You pranced up my gravel driveway from the street 13 plus years ago, with a smile bigger than your whole furry self and a tail that moved faster than a speeding bullet. No collar, no buddies, no telltale signs of ownership. You chose me. Or maybe God made you at the edge of the street and sent you my way at the perfect time.

I scooped you up; all of your apricot tri-coated, creamy white-winged forepaws, skirted bottom under my arm, your baby mischief self squiggling and luckier than a lottery winner, and deposited you in my backyard with Walden the Wonder dog.  Better luck even then – he licked your face, pawed your toes and thus began the life of Riley – or rather, Mischa. The poster child for the Finnish Spitz, we thought, but perhaps just a sort of beautiful, blessed mix of collie, chow, or some such, but the loving personality of the best mix of “Happy Dog” breed. Everyone still calls you “Smiley Dog.” You knew just who to con for treats – nose bump, then running through your entire repertoire – sit, down, shake both paws, all the way down... You still do, even though you can’t see, but now it’s just the nose bump and a soft "woof" as a reminder that you’ve got the best sniffer in the state.

Watching you run the length of a soccer field was a joy to behold. Graceful as the ballet dancer for whom you were named, tail sailing like a flag in the wind, legs churning, forepaw wings signaling a mpg that looked faster than a greyhound! And then you’d execute a turn more graceful than a prized cutting pony to zoom back to the starting point. You no longer run like that for fear you’ll mash into something. Cautious, often tentative, you trot next to me, feeling me so near, the leash held just so, to let you know I’ll guide you if there’s danger.

I sang to you each night as you slept at my feet, “I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck,” and when I finished I kissed you on the nose, you let out a long sigh and went right to sleep. Now I sing to you as you lie curled in your bed on the floor, one eye gone, the result of glaucoma, and the other soon to be removed for the same disease that has stolen your freedom. But you know the home base; you know your boundaries, the rooms and the rugs – all the safe spaces. You still hear my secrets, my pain, my joy, my dreams; you still lean against me as if to say, Mom, I love you, I’m still here.

You are my pet soulmate, we’re a bonded pair – you sense my spirit and when to hold fast and when to stay just within reach. Your muzzle is whiter now, you sleep longer in the morning, nap more in the afternoon, but always, always know that when you get your drops, you get a treat, and keep after me until I give up every broken crumb from the Milkbones. And when the time comes, my beautiful boy, I will let you go, celebrate your courage, your loving spirit, and gentle ways, and the knowledge that you were also my soulmate dancing in fur.

Copyright © 2012 Ramona Curtis McCary