Emily slips from bed in the darkness of early morning. She is needed. The duplicitous currents of time cruelly carry us further from our dog, but they also carry promises of hope and joy to so many others. I hear the front door close and know the next time I see Emily she will have delivered new life into this world. She will place that new life into loving arms and witness spirits buoyed by the same waters which drown me.
“Warn them,” I think.
When you pull them from the safe confines of their mothers and bring them into this chaotic morass of existence, warn them. We trumpet promises of love and devotion to babies, but shouldn’t we at least whisper the truth?
“I love you, but…”
“I love you, but I cannot always protect you. I love you, but you will suffer. I love you, but I do not know if that is enough.”
I slip deeper into the dark womb of my blankets, unwilling to deliver myself into a world without Eko.
I know what it means to fill your heart with love, to lift it like a hot air balloon. To cast down the doubts and fears which weigh you to the ground. To soar across the world, whooping and laughing with your dog. Then, on a perfectly clear day, I know what it means to have the strings of your heart cut mid-flight. Your only thought as you plummet towards the ground is that you wish it would hit you sooner.
I lay broken and have no wish to get up. But a muzzle pokes its way into the darkness. It’s not quite the right shape as the nose which woke me each morning for five years. An insistent whine, not quite the right pitch, fills my ears. Still I stay huddled. Finally, as subtlety was never her strong suit, Penny smacks me across the face with her paw. She may lack Emily’s surgical skills, but Penny certainly knows how to bring you into this world all the same.
“Come on, Penny, hop up,” I say, hoping to hide with her under the covers for the rest of the day. But Penny is unmoved by my bribe. Instead she sits, slowly wiggles the end of her tail, and stares at me.
“Penny, please.” I beg. How can I explain to a dog that my world imploded and my soul shattered? How can I show her that my North Star fell from the sky and I’m lost in the dead of night?
I can’t. But it doesn’t matter. Because I know her answer would be, “Yes, that’s all true. But I still have to pee.”
With a joyless chuckle at the thought, I swing my legs out of bed and Penny bursts to life – shaking and stretching and smacking me lovingly with her tail.
When someone wants to know who you really are they’ll often ask, “Why do you get out of bed in the morning?” Once I would have answered that question with rhetoric that soared like my heart. I would have said I got out of bed to dive headfirst into the dense jungle of each day and blaze a new trail with my dogs. I would have told you I got up to laugh loudly, play energetically and love greatly. And I would have told you I got up because each day with Emily, Eko and Penny was an amazing adventure I’d never want to miss a moment of.
But today, I get out of bed because my dog has to pee.
I give Penny a kiss, grab the leash and we head out for a walk. I still can’t make it very far without crying, and I have no idea where we’re going, but I am needed. A full bladder isn’t quite the same poetic reason for living that a full heart was, but it is a reason. So I rise.