The house still feels empty.
How could it not? Teddy was such a huge presence, in size and personality. His tail was constantly in motion, always whipping, always thumping, always celebrating your life. Up until the minute he lost his.
And he left such a wake, so powerful an undertow, that when he voyaged Esme was almost swept in the sorrowful currents.
But, slowly, we are both realizing that she now is the dog of the house.
It’s a new role for both of us. She had always been the foil to Teddy’s stand-up, the straight man to his punchlines. In many ways, part of Esme’s —and Teddy’s — appeal were their contrasting styles. So keen, Esme is, that she would leave the house when Teddy ate the wallet, or swiped the brownie, or decided a dress shoe is an awesome rawhide. She knew the horrific screams of discovery to come.
Now, though, she rarely leaves the house unless I do. She’s small enough to fit in the smart, so quick road trips are suddenly on the table. So are spontaneous dog park runs (Teddy required a stroller-full of prep work, including a bigger car and plastic bags big enough to hoist five-pound dumps.)
She fits on the bed with me with room to spare. So the bed is open. So are drawers.
So, too, I realized, was my heart. I still marvel as she becomes the hound of the home. She growls at unexpected sounds and rummages the toy drawer like a petulant six-year old. Which, I guess, in many ways she is.
We made a quick run to the drive-thru tonight. She knows to bolt to the door when I grab my wallet. She knows to wait by the smart when the garage door opens. She knows to wait for the ridiculous new baby-chair harness created to keep her from leaping out the window.
As we pulled up, we came upon a Toyota 4-Runner with its back window lifted. From it peered a beautiful Shepherd mix, perhaps 60-pounds.
I didn’t need to alert Esme. Her gaze was fixed before mine, I’m sure. Finally, the pooch either saw or sniffed Esme, sitting upright in the passenger seat, properly belted (I wonder if I could take her in the carpool lane?). Pooch began to whine a little.
Then we saw it. His tail, once resting beneath the tailgate, was now above it. A furry dorsal fin, wagging back and forth, sharing the common Nirvana for all dogs.
And dog drivers. The motorist waved before pulling off, aware of what we both witnessed.
I waved back. Then placed a large hand on a small back.
Amazing, how a small thing can fill a place.