When I was three years old my parents rehomed an older dog. At the time, we lived in the high desert of Southern California, in a tiny town of cinder block houses. Her family knew ours and my mom thought the dog would fit in. She did, so much so that I stopped playing with my dolls and only wanted to be with her. She was a big, fluffy Samoyed dog who I believed needed me to brush her, every chance I could.
I could sit for hours on the dirty concrete in our car port, surrounded by potential playthings, and only care about her well-being in that hot arid climate. I felt so calm next to her dusty fluffy bear-like body. I would smile into her panting face. Why care that my doll could walk with a push of a button, when I had an open mouth breathing lion to care for? I had a wild beast as my best friend, who smelled like a stuffed animal.
We were inseparable. I never played with dolls again. When I look back fifty years later, I can see this was no coincidence but fate. I had been destined to be a dog lover.
Enter Chispa. During a recent morning session volunteering at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, I met this lovely lady that you see here. In less than a minute, she brought back memories of my Samoyed. Softly petting Chispa between the eyes, letting her creep closer as she accepted my love, I felt a familiar warmth pass between us.
Without hesitation I leaned in to feel her fluff with my face. Not only did she let me, she closed her eyes and settled in for whatever else I had in store. Is my response common to other older dog lovers? Do we all have this imprint that stays with us? You read the phrase, "dog print on my heart" but this sensation I feel is at a molecular level.
My time volunteering at Muttville is always satisfying, but moments with dogs like Chispa are restorative. I hope someone out there with extra love finds her. She will repay you with the sweetest breath, the kindest eyes, and a quietude to balance the noisy world of today.
Thank you Chispa for taking me back in time.
Have you noticed the similar smell between a stuffed animal and a dog? When did you know you were a dog lover?