In Brazil, there is a word, saudades. It doesn’t translate well to English, but it’s easily understood by anyone with a heart that’s been touched by life. It means a “love that remains after” a state of melancholy or longing, tinged with nostalgia.
One of the reasons it was nearly impossible for me to write when we got home from our trip to California and Utah is because I was swimming in saudades. My summer with my own family in Yosemite was the best of my adult life, followed by the rest of the month in Utah, where we were catapulted from the deepest grief to ephemeral happiness, and back again. And again. And again.
I felt like a person too-long on the calliope- spinning and disoriented, and I needed to get off, to find my center again, and hear my own heartbeat.
In talking to a childhood grief counselor about helping my children deal with their feelings, the idea of an animal– a dog specifically– kept rising to the surface as a way to help the kids heal.
I’ve wanted a dog for about 13 years, 8 months and 11 days. Give or take. My last (and greatest) dog, Jack, died of cancer when Jeffrey was just a baby. I knew I couldn’t handle a dog and a newborn, and then life just snowballed. I also knew, in the decade of upheaval that followed, that a I could not have given a dog a decent life. So I waited.
But it was time. It wasn’t just for the kids’ hearts, either. Clearly.
I started searching in earnest. Previously, I had longingly browsed the rescue pages, but always turning away. This time I started filling out applications and sending out emails. Jon and I talked about getting another rescue dog- he’d had one before, and I had had two- and they were good dogs. But they also can come with problems, and given the five kids in the house, and Bean in particular, the more we thought, the more we wanted to start with a puppy.
And if we were getting a puppy, there is only one puppy in the world for me.
That’s me, before Jeffrey was born, with my puppy… an English Mastiff named Jack Straw. Jon saw that picture and said he knew. He knew exactly what kind of puppy we’d be getting. He was right.
I found a family in Ohio (that sounds far, but on the east coast, it’s really not) with a mama dog that had a litter of puppies. Not a pet store, not a professional breeder, certainly not a puppy mill. They invited us to their home, where we met the mama and the litter of puppies. The kids spent a long time playing with the babies and with the children in the family, before finally settling on the puppy who would be ours.
We’ve had him for about two months now, and he’s the light of the family. We love and adore this dog like you cannot even imagine. After the early weeks of being up all night with him, and finally getting him housebroken, he’s now a teething machine, chewing branches, balls of yarn, shoes, and anything he can get his (rapidly growing) paws on. Everyone loves him. But mostly…really… Bean loves him.
His morning routine is with Jeffrey, but he waits by the door in the afternoon for Bean to come home. Wiggling out of his skin with joy, he can barely wait to let Bean in the door, and Bean drops his trumpet (swapped it for the cello *sob*) and his backpack in the entry way and falls to the floor in joy while he and the puppy welcome each other back after the eternal school day.
Bean, the child who has a hard time with people hugging or touching him, allows the puppy to crawl all over him, hugging, pouncing and chasing each other. It’s a joy beyond measure to see him like this.
So we have a dog. His name is Tiberius. He’s healing our children, and he’s healing me. I didn’t even know how much I missed having a dog. Jon wasn’t sure about getting a giant breed—just in case you don’t know, an English Mastiff is a giant breed—but I think he’s been won over. In that earthy, solid way dogs can do, he’s slowed time down, brought absolutely limitless love, and is a balm on our hearts. Dogs really are magical creatures.