My husband likes to say that Moses is a tuning fork. He is our German Shepherd who loves by pure concentration. His every focus is on those he loves, and he trembles when he senses our stress. The night I left to go to my mother in her last crisis, he fought to be with me where he could not come, even as Charlie lovingly urged him to stay at home. In his distress, gentle Moses put his teeth on Charlie for trying to stop him from getting in my car. It was a protest, not an attack. But my leaving Moses behind was a betrayal to us both.
As a comfort and a way of drawing out my stillborn sorrow, I have been re-reading Madeline L’Engle’s adolescent novels which are explorations of faith and mortality. They will provoke my grief eventually, if not immediately. My own faith, so relatively new and untested, is approximately the same as the novel series’ teenager as she encounters death for the first time: in a friend’s father, in a friend’s illness, then in her grandfather. At the same time in the story, a dolphin’s baby dies, and the teenage protagonist writes a poem. Maybe it isn’t great poetry, but I like it because it expresses the value of life and love regardless of the boundaries of species. In it the angels weep because every life matters even in the span of the universe.
I am in a place where I am gathering all the love I can find. And the love of Moses, who sleeps now at my feet, is a treasure as deep as any I can claim.
The devotion of dogs is not new. Homer acknowledges the love of Argos, the dog of Odysseus, who, waiting twenty years for the return of his master, is neglected, flea-ridden, and sleeping on a pile of dung. And yet, when Argos at last sees his master–even though no human creature recognizes him–Argos wags his tail in greeting to the one he has always loved, and dies. Odysseus, who has endured the battle of Troy, Sirens, Circe, the Cyclops, Scylla and Charybdis, the deaths of all his companions, and the wrath of Poseidon, nevertheless weeps for the love of his old dog.
Moses is a dog. And his deep love for me is as real and palpable as any other love I know. He grieves when I grieve, and he is filled with joy when I am. What is love, if not this? And what greater comfort in grief than this deep devotion?
His soul reaches out to me and, gratefully, I answer.