Perhaps the hardest thing about being on my own again has been this--this absence. There are some logistical explanations--my building, which I've taken to calling my temporary building, as part of some effort to comfort myself, doesn't allow dogs, or I should say dogs larger than an apple. The people who have dogs are so surreptitious about them that you'd think they were hiding narcotics or contraband in their apartments. I know for a fact that a dog, a small dog, lives across the hall; I've heard the chinking of tags every single morning, from my bed, at 6:20 since late August. Obviously s/he is routinely taken out at that time, though I have not ever seen the dog. I have a feeling that the absurdity of that is going to stand in for the story of my year.
But there larger story is one of massive emotional transition. Ned has a new (canine) brother; Mark's with someone new. I've just been trying to get myself back on my feet, as they say. I've been trying to figure out what I want, which takes gigantic attention. I haven't wanted to disrupt, which has both good and not-so-good sides to it. The last time I saw Ned, back before Christmas, he barked in alarm, made an uncharacteristic moan, then peed all over the floor while looking at me with impassive face. That image of him troubled me for weeks, which might have something to do with the fact that i couldn't sleep all Monday night. I was to see Ned the following morning for a three-night trip to Delaware, while Mark and company went to Germany. I was afraid Ned would be angry with me, or worse, that he'd forgotten me, or would be indifferent to me. I never had a doubt that he'd been loved and taken care of, but that didn't stop me from punching a crater into my pillow once an hour, or throwing off covers, or putting on covers, opening the window a crack, and walking to the medicine cabinet for antacids.
Friends had told me that all would be fine. I knew in part that they were probably right, but I was also afraid that it was a little too easy. Dogs are much more complicated and sentient than we ever give them credit for, and if he wanted to resent me, then fine. I guess I don't need to fill in the obvious; I'll let these pictures do the work. I don't want to simplify things or demolish worry in the wake of that long prelude; simplification has a dark, hard, shiny allure. Why is it we want to race to it, especially when we're talking about dogs and their emotional lives? But this day couldn't have been sweeter. 72 degrees, shirt-sleeve weather on the beach. A night outside Asbury Park, a ferry trip across Delaware Bay, two nights in Rehoboth. We're both conked out from breathing in tree pollen. Sun, wind: we're dehydrated, even though we've tried our best to drink water. This morning, I woke to the sounds of robins and song sparrows over the Parkway noise in Tinton Falls. A dreaming dog was pressing hot, sweaty weight into my thigh, and when I heard a stomach rumble, I couldn't tell whether it was his stomach or mine. Then we moved apart.