The pads on a young dog’s feet help you know that you’re dealing with a young dog. A puppy’s paws are soft and smooth, and she slides across a smooth floor. An older dog’s paws are rough after many years of running and playing and dancing across rough and ready ground.
Dogs are important to heart health, because a heart needs to melt at least once a day to remain resilient and fend off things that go bump in the night, politicians, and other scary stuff.
Summer lay next to me while we watched Jeopardy! Tuesday night, lost in whatever REM adventures were keeping her entertained, and I took several photos of her from odd angles. The one that featured her soft, smooth paw pads lingered with me the most, for some reason, at least in the first review.
We all start out soft and smooth and get filed down to worn and calloused. Every so often we need a reminder that we were softer once, so that we can hang on to a remnant of that blank slate that was our bundle of opportunity, that youthful enthusiasm, and that readiness to take on the world. That is why we adopt puppies, to be that reminder.
Sometimes Summer waltzes over and insists that I pay attention, leaning into me with an eagerness to hug and be hugged. Most of the time, though, she curls next to me or sprawls on the floor. I think she is sleeping, but sometimes I reach a hand down and stroke her shoulder or neck, and she sighs, almost as if all that time lying there she was waiting for my touch, just that brief connection that says yes, I’m here, and I know you’re there, and I’m so grateful for it.
I’m still shaken by the sudden loss of Summer’s predecessor, with whom I had one of those magic bonds between human and canine that you read about. But the end of that life set some sort of cosmic clock in motion that determined that when we were ready again, and looking for a puppy, Summer would be there. Without the ending this sweet animal would not be named Summer, she would make connections of a different nature with a different set of humans, and the world would not be the same in so many ways.
We drove down the road on the way to pick out a puppy, trying dozens of names out for size. We didn’t know what name we wanted, but we trusted we would recognize the right name when we found it. Sure enough, when the name Summer rose into our consciousness, we both got lumps in our throats and tears in our eyes that said, “Yes. We’re going down to find Summer and take her home.”
And here she is, curled up and comfortable, and this is home. Her paws are smooth and soft and her journey has barely begun, but one thing at least is certain: She is home. She is surely home.