Once a month I hope to feature a post by a guest author, giving some of the lovely writers that I know a chance to add their voice to Goose Hill. Today’s post comes from Laura Allnutt, my best friend, apartment-mate, and fellow writer. Laura holds an MFA in fiction from Fairfield University and is currently working on a novel to submit to a contest in October. Read more about her in just about any of my posts.
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I suffered from insomnia as a child, lying awake for hours after my parents put me to bed and rising much earlier than everyone else. In those dark, lonely hours of sleeplessness, my childhood monsters didn’t hide under the bed or in the closet; they whispered my fears in the silence.
My dad found me one night sobbing into my pillow and asked what was wrong.
“I’m just thinking about you and Mommy dying!” I said.
“Why would you think something ridiculous like that?” he said. “Stop thinking about it and go to sleep.”
But I often thought about it and sometimes still do. I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to avoid loss.
Everything I own has a place—a drawer, a shelf, a closet, a space under the bed—so that I know where it is. If something is not in its place, it frustrates me because things are not supposed to disappear.
If you’re not careful, you’ll want to avoid love altogether.
But you can’t shelve and secure loved ones so that you’ll always know where to find them. The potential of loss makes love both wonderful and dangerous. Sometimes, if you’re not careful, you’ll want to avoid love altogether.
When Sarah started talking about getting a dog, I didn’t want one. If you’ve read any book or seen any movie about dogs, you know the heartbreak of owning a canine. Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, My Dog Skip, Marley and Me, Hachi. We’ve been warned: they will all die.
The average dog lives eight to fifteen years. Those years could be your childhood, college and grad school, the time it took to pay off your car. It sounds long in the moment, but when it’s over, it’s merely a snapshot of life, time quickly spent.
But Sarah was aching for a dachshund, and the puppy pictures online were irresistible, especially the brown-and-tan male. We even came up with a name we both loved. Soon we found ourselves on a two-hour journey to the deep Kentucky South, off the interstate and onto roads that rolled through fields of corn and tobacco.
I was mentally guarded against the cuteness to come.
As we wondered over hill and dale, I told myself, “After we look at the puppies, I’ll tell Sarah it’s a bad idea. We can’t get a dog.” I was firm in my resolution, prepared and mentally guarded against the cuteness to come.
My family had dogs before. I knew what it was like to meet the breeder and watch the litter fumble out of the kennel, rolling and flopping and licking at your feet. You pick the puppy that shows you the most attention, the one who looks up at you with longing in his eyes. It’s an egotistical problem that people the world over have fallen for, but not today.
When we finally found the breeders’ home, their granddaughter led us around back to the long row of kennels. The puppies were in the one on the far left, a black-and-tan female, a piebald male, and the brown-and-tan male we came for. The rest had already been sold. The female and piebald pushed to the front, fighting to be the first out of the pen, while our brown-and-tan waited from behind, wanting out but afraid of the kennel door. He got trapped behind it when the granddaughter pushed it open and sat there, sad and dejected as if he’d lost another chance to have a home.
The granddaughter pulled him out and handed him to Sarah. He pushed himself as far up under her neck as he could and nestled in, whimpering and moaning. She rocked him a moment and then handed him to me, where he also pushed up to nuzzle his nose into my neck. Only this time, he stopped crying.
It was dramatic and pathetic, and I almost fell for it, but I was still ready to hand him back.
“Come on inside,” the granddaughter said.
We followed, pup in hand, to the kitchen where the breeder was filling out the paperwork. He talked about feedings and vaccines, but I thought about Skip and Hachi. I tried to put the puppy down, but he cried again, so I settled him on my lap and lifted his long nose to look into his small green eyes. But with his breath on my hand, I thought of a scene from The Avengers: Age of Ultron, in which Ultron tells Vision that humans are doomed.
“Yes,” Vision says, “but a thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts. It’s a privilege to be among them.”
“You got a name picked out?” the breeder asked.
Sarah and I shared a glance, and I rubbed the puppy’s chin. “We do,” I said. “It’s Dudley.”
I still don’t like the idea of loss, but I’m learning to enjoy those I love while I’m able. After all, it is a privilege to be among them.