I ask them things, knowing they can't answer. But this book? It got me thinking about what exactly my dogs would say if they could answer me. And the end? Oh, it's bliss. Heart-wrenching bliss.

A year ago today, I had to put Kooter to sleep. My sweet old man dog. And a year later, I still doubt the decision. It actually took the breath out of me when I noticed the date on my desk calender. How had a year gone by already? How had Daisy and I made it without our sweet companion? It amazes me that it's been a year. We've moved again, we've taken so many walks, without him. His leash is still in the drawer of the laundry room; I can't bring myself to get rid of it, or use it. His picture, from that day, is still on the desktop of this laptop. I see his sweet face looking up at me every time I open it, several times every day. And yet, somehow, it's been a year.
My dreams of Kooter have slowed. Maybe that means he has moved on....maybe he knows that I am happy with another dog who takes up my time and bits of my heart, every day. I feel a twinge of guilt at loving Max so much, even though I can feel the love for Kooter still right.here.
Each night, as I read this book, I fell asleep thinking of my sweet Kooter dog, wondering where he could be now, if he would come to me in my dreams soon. And so far he has not, that I recall.
And then I would wake up thinking, maybe I am living too much in the past with my dogs. Why am I not thinking about the remainder of Daisy's life? Am I doing her a disservice by continuing to think about Kooter? Am I holding back with Max out of guilt?
If you don't have a dog, you are probably shaking your head at me right now, thinking that there are things far more earth-shattering to be pondering. But for me, right at this very moment, I sit watching Max dream, nose twitching, jowls shaking, eyebrows shaking. I glance over at Daisy, running in her sleep, eyes rolling in the back of her head. (Just what are they dreaming about?) And I know that they are an extremely important part to my story. I know that I would not be exactly who I am if it were not for these dogs, these domesticated animals, in my life. I feel blessed to have had them in my life, am blessed by the presence of their souls.
I can only hope that they know how much I love them, now, and even after they are gone. I can only hope that they get what they want out of life, that they get the chance at reincarnation, like the book claims. And if they do come back as humans, I truly hope that I was a good enough person that they would remember me and seek me out.


linlah said...

If you think about it those conversations with your dogs are not one sided, they cock their heads, wag their tails and their eyes look into yours and say love without any words.

La Petite Chic said...

That's so strange, I just finished that book on Monday! I, too, was afraid to read it, but I'm so glad I finally dug into last week. It was so wonderful.
P.S. It reminded me of my lost dog soulmate too.

Anonymous said...

interesting post :) loving the header of your blog too :) !

Sarah said...

awww .
I hope the same thing about my dogs. They are such wonderful companions that I can only hope they know how much they are loved.

MauraLessa said...

Aww, I got all teary eyed reading this post and I'm TOTALLY going to read the book. I love my little doggie. The only argument about the divorce I had with my soon-to-be-ex-husband was who was going to get to keep him. I don't know what I would do without my little monkey.

Sarah said...

Aw, cute pics.

I also got Mitch Albom's book for C-mas. AND read Marley and Me and bawled my eyes out AND refused to see the movie because of it. All I could think about was how horrible it would be when my yellow lab died, after what I assured myself would be a long life.

Ironically, we gave her away a few months ago and now I'll never have to live through that with her. But in a way, *that* makes me sad. Weird, but true. I miss my ass-lickin' dog. My life is a lot less stressed without her, but I do miss her. I know she's got it better where she is now. That's what I try to focus on.

TUWABVB said...

WOW - I'm afraid to read the book but I know that I can after reading this. I've had every single thought you have had as well - the doubt, the guilt - hell, I'm afraid to even give my heart to a new dog...thank you for sharing this. You are amazing!