Just now, I was sitting on the couch. Unbidden, one of my dogs jumped up and laid down next to me, his head on my leg. He let me pet his head, feel the soft fur around his ears.
A friend who lived in India for a time told me of a temple he visited with his young son. When his son left some coins as an offering, the temple’s elephant gently bopped the boy’s head as a blessing with its trunk.
That’s how I feel every time one of my dogs elects to come up to me.
So it is when I ride with trail dogs. I love riding with them. No creature expresses joy so much as a trail dog. Several of my friends have trail dogs, and on a couple of occasions when I’ve run into them in the woods, I’ve recognized the dog before my friend.
One such dog was Tessie, Ben and Michelle’s pooch. A rescue pit, she was as happy a critter as I’ve ever known. Unlike a lot of dogs, she ran behind the pack. Behind, but close behind. More than once I felt her breath on my heel, although she never once got in my way.
Tessie died a few weeks ago, leaving a hole in my friends’ lives. Dogs do that. We know when we get them that we will likely outlive them. We commit to giving them a life in the full knowledge that dogs always break our hearts. We sign up for that pain because we know that what they give us during their lives more than pays that bill.