I have two of them. Two dogs. Miniature Schnauzers, both. Salt and pepper. They came from the same breeder, though from different lines and they are the reason I get up every morning. Really, really early. Every single morning.
I am connected to them in ways I cannot explain; in ways I cannot connect with human beings. They have a very special place deep within my heart. One of them actually sleeps over my heart with her head resting on my neck, her nose tucked behind my ear. The other sleeps nestled tightly to my side, her head laying on my stomach. I love them so much, it hurts.
They adore me. They furiously wiggle their butts and cropped little tails, jumping with unconstrained excitement when I come home from work. They are a bright light in my dark and lonely world. My reason for being. Their pint-sized hearts pump pure love into my life. They make me laugh. They give me a reason to smile.
Yet, it baffles me, this connection I have with them, these furry, four-legged, wonderful little creatures. I am baffled by this meaningful bond that I can’t seem to forge with even one person who populates this planet. It comes so naturally with them. Why with dogs, but not people? It baffles me mightily.
The oldest just turned 11. The younger will be 6 in January. Every second I have with them is becoming more and more precious. I am aware time is running out. That there will come a day when they no longer greet me at the door, wiggling furiously with joy. And when their light goes out, my world will be far darker and fearfully empty. My eyes will be filled with tears when my sweet girls no longer fill my heart with laughter.
I hold their warm bodies, count their soft breaths, feel their hearts as they steadily beat next to mine. It amazes me that they are autonomous, perfectly formed beings who carry within them the breath of life. Their brains think independently. They have their own unique personalities. Their distinct likes, dislikes, quirks, needs and funny little ways of doing things. I am overwhelmed by the miracle of them. I am amazed at their innocence and vulnerability. They are all in. They are all mine. And I am theirs.
I sleep with dogs. Every night. I hold them gently in my arms and in my heart. I would rather die than hurt them. I would do anything to protect them.
I would like to have a deep and strong connection with a human being. A connection at least as deep and meaningful as the one I have with my four-legged children. Not instead of the connection I have with my furry girls. But along with, as well as, in addition to. I want the other side of the bed to be used. I want to listen to a person breathe as they lay beside me. Feel their heart beat next to mine. Marvel at their distinct personality and the miracle that makes them who they are. Feel their breath on my cheek. Sleep cuddled in their arms. I want to belong by their side. In their soul.
I long for someone to be delighted to see me when I come home. And to be sorry to see me go.
I haven’t many more years with my oldest. It terrifies me…the thought of her leaving. There isn’t a thing I can do to avoid what is coming. Dogs don’t live that long. We are forced to let them go far too soon. Even the younger one will be gone in the blink of an eye.
But when the eldest leaves me behind, I will have loved her well and hard and fully. I will have known her, every odd little quirk. All the contours of her soft, sturdy body. I will have held her, physically and with every fiber of my mind and being, enjoyed her, cared for her, been bound to her. She will always be a part of me. She has given me a treasure that I will hold tight and never let go, no matter how many years pass after she is no longer lying faithfully beside me each night. She will break my heart, even as she fills it. I will never stop loving her.
I listen to them both snore softly as they rest upon me. They trust me. They know I will watch over them. They know we are connected. They are peaceful, without fear, because they are safe in my embrace. We are content together. We can plunge into deep slumber without distress or worry when we are snuggled together as one.
I sleep with dogs. I bond with them. I connect with them though I can’t connect with humans. I am a stranger among my own species. With those who are my kind. But here, with my dogs, with their soft bodies cuddling mine, I am home. And though I ache for want of more, I am eternally grateful to be the one who gets to hold their soft little paws in my hand as they warm me during the long, solitary nights.