A Purity of Love

Jennifer - Conneaut, Ohio
Entered on August 30, 2005
Age Group: 30 - 50
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She came to us in her eighth year. Arriving forlorn in a pick-up truck after my husband’s ex-wife called and said that he needed to come get her. I guess she figured if a penniless man with two wild little boys didn’t send me packing, instant ownership of a 130-lb Saint Bernard would.

Maggie spent that first night in our garage pacing and panting heavily, clearly in distress from being displaced from her home, and I remember the feeling of apprehension as I looked out the window at my husband sitting with her on the dirty floor for hours.

That weekend when we started building a doghouse, my parents — who were stridently against me accepting this dog into a home already straining under new stepfamily issues -came over to witness the spectacle. By afternoon, Dad stood in a tool belt, hammering leftover siding onto a large structure that was finished off with a porch, insulation, and lattice trim.

I was someone with no experience with dogs, and now I was coming face to face with one morning and night. When I left for work, I’d cringe hearing her get up to come out to greet me. I wished she would just stay inside. I did not have the energy for one more obligation – so distracted by custody disputes and the financial fallout that followed; bitter from the harsh reality that honeymoons are temporary. I ached for my stepsons, who like Maggie, suffered from displacement and loss.

One night, after a particularly troubling event, I walked out the door, plopped on the back porch steps and sobbed. The familiar sound of Maggie getting up and walking toward me was, this time, a comfort. And so was her stoic gaze of solidarity.

It was then I decided to get to know her better and on Saturdays I’d turn her loose so we could walk around the yard together. She would fall alongside me in a happy gallop, as I sorted through my cluttered mind. The Saturday’s turned more frequent and a profound friendship was born.

I write this with three dogs at my feet, dogs I’ve come to care for over the four and a half years since she’s been gone. I believe dogs bring a dispatch from a blissfulness long forgotten. And unlike humans, they can’t get old with worry – only time unrelenting.

Maggie’s stomach turned one night and by the time we found a vet that was open on a Sunday, the damage was irreparable. When it was time to put her to sleep, she sat down and handed the vet her paw.

She was around long enough to cure me of immense cynicism, and invite me to heal old wounds by finding a purity of love that I didn’t know existed. This experience helped me see my evolving family in a new light; appreciating its imperfections; honoring its need for unconditional love; and finally, accepting the fleeting nature of it all.