I was sitting on the sofa watching a movie a couple of weeks ago when our Springer Spaniel, Mattie, jumped up beside me and curled up with her head in my lap. I looked over at my husband and our kids, home from college, and felt for just a moment like a tableau in a Norman Rockwell painting.
I didn’t notice the clutter of remote controls, DVDs and papers on the cocktail table or my son’s shoes discarded underneath. I didn’t care about the sprinkling of fir needles beneath the drying Christmas tree or the dog’s new toy right in the middle of the floor. And, for just a moment, I stopped running the next day’s to-do list through my head.
Life is pretty perfect sometimes, isn’t it? And sometimes, well, it isn’t.
I remember a similar scenario and another dog seventeen seasons ago. The kids were five and two, and all that our eldest wanted for Christmas was a puppy. Despite our insistence that Santa didn’t bring live animals, Elizabeth was optimistic. We knew her best friend was getting a puppy (from Santa, that traitor). Then we heard that another friend’s dog had just had puppies. Jim and I went to see them, just for fun, and we fell in love with the runt of the litter
A few days later I had a breast lump biopsied. We decided if the lump was benign, we’d get the puppy. The lump was malignant. I had a mastectomy December 13, and we decided if I didn’t need chemotherapy, we’d get the puppy. Chemo was scheduled for January. Santa brought the puppy, a sweet bundle named Lolly, anyway. She would cheer us up, we reasoned.
And she did, until a couple of weeks later (the day after my first chemo treatment) when our two-year-old broke his leg at preschool. So now we had me in chemo, Thomas in a body cast and a puppy growing more rambunctious by the day. Even with lots of help from family and friends, it was a bit too much. So when my brother and sister-in-law graciously invited Lolly for a six-week vacation at their house, we leapt at the offer.
Eventually, Thomas’ cast came off, our pup returned home, I finished chemo and life returned to normal. Lolly saw our kids through their first loose teeth and their first sleepovers. She watched them learn to shoot baskets and climb trees. She was always, always happy to see us. So we were heartbroken when she died suddenly at age seven.
It took more than a year before we could even consider getting another dog, but Mattie has been part of our family now for almost nine years.
As I write, she’s lying on the sofa again, not snoozing in my lap, but loudly licking her paws. Did I mention that we pretty much permanently keep beach towels on the furniture because of that disgusting habit? The cocktail table is still cluttered, Thomas’ shoes are still on the floor, and there’s just enough morning light to illuminate the layer of dust on the piano bench.
Jim and the kids are still sleeping. I’m sipping hot tea. We are safe and well and warm. Yep, life is pretty perfect sometimes, after all.