We talk about love as if it can’t be seen. As if it’s some ethereal bit that vibrates between us and does not show itself.
We make it too complicated.
I prefer to keep things simple.
She came to us a little over a year ago, 10 pounds lighter and a bundle of nerves. I wondered if we could ever love her enough to make a difference.
Turns out we could.
My boys and I, going through a rough time of our own, took her into our herd, so to speak. We did not know we were a herd until this lab/Australian cattle dog/border collie mix started shepherding us around the house. She had found her peeps and she’d be damned if she wasn’t going to keep them safe and in one place so she could keep an eye on all at once.
Voila. A herd was born.
I’ll never forget her first night here. The couple who brought the dog to us left and she was a wreck. They were the third family to have had her in her brief eight-month life. And she was being left again.
She scratched at the door, barked at the window, whined at my feet. She would not stop running—in no particular direction—as she frantically tried to hold onto the last familiar bits. She did not realize we would now be home—forever.
I ended up just hugging her so she had to sit still. I talked to her in a calm voice and just held her. And, amazingly, she let me.
The first few weeks and months were tough. She had been mistreated somewhere along the line and it showed. Distrustful, cautious, “sleeping” with one eye open at all times, curled up into a ball so she could pounce if she had to. She was not a licker. Not one to sit or lie near you. Easily startled. Growled and barked at everything from waving flags to my next door neighbor.
Every time we left the house, she was frantic. When we came home, she was in joyous disbelief. To this day, a year later, when she jumps on my bed to wake me up in the morning, it is with such elation. As if to say, “You’re still here! And so am I. Amazing!”
Love is hard to pin down sometimes. Is love a rose? A look on a face? A kind gesture? A kiss?
With Bailey, it’s easy to see love.
Love is sleeping with both eyes firmly closed, on your back with belly and paws in the air. Because you can. And you’re safe.
Love is lying next to your peeps on the couch, head in their laps, taking in their sweet scent (yes, to her, even stinky boys are a sweet scent) while they pet you as if you’ve always belonged there.
Love is sitting halfway up the stairs, so you can watch who goes down and guard against unwanted visitors going up.
Love is catching the snowballs your boys throw for you, tackling those same boys and licking their faces until they erupt in giggles.
Love is letting those same boys fall asleep hugging you tightly around your neck, heads buried in your fur—even though you’re not quite sure this is a sleep-inducing arrangement for you.
Love is knowing that no matter how many times you wrap your lead around the tree, the play set and/or the patio furniture, your peeps will come get you unwrapped and bring you indoors when you’re ready. Yes, even in those 20-degree temps you seem to love so well. So you wrap yourself around them, running in circles, gleefully and with abandon.
Love is jumping overenthusiastically on every neighbor friend you’ve made, to the dismay of some, because you’re just so damn happy the world is turning out to be a friendlier place than you thought it was.
Here’s what my boys have learned about love—a love you can see.
Nothing beats being part of a herd. Nothing beats a dog who loves you whether you got the A or the F.
As for me?
Nothing beats watching your kids learn that perfect houses aren’t as important as messy ones filled with love. Oh, and I guess I don’t mind that someone is deliriously happy to see me each morning.
You love one of us, you’re going to have to love all of us. Just ask Bailey. We stick together.
Now that’s a love you can see.
What did I tell you? It’s simple.