The Gift

She told him she didn’t want a dog – repeatedly. They had a cat, and that was enough for her. She had grown up with messy, stinky pets; she didn’t see that as something she wanted for herself. He didn’t listen. He wanted a dog, and he knew that if he put a cute, helpless little being in front of her, she wouldn’t be able to resist the urge to reach out and immediately meld with the soul inside of that tiny being. He knew her. He understood the soul.

He planned it without her knowing. It was Christmas time, and he headed out to find a little buddy as a gift to them both. A gift to them three. At the place he would find his buddy, he was right away presented with the generous offer of one little pup with a bulbous eye. They stuck the pup out in front of him, and in a sacrificial gesture said, “You can have this one.”

Although tempted, he kept going. Out of all the excited, yearning, yelping beings, he saw a little buddy sitting in the back of the group. Shying away from the rest, not attempting to be taken. He knew that’s the one he wanted – the one who didn’t want him.

He scooped up the little pup and put him in a box of Santa hats. He set the box beside her. She turned to see a butterscotch blob among the red and white felt. She reached inside of the box, and pushed aside the shifting hats; she lifted him up and looked into his eyes. That tiny little baby boy fit into the palm of her hand, and moved right into her heart. He settled there, in a spot he will be for the rest of her life. It was simple.

He ran around on their wedding day, during the ceremony, between their guests’ legs. He developed a fear of loud noises during a lively Fourth of July celebration. He took his first dip in a lake. Swimming was his bag after that. Sticks, so many sticks. Sticks and chasing sticks, throwing sticks, fitting as many as possible in his mouth after retrieval, upset and confused when she attempted to take and throw them again.

For most of his life, he didn’t use a leash. That is, not until they moved to the city. He never forgave them for using a leash after that. It was an insult – he was better than that. He never liked it when other dogs came near his people. He gave clear instructions for them to back off. And, he loved dirty socks – a passionate, obsessive love.

She loved to kiss him between the eyes. To press her nose against that spot and smell his head. She loved to hug him, to squeeze her love into his body. The hugs were always so sweet; the love radiated through her. He pushed his head into her chest. He rested the weight of his body on her – that’s when she felt the most love from him, when he rested on her. As he got older, she would massage his joints. They were tired and sore. She was so sad when he couldn’t go on walks anymore. She walked alone the last few months of his life.

So long ago, he had arrived as a present for her, and from that very moment, she was meant to reciprocate. That would be her responsibility, to give back to him. Yesterday, together, they gave him that gift, the only gift that they would ever be able to give him.

The rest of it had always been a gift for them, the people, as the owners of a dog.

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