“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”
– Will Rogers
Yesterday I came upon an old photograph. I was twenty-seven, living in Vermont and kind of lost until a lost dog found his way to me.
A friend who worked at an animal shelter called to tell me to come and rescue a special dog. My life was crazy enough without a dog, but I went anyway. My friend brought out a Golden Retriever/Great Pyrenees Mountain dog. His muscular body twirled in a circle a few times, then he flopped onto his back, tongue lolling, stomach exposed. He looked up with a goofy smile as if to say, “What took you so long to get here?” I named that one hundred pounds of love Sunny.
That summer I lay in the sunshine with Sunny’s body leaning hard into mine, head tucked into the crook of my arm. His presence comforted me in a way my parents never did, his gentle loving soothed me in a way lovers never could, his constant good mood lifted me in a way I never felt lifted before.
Each day Sunny’s strength seeped into me I became stronger. I stopped going out to party after work. All I wanted to do was get home to Sunny. At the lake when I swam too far from shore Sunny launched himself off large boulders into the water, legs spread in front and behind him like a canine Superman, desperate to rescue me. I let him pull me back to safety, but he’d already saved me by coming into my life.
I’d never been surrounded by such an abundance of love before. There were no power struggles, no games, no dominance, no neediness. An equal partnership. We gave and received love in equal measure. The first healthy relationship in my life.
All that mattered to Sunny was the present moment, a bowl of food and walks in nature. He taught me to be still, to smile at every little treat, to be gentle, to believe in love and greet everyone with joy.
I had Sunny for a year until a blood clot paralyzed the back half of his body. Brokenhearted I said my final goodbyes before the vet put him to sleep. I still remember the weight of Sunny’s body against mine. Still remember his crooked smile. And my heart is still filled with an extra one hundred pounds of love.