It all started at home before it started everywhere, I think.
It started to rain and thunder. I hate rain and thunder, so I settled in my spot under the porch to wait it all out.
Then there was a big bang. The rain stopped. Then came a smell, then sirens. Between the smell and the sirens, my master came home. He looked concerned as he came through the garage and onto the porch. He didn’t so much as acknowledge me, he just looked up to the sky and then rushed inside.
Then the sirens came, and everyone was suddenly here- the grandparents too. Then everyone left. And I was left outside to sleep. I really prefer to sleep in my kennel inside. This went on for two nights.
Then they returned, and I continued to be ignored. Yes, they fed me, and they let me inside to sleep, but the smell inside was still there. Smoke I think they call it. And I did not like it. I could tell they did not either. There were constantly people I did not know in and out of our house. I sat and watched from the backyard. The lights inside came back on, then the TVs worked again.
And the big kids were home all day, every day which was weird. Based on the temperature outside, this didn’t seem right. It was out of cycle. But they played with me in the backyard some, and I liked it.
My female master, who isn’t much of a master because I don’t see the need to mind her much given the low level of attention she gives me, seemed concerned about everything going on at home, but I could sense there was something bigger going on. My male master was gone much more than usual. Where was he?
Then one day she started loading up the car, with lots and lots of things. Back and forth from inside to the garage she went over and over carrying things. Where were we going? Was I going? Based on the looks of all she was loading, there was not going to be room for me. Were they escaping the smell and leaving me in it?
One of the grandparents arrived, the ones with the other dog and my kennel went in the back of his truck, and I went too.
I began to worry. Where am I going with him? He drove away with me in his truck. But then the smell changed, and I could tell that we were headed to my favorite place. The river. Would my family be coming too?
Not long after, they all arrived. The female and the three kids. The grandparent unloaded my kennel to the porch and left.
After my female owner unloaded everything she had packed up, I could see her visibly begin to relax. She likes it here too, but I could sense that the circumstances in which we were here were different this time.
I did what I usually do in my favorite place. I slept late, even though my male master was still leaving before the sun woke up. I swam and did my favorite thing, I ran with my masters and the kids. We went to the park where I supervised their play from the shade.
My little girl had gotten noticeably better at the monkey bars since we were here last time. My second male master, the oldest boy, ran some with the adults to the park. I sensed a fluidness in his stride that suggested he was born to run much like me. And the bab, well, had he even been here before? He sat and watched in his stroller and giggled when I came to nudge him.
We didn’t seem to be in a rush to leave the park. And we didn’t seem to be in a rush to leave my favorite place at all. After a couple of days, I began to prepare myself to go back home. We only usually get a couple of days here at a time. Were we going to return to the smell and the distracted nature of everyone always coming and going to something? In and out of the house they go to the garage to where I’m not sure because they don’t take me with them.
But then two days passed, then a week. And then another. And we are still here. I get to come inside some. And I get petted a lot. I love to be petted. I humor the little girl as she “walks” me on my leash. There is no need for the leash down here, but I sense this ritual is part of her play. So, I play along.
And I am brushed. My masters bought this expense brush a while back to get rid of my constant shedding this time of year, but they rarely seemed to have the time to use it. It feels good to be brushed. I feel cooler, lighter.
And I think I am lighter. I eat my usual two meals a day and anything I can scrounge up that someone has dropped. But I’m outside more and I run more, play more, and it makes me feel lighter.
The baby even sits with me some and examines my paws with his fat hands. I give him a kiss often and he grins at me.
From the tone of my master’s conversations, I can tell something serious is going on. I think it may have something to do with people’s health and I think it is part of what is causing our extended stay here in addition to the bang, smell, and sirens. I also think it is why, even when my male master has not left early in the morning, he is on the phone a lot. Work I think they call it. But he seems happy. He gets to mow the grass, and I know he loves to see that completed. A lot of what he does for what they call work never seems to ever reach completion.
And her work. She seems to be working. I hear her on the phone talking to other people about work and issues. She puts it on speaker while we are walking so I can hear too. But she doesn’t seem to work at the same pace as before. I don’t see her looking at the screen as much. She’s not constantly rushing to and from the house to the garage, off in her car, back again, and then off again. It’s as if this is the only place we need to be. Here, now. And she likes it.
And I’m minding her more. Because she pays attention to me more. And to the kids. They play Beauty shop and lava monsters. They draw and paint and read. They bake Cupcakes I did get in trouble for taking one off the counter, but it was worth it. It was good.
The big kids walk down the lane to take the neighbor some cupcakes. I supervise this trip.
They examine waterfalls on their bike rides and try to find what is making the pecking noise in the trees. They watch some TV, but I can tell that when my female master is watching what she wants to and not some kids show, it isn’t really what she wants to do. She gets that look on her face, that look of concern. But she turns it off. It is being turned on less and less. They play in the sand and on the swing. I supervise this too.
I know that something has gone terribly wrong to have brought us to my favorite place for so long but maybe, something has also gone horribly right.
I hope we stay at this pace and place more.
Just as COVID-19 was beginning to take shape here, our house was struck by lightning and caught the attic on fire. My husband was literally on the phone with 911 as he was getting an incoming call from the hospital where he works as an administrator to decide how to proceed with what would become the first case of COVID-19 in our area.
We have been fortunate that no one was hurt in the fire, and the property damage while inconvenient and costly, is all fixable and covered by insurance. As they repair our home, we are lucky to have a place to stay that happens to be out of town, away from the chaos, and with a lovely view of the Tennessee River.
We are fortunate too, that as of this writing, none of our friends or family members have contracted the virus.
During “normal” days, but especially during uncertain times, there is a flood of emotion. In the midst of crisis, there is still good, and sometimes good that can only truly be seen when there is bad.
I sent a picture to my family members of the kids playing at the park a day or two after we settled here. Our black lab, Lou, was laying under the monkey bars watching the kids. Almost immediately the responses came in from grandparents and they were all, not about the kids, but about how happy the dog must be.
This gave me pause. The dog is happy? I rarely care if the dog is anything, let alone happy. I have too much going on to care about the dog most days. But, it gave me pause to see this all through the lens of Lou.
Happy she is. And despite this uncertainty and tragedy, we are too. And I wonder, why do we not live like this more? Things will eventually return to “normal” but I’m not sure I will position my family’s life back just the way it was. I pray I won’t and the dog does too.