Hold on a second. If you’ll allow me a slight aside, please note what I just typed: “I have…..” It’s been slightly more than three years now since Maggie’s Angel Day. Yet that’s still difficult to say. It’s much easier albeit incorrect to say “We have two dogs.” The past tense phrase “We had two dogs” doesn’t work because the loving puppies are still alive and licking. But “I have two dogs” just doesn’t fit. They used to be “our dogs" - hers and mine - and even though she’s not here to share in poo duty anymore, they still seem like our dogs to me. If it’s ok with you, can I start again? (I promise it’s relevant to my post.)
We have two dogs, Niko and Kali. Niko was the dog I never thought I’d have because I was blessed with allergies to everything: dirt, grass, mold, and especially hair: dog hair, cat hair, horse hair, rabbit hair, people hair... if it grows, I'm allergic to it. So when Maggie declared about nine years ago that we should get a dog, I told her she was nuts, in of course the most loving, supportive way. But she was a smart one, that girl, and rarely listened to me and what I called “logic.” She went to researchin’ and found a rare breed of dogs that don’t have any hair called American Hairless Terriers. While I was intrigued, I was skeptical so we set up a test. We went to visit a home that had one of these freak dogs to verify whether or not I could comfortably snuggle. And just days after the successful meet-and-greet, she had arranged to pick up our new puppy, Niko. Just like that, we had a dog.
But let me be very clear. Despite my spoiling, Niko was Maggie’s baby. They were connected in ways I couldn’t explain. When Maggie would return home, Niko would go nuts with joy, running around the house, whining, bouncing, elated. It was a sight to see. She loved Maggie WAY more than me. And yes, that hurt my little heart a little bit but I got used to it. Heck, I loved Maggie, too, so I could see Niko’s perspective (but I still snuck secret treats to Niko all the time, just to ply my case.)
Flash forward to today. These days, it seems like every couple of weeks there’s a video posted on CNN of a returning soldier greeting his or her dog. Just yesterday was a lady soldier who walked in to greet a sleeping beagle who, after sniffing the unfamiliar girl in camo, comes absolutely unglued with joy. The dog whines and runs around like a maniac, alternating between licking, whining, body-checking and other just plain nutso behavior. It’s clear that the dog knew her mom was finally home. It’s also clear that the dog dearly missed her mom. It’s the sweetest thing you’ve ever seen.
Every damn time I watch that video and those like it, I breakdown into a sobbing mess. It makes me so happy for that dog but seeing how happy that dog is breaks my heart, too. I remember how happy Niko was when Maggie returned back from a lengthy absence. She just went absolutely nuts. It's clear that she obviously missed her.
I often wonder if Niko still thinks about Maggie and wonders "Hey, where'd Mom go? And when is she getting back?" Does she even remember her? From the videos of the returning soldiers, I can comfortably say that yes, dogs absolutely remember, without a doubt. Do they ever forget? And do they get sad when they remember, just like us?
It’s been a while since I’ve seen Niko light up from a smell that I suspected was from Maggie. But, of course, the things that might still hold those smells haven’t been touched in a while. One day when I push forward again, it’ll be interesting to see how she responds. But until then, she’ll just be a pretty average happy dog, with no visible signs of the explosive joy that she might show if Maggie one day walked through the door.
I’ll tell you this, though. If Maggie ever walks through that door, Niko is going to have to fight me for Maggie kisses. I'm first.