I can’t say where the spirit, or the bond, really comes from. It’s one of those things like talent: can it be taught? I’m sure it’s always all around, and if you tune to it, it’s something like oxygen.
The artist’s son: When we brought this child home the very first time in 1991, I lay him on a receiving blanket and said, “Dogs, there’s a baby!”
I had sent my husband home with blankets from the hospital, so the scent had been teased, but clearly they were unprepared for this tiny alien invasion. They sniffed, nuzzled, and finally tasted with tentative licks and quickened tails. But I had a spunky relationship with my mama Golden, so all I could imagine was, “Oh great, you had a puppy! I guess there are 4 or 5 more in the car? That’s nice. We’ll be selling them in eight weeks or so?”
That was my jovial interpretation, but truthfully, silently and instantly, there was trust. They wouldn’t actually baby-sit, but those dogs stood by that little alien for the rest of their lives. Well, of course they did… life under the high chair was significantly gratifying! And the toddler was as happy in their beds as his own.
When Alex was nine, we were in Lakeville, CT, on vacation at The Interlaken Inn. Down by the lake, we pleasantly greeted fellow guests, sipping tea and reading books, toes in the water, all quiet and peaceful. I stood in the water and gave this eager boy his first oar. The rhythm came instinctively, and he took off. Now Paint, this third Golden in his life, hopped around on the shore, barking hysterically. I couldn’t contain his concern nor apologize enough to the others. Alex quickly pivoted back to shore, hollering, “Put him in the canoe! Put him in the canoe!” The size of this dog was only part of my objection to this twist. But Alex insisted, and we somehow hoisted his big, heavy, wet self into the boat. I sat aft, awed that the boy simply picked the oar right back up, and the dog settled down like it was home. Off we went. Until I became the loudly disturbed one… “OH NO, I don’t have my camera!!!”
The painting above is the result of yet another beaching of the canoe, a trek back to our room to fetch said camera, a return to the water, and a long ride that finally looked like a late fall afternoon in the Berkshires!
The dog wouldn’t stand for the boy drifting away. The boy wouldn’t hear of leaving the dog behind. And in that moment, I knew that I had raised a dog-whisperer. I suppose you can chalk it up to the fact that Alex never knew a day without a dog. But I like the feeling that there’s something more mystical about it. An ease. A spirit? Alex and all the dogs in his life, to this day… they just know each other, no introductions necessary. Old as time, eternal as hope. The Spirit in Our Bond.