In 2004 I was a depressed and lonely woman in a strange city half way across the country from the place I considered home. My solitude was intentional, a product of the denied grief of a lifetime and two all too fresh deaths. I rented a two bedroom duplex and hid there, rejecting the idea that a good life was worth the effort. I mentioned off handedly to a coworker that I thought I needed a dog. She brought me an adoption booklet from her vet’s office and there, about halfway in was a picture of my heart’s dog, Olive.
She was called Duma then, by the ladies that ran the rescue she’d been living at for six months. She’d been found wandering the streets of northeast Georgia alone and hungry. She seemed easily startled and they soon realized that was because she could not hear. She was camera shy, so in the picture her face is turned back towards the camera over one sholder. She’s standing still for the photo, but you can tell she doesn’t like it. She’s doing it because she knows these nice people want her to, and she usually does what nice people ask. I knew she was my dog before I even read the caption under her picture. I thought she was all soul. It turned out she was also very largely joy.
Olive, named for the sound a deaf friend made when he said “I Love You” quickly became the most important piece of my life. She was waiting for me every morning when I got out of bed and in the afternoons when I came home. She was so horribly shy at first that she couldn’t stand to see me leave the room without her, and followed each of my steps. Though I was still deeply sad and anxious, I got up on weekends to make sure that Olive had a walk. The desire to let Olive see more of her own kind got me out of that crappy apartment to the dog park, where I began to see more of mine. Her oddball tummy made me search out good food for her, and realize what I was eating myself. And then that day when the bottom finally dropped out, Olive sat between my legs in the floor while I held on to her for hours. She was what I gripped when I decided to go ahead and try the climb.
She became the friend that would walk beside me across half a country, down 100 pounds, away from a life I was designing to be free of anyone I loved enough to weep for, and towards the courage to find the one I live today. Olive gradually made me remember that the flow of love is worth the pain it brings with it, and that despite my many faults I am a person who loves well. She found the heart I tried to throw away, and brought it back to me. That was the only thing she ever bothered to fetch.
More than six years ago she found a woman alone, with a stale and blank face. This morning my kind husband told me that he loved me and took our two month old daughter from the room. I held sweet sweet Olive against me and she took her leave.