We’ve been redecorating the guest bathroom, and since we live by the ocean, we picked a beach theme with walls a pale aqua, a seashell fabric shower curtain, and a wreath of sea urchins, starfish, and scallop shells. We needed a large picture to hang over the towel bars, but we didn’t want to spend a fortune, so we headed to Michaels and pawed through their collection of poster prints. They had the usual assortment of beach scenes: children building sand castles, quaint harbors with sailboats bobbing, old-fashioned women strolling on the beach with their parasols. Then my eye caught a sight that took my breath away. It was a picture of two white rockers on the porch of a beach house, the view as if the painter was inside, looking through the doorway to the porch, and beyond was the sea.
I’ve seen similar prints, but what made this one so special was the yellow Lab who was sitting just inside the door, looking out. It was my Abby Dog, (see Don’t Tell Me Dogs Don’t Have Souls) the way she looked when she was older, when the kids had grown up and moved out and there was just my dear husband and I left at home. I stared at that picture and created a whole scenario for it: My husband and I were in the house, making some lunch to bring out to the porch, and Abby Dog, not wanting to go outside without us, was waiting for us to come and sit on the porch with her. Then she would sit between us, perhaps putting her head on our laps to catch an occasional crumb that might fall. We would sit outside, enjoying the sea breeze, and spend a quiet Saturday afternoon with her.
Whoa! What was happening here? I stopped the fantasizing, chiding myself for my foolishness, and showed my husband the picture. “This is such a nice picture, and I think it’s the perfect size. What do you think?” He agreed that it was a great picture but thought it might be too large. We looked at other prints, but couldn’t make up our minds. Actually, I had already decided, but regretfully, didn’t press the issue. We went home empty-handed.
A week later, with half the bathroom completed and measurements of how big a picture that space over the towel bars could accommodate, we returned to Michaels and looked again for a print. I decided, if my Abby Dog picture was the right size, I would plead my case forcefully. I had to have that picture. We went to the place we had seen it the week before and searched, but it was gone. I was angry with myself for not letting my husband know how much I had wanted that print. I know he would have bought it for me. We looked for some other picture that would work, but my heart wasn’t in it, and nothing stood out as being the perfect one. We were ready to give up when we decided to search the bargain bin, and there in the heap of cast-off pictures was my Abby Dog print–for only five dollars! “That’s a no-brainer!” my husband said as he carried our pick to the cashier.
Now, if you’ve never had a dog, none of this will make any sense to you. You will not understand how some dogs steal your heart and keep a piece of it long after they are gone. You will not understand how you can miss them so much, even after seventeen years, that thinking about them brings a smile and tears. You will not understand how a five-dollar print has the power to evoke such strong memories, you actually create an entire story around it and put yourself in the scene, just so you can pretend you are spending more time with that sweet, sweet dog.
We will most likely never have another dog. We are getting on in years, we live in a townhouse now with a tiny courtyard, and we travel to visit our children and friends often enough that, if we had a dog, it would spend too much time in a kennel. Furthermore, I have no desire or patience to pick up after a dog anymore or worry about vet bills. Our dog days are over. But when our redecorating is finished and that picture is hanging on the wall, I know I will occasionally wander into that room, “sit” in that rocker, and let Abby Dog put her big head in my lap. Hang on, Abby. Mama’s coming!