I’ve shared my home with seven dogs in my life, and none have had quite as much “personality” as Elsie, who joined our family one year ago. When my husband, Edwin, brought Elsie home from the veterinary clinic where he works, I agreed to a trial weekend. We already had three dogs, one of whom was old and dying from cancer, and the last thing our household needed was a 6-month-old, non-housebroken dog. Besides, Edwin wasn’t supposed to have been at work that day, as we had been planning a camping trip that weekend. But a hurricane dashed those plans, and Edwin forgot something at work and so went into the clinic on a Saturday morning just as Elsie, who’d come in as a stray 10 days earlier, was about to be picked up by a local shelter.
When Elsie arrived in our house she walked in fairly confidently, despite the fact that the house was already full of dogs, two of whom were much bigger than she. In one swift move, she plopped down on the floor, as if signaling her intention to stay. And stay she has, taking her place in our family and my heart as the funniest, most engaging, most loving dog I’ve ever known. Elsie makes eye contact like nobody’s business, but not aggressively. When Elsie looks at you it’s as if she’s trying to pour out her overflowing, enthusiastic heart. I have never felt so adored in all my life as I do by Elsie.
This summer has been a joy for Elsie. If she has tired out our 7-year-old dog, Ruby, and if none of us are willing to play stick, Elsie will simply play stick by herself. She has collected a couple of very large sticks (more like branches), and she keeps them in a specific place by the kiwi arbor. When she wants to play with them she picks one up and runs around with it, and then throws it up in the air and catches it, and then chews it for awhile, leaving it by the arbor for next time. And when she gets hot from such activity, she trots down to the pond and goes for a swim.
Elsie is so attentive that as soon as I awake in the morning, even before I open my eyes, she jumps on the bed (or, if she’s already on the bed, slinks up it), to greet me. She’s learned not to paw me or lick me on my face (I don’t like either of these behaviors), but to give a teeny lick on my hand and rest her head on my body to say good morning. And then I pet her, and we are both so happy.
It’s hard to describe the joy that Elsie brings me. The best way I have of understanding it is by observing her. She is joyous in a way I can only imagine, and lucky for me, I experience a measure of it in her presence.
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Claude and Medea: The Hellburn Dogs, and So, You Love Animals: An Action-Packed, Fun-Filled Book to Help Kids Help Animals
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Filed under: animal intelligence and emotion, gratitude, joy | Tagged: animal behavior, animal emotions, companion animals, dogs, emotions, families, Joy, love, observation | Comments Off