The young black and white dog flitted about the room like a butterfly indiscriminately lighting on flower after flower. There was no rhyme or reason to her choices, just pure joy in welcoming smiles, scratches in all the right places, and hugs and enthusiastic kisses that only a puppy can so freely bestow.
The red dog, on the other hand, sat back thoughtfully, surveying the room. Each visit was granted deliberately, seemingly with consideration and purpose. I had seen the red dog do this before at the same gathering the year before. Politely greeting everyone with a friendly flash of his tail without fault, but very aware of those with whom he chose to spend time. It was as if the red dog had a mission and specifically sought out the people who needed the special attention of a soul dog.
During my visit the previous year, I received a quick and friendly hello from the red dog, but nothing much more. His sites were set on others.
This year, however, as I settled into a front row seat where I could give my full attention to the presenter in a writing workshop, I suddenly realized the red dog had settled in beside me. He materialized quickly, quietly, with gentle purpose. Determined not to seem distracted from the speaker by my very welcome guest, I reached over, somewhat absentmindedly, to rub his soft ears.
After a moment, I pulled my hand a few inches away from the red dog, just letting it rest on my knee as I remained focused on the presentation.
Immediately I felt pressure on my hand and looked down to see the red dog pawing me, gently letting his nails grip my fingers as if to pull me back into his realm. As I looked into his soft brown eyes, I felt a swelling in my heart that was so long buried, but so immediately familiar at the same time.
Suddenly everything else in the crowded conference room melted into a soft fog and only the red dog and I existed. Again I felt the unmistakable tug of an insistent paw on my hand, just as I had felt it for so many years, so many times before. And in the next moment, it wasn’t the red dog at all. As my eyes continued to hold the connection with the dog’s eyes, I realized I was now gazing into very familiar eyes, into the face of a precious friend more than six years gone.
It seemed impossible, but I knew those eyes, I knew that serious, handsome white face with the mahogany brown spots as well as I recognize my own reflection. This was my boy. My Dalmatian, Monte. The dog who was my heart and soul dog for 15 years, seven months to the day.
This was the dog who was always by my side. The dog who was outwardly reserved, perhaps considered quiet and stoic to some, but my perfect match, my fiercely devoted dog who allowed a chosen few to see his silly side. Here was the dog who always made me feel safe, who was always right there when I most needed a friend. Here was the dog who I had the honor of caring for during the long autumn of his life. The one born into my hands; the one who died in my embrace.
I don’t know how long I stared into my dog’s eyes, but I dared not look away. This was a precious gift. One soul dog was granting another soul dog time to sooth my still tender heart, to let me know he will forever be my boy. Time to tell me he’s OK and still a part of my very being.
This was a message I wasn’t even aware I needed to hear until this beautiful, unlikely moment.
A sudden burst of laughter rippled across the room and with it, the fog receded, the room came back into focus, and the spotted dog was once again a handsome border collie. I blinked back the tears that had filled my eyes and allowed the smile that spread across my face to remain in place.
Carefully, the red dog, still holding me with his knowing gaze, removed his paw from my hand. I gave his shiny coat another stroke as I thanked him. Then he turned to position himself near his person. His work with me was done.
Do you believe in soul dogs? In that powerful connection that you are lucky to find even once in a lifetime? Do you believe in the possibility that a special spirit can return to visit you through the willing heart of another? Was this a real experience, or just a wish-filled fantasy conjured up by a fanciful, fertile mind?
I hope, in your heart and mind, you will allow for the possibility. But your conclusion matters to only you. It does not matter to me.
Because I do. I do believe.
Thank you, Red.
Thank you, Monte. It was pure heaven to see you again.