They told me she was found alone on the street. Abandoned. She was just a puppy. Then the shelter lady closed the file, looked up and said, “That’s it. That’s her story.”
If only dogs could talk.
What would Coco-Seven Sunday tell me?
Would she tell me the reason she’s afraid to go outside in our front yard? Or why she can barely stand on the sidewalk without bolting in blind panic when a car drives by? Would she tell me why she bucks like a tiny wild horse, slipping out of the pink collar she’s yet to grow into, when I tug at the leash, urging her to come explore the neighborhood with me?
Would she tell me why she keeps her pretty ears pressed flat against her brown head and why she walks with her curly tail tucked under her butt most of the time? Or why, on that third day, when we took her to the park, she hid under the minivan whimpering, eyes wide with mistrust? Would she tell me why she doesn’t feel running and jumping and fetching and chasing like other puppies but more like a tired old woman who’s seen too much, she just sleeps and sleeps and sleeps? Would she tell me about all the horrors she experienced her first four months of life? The life before we met her, that rainy Sunday, in that crowded shelter and invited her to become the seventh member of our tribe?
Maybe she wouldn’t tell me. Maybe she doesn’t even understand why she’s afraid. Maybe she wouldn’t be able to find the right words.
But if dogs could talk, at least I could talk her through all the confusing impressions swirling inside her. At least I could tell her about how she’s safe now and she can put all that behind her.
But dogs can’t talk and I can’t reason away her emotional scars with kind encouraging words.
I can only watch and wait.
I can only prove her well-being and safety by sneaking her a warm share of chicken and mashed potatoes when the rest of us sit down to dinner. I can only look the other way when I catch her on the couch or lying in bed, watching TV with the kids. Or, when she falls asleep with her head in my lap, I can only sit still a while longer, putting off the dishes or the laundry or that other less important thing, to stroke her soft brown floppy ears some more. I can only be patient and never raise my voice to her, not even on days when she has an accident in the house because she couldn’t bear the thought of venturing out beyond the other side of that front door. I can only do all this while I wait to see that light in her eyes glow brighter and stronger and her inner puppy is unleashed more and more.
If only dogs could talk.
But then again, if dogs could talk, would the one dimensional words between us water down the need to back up my commitment to her with solid tangible actions?
Would we still learn to read the depths of one another’s eyes for cues and assurances?
How thick would the braids of our bond actually be, if dogs could talk?
Would any of this be as powerful?