A year ago, Jane Dog died. When we brought her body out of the house, a breeze twisted the branches of the cherry tree, and the flowers flew apart and swirled in a delicate pink rain around us. It was cruelly cinematic. This year, when I saw the buds forming on the tips of the branches, I thought: uh oh, here it comes. Here comes that horrible beauty.
I don't mean to be maudlin. I know it might come across as excessive. Some of you may not like dogs - I get that. Or you think it's a little dramatic to make a big deal about a dog dying while people die every day. I know. I see them die all the time. And I witness the ferocious grief of family members left behind. It's not the same, I guess.
Maybe some of you are like me in this regard: I like people, but they exhaust me. What a dog asks of you is so different, so finely shaped by our co-evolution, that it never feels draining. Jane was, in every sense of the word, my friend. Not in a qualified "man's best friend" sense, but the kind of friendship I struggle to achieve with people.. I don't believe creatures have to be the same species to be friends. They don't need to share an elaborate language. They just need to perceive and respond to something essential in each other.
Since Jane died, we've fostered a lot of dogs. Always in my mind is the possibility that one might stick around and join our household. We might experience "foster failure" and realize that we can't part with our temporary visitor. But one by one, we find good homes for our dogs, wave goodbye and move on to the next one. I asked my wife recently if she thought we would ever get another dog. I really miss my friend. She thinks we will, but we'll have to accept imperfection at first. Friendship grows from shared experiences, from time and presence and acceptance.
Maybe my memory of those cherry blossoms - of saying goodbye - is still so fresh in my mind that I can't get past it. Jane wasn't perfect, after all. She was what we euphemistically described as a "work in progress" or a "project," a dog with issues that we worked on her entire life. Watching her learn to trust people was one of the things that most endeared her to me. Time, presence, acceptance, love.
Meanwhile, this little guy is living with us. Soon we'll be adopting him out, too. He's sweet, a little wild, a trickster. A wonderful dog, for someone else.