Rosie and I had a moment last night. I have to admit, it has left me reeling.
For those of you new to this space, I should explain that I brought Rosie home from Geauga County Rescue Village 11 years ago as an 8-week-old, bright-eyed, arm-full of black and white fluff destined, we believed, to grow into the border collie I had wanted pretty much my entire life. As I watched her toddle around the yard that first day on her fat, little, white-stockinged feet, I envisioned the two of us moving as one through complex agility courses or bringing smiles to children and old folks with a repertoire of astoundingly clever tricks.
Rosie, it turned out, had a completely different future in mind. Over the years, as she developed into an 80-pound dog much more collie than border, we tried and managed to fail at everything from agility to rally obedience and from free-style dancing to sheepherding. Rosie even managed to flunk her therapy dog test – twice, making it all the way to the end before gently nibbling on the fingers of the simulated old person trying to brush her.
Finally, I understood that Rosie was much more interested in being than doing. If she had her way, she’d be outside 24 hours a day surveying her domain and waiting for something of interest to come into view. She greets every visitor, known or unknown, with a friendly nose bump and a slow sweeping swish of her extravagant tail. She asks nothing except to be allowed to sniff the air, sleep undisturbed on a pile of snow, follow me around as I go about my outdoor life and bark at the invading deer. She is as much a part of this property as the house and the barn and the giant maple trees that I assume will always be there to give us shelter. Other dogs come and go with their complicated issues. Rosie just is.
At night, Rosie comes in the house reluctantly and only because I bribe her with dinner. Usually, as I settle down to watch television, she squeezes herself into the narrow space between the couch and the long black Amish bench that serves as a coffee table. I reach down and stroke her head a few times and then, satisfied that she is loved and that I am where I am supposed to be, she moves over to the ragged Oriental rug by the door that serves as her bed and goes to sleep.
That’s what usually happens. But last night, when I removed my hand after stroking her head, she reached up with her paw and pulled it back down. When I glanced over, she was looking at me with an intensity I’d never seen before. I stroked her head again and again. When I stopped, she pulled my hand back down. This went on for about 45 minutes and, during that time, she never looked away. Not once. Her eyes, a blacker black than I had ever noticed, seemed to have developed a gravitational pull. It felt like she was trying with everything in her being to tell me something.It felt like she was saying good-bye. When that thought occurred to me, it was like a boulder had been thrown at my stomach. For a split second, I experienced the enormous black hole Rosie’s inevitable death would leave.
Eventually, Rosie did get up and move to her usual sleeping spot. I stayed downstairs all night and checked on her repeatedly. She seemed fine. This morning, she ate her breakfast, took her Bully Stick and settled in under the maple tree by the front door.
I have no idea what actually happened last night but, whatever it was, I’m thankful for it. Rosie is my rock and I definitely needed a reminder.