On the evenings I work late, I come home to find the routine of the day is winding down. Sippy cups and ducky bath towels are drying while my husband wipes the counters and listens for the sound of any movement from the nursery. I get no acknowledgement from Zee (though it’s almost certain she’ll wake later with a plaintive “MAAAAAMA!”) and a quick kiss from my husband, but the most enthusiastic welcome comes from the dog.
Walking Morgan is my last task of the day and it’s one of my favourites. All I have to do is look at him and his tail starts to tentatively wag. Just the first syllable of his name and he jumps up looking for his leash. He knows what’s about to happen. He is the one who is allowed to hear all the gory details of my day when confidentiality clauses prevent me from venting to anyone else. We’ve covered miles, the two of us, trails and hills and sidewalks and bridges in rain and shine and blowing snow.
When I got him as a curly, squirming puppy, I imagined a lot of things. I imagined backyards and laughing children and endless evening walks. It seemed like the first logical step on the path I was on. We had the house and the future all planned out. A dog fit perfectly in the space before the wedding and babies. Then all of a sudden life took a hard left and we became I, and I had no room in my life for anything but a small pile of boxes and a bruise where my heart used to be. I said a lot of goodbyes in that time, but listening to him whine as I put him in the truck with my parents was the one that made me feel most like a failure.
He thrived with my parents, of course. He got his evening walks while I got my life back together. Whenever I visited him, he thrashed around on my lap in a fit of glee. I missed him, but he was happy where he was. I couldn’t take him back. Then, four months after my wedding and just days into my pregnancy, my parents told me that they were moving to another province, and Morgan needed to be rehomed. Of course, he fit right into the place in my life he was supposed to be, his head pillowed on my growing belly as small feet kicked him from the inside. Watching him sniff my newborn daughter’s downy head on the day I brought her home from the hospital, I knew he was home.
Lately, though, he hesitates when he jumps up on the couch. He doesn’t react to car doors. The flat out run that used to bring him to my knees when I got home is more of a brisk trot, and even that sometimes looks stiff. He is not a puppy anymore. For the first time since he came home, it’s sinking in that he cannot stay forever.
Everyone tells you that getting a dog is a huge time commitment. What they don’t tell you is that it’s really no time at all. When I watch him play with my little girl, so achingly gentle in the way he takes the ball from her hands and makes her giggle like no one else can, I see how he’s come with me on the journey I imagined. He has chased so many sticks and tennis balls, burrowed under so many blankets and snoozed on more lazy afternoons than I can count. He has been family. Now more and more I realize that the day is coming that our journeys diverge. I will have to walk alone and watch him cross a bridge where I can’t follow.