I wish Duchess could tell me what’s wrong.
It’s not the first time. Duchess the Wonder Dog is our 9-year-old rescue pup, after all. Many’s the time we’ve wanted to know who made her so cautious around strangers or so anxious when she’s alone – and then to have a nice conversation with that person, aided by a Louisville Slugger and a guy named Guido.
But lately, there’s been a new turn.
It’s just been in the last few months. Every so often, around 3 or 4 a.m., Duchess will get nervous, even by Wonder Dog standards. Like a child wracked by nightmares, she’ll become super-clingy, needing to be as close as possible. At first, my wife and I grabbed the towels, thinking she was about to throw up – nocturnal stomach upsets are not unknown to us – but this wasn’t nausea.
If anything, it seemed a bit like panic.
We’re still not sure what’s happening. A new phase of the anxiety attacks? A pre-seizure aura of some kind? (Heather and I have both had dogs with epilepsy.) It could be a nightmare, a flashback, a sound in the night of a still-unfamiliar house.
It could even be just that she’s getting older. Some nights, that worries me most of all.
If only we could be sure.
Some of you have been here, I know. Maybe it’s inevitable, whether you’re dealing with a small child who doesn’t have their words yet, or a dear animal who’ll never have them at all. You tune your heart like a radio receiver, sensitive to every vibration and clue, trying to understand, to know, to feel what’s happening.
Many times that creates something beautiful. A love comes that doesn’t need words. Every look of the eyes has a meaning, every moment has a bond so solid it could almost take physical form.
But there’s the other side, too. When you crank the channel open so far, you magnify the worry as well as the wonder. The same bond that ties you together tells you something’s wrong, but so often not what or why.
Exposed hearts can dance – but they can also break.
Maybe it’s a good thing. It keeps us vigilant even as it makes us vulnerable, alert to the needs of those who depend on us most. It keeps us thinking instead of assuming, aware instead of complacent.
I just wish it didn’t hurt so much sometimes.
And that, too, is love. To give your heart knowing that sometimes it will be wrenched. To believe that it’s worth it.
No. Not to believe. To know.
That much I have, anyway. I know that Heather and I have brought healing to Duchess even as she’s brought joy to us. The rest we’ll figure out. Patience and a good veterinarian can help unravel a lot, after all.
But for now, if she needs a good cuddle at 4 a.m., we’ll be there. We always will. It’s a small thing to ask.
No words necessary.
None at all.