When I leave for the store at night, Duchess parks herself beside the window and waits. It’s a familiar position.
For the newcomers, Duchess the Wonder Dog is the older of our two canines, a 13-year-old mix of border collie and black Lab. She’s shy enough to stay nearly invisible when strangers are around and brilliant enough to have figured out how to beat a pedal trash can and get at the goodies inside.
But what she does best, and what she does often, is wait.
For years, that’s been part of her duties as furry bodyguard to my wife Heather, whom she has been devoted to ever since they reached an understanding over pizza. And like the passage in Ruth, the understanding is simple: “Whither thou goes, I shall go.”
When Heather is in bed not feeling well, Duchess waits nearby.
When Heather gets up, Duchess waits close behind, even if that means following her into the bathroom.
If someone rings the bell, Duchess lets our big dog Blake be the security guard, barking at the door in challenge – her job is to be the messenger, running back to “tell” Heather, and wait by her side.
And of course, she does the waiting any dog might do, whether it’s in the front room to wait for one of us to return, or near the table to see if a stray bit of food might slip. (Admittedly, Big Blake is the master of the latter, with eyes and jaws that are about as opportunistic as a rising politician.)
Now, as the years go by, she’s added some new waiting. Sometimes it’s harder to watch.
She sometimes waits by our bed with intense eyes, trying to see how she can get all the way up when her legs no longer want to do the job.
She waits behind Heather just a beat too long, especially in the kitchen, where my wife will suddenly turn to find a furry hurdle in her path that wasn’t there before.
She still waits with devotion, love and care. But now, there’s a bit of age in the mix as well. And it’s hard to see. We like to think that the ones we love won’t change, can’t change. We don’t like acknowledging that even the best of times can be all too short.
That’s true of dogs. Of people. Of almost anything in the world we give our heart to.
And yet, despite the frailties and the changes, the core remains the same.
Duchess is still Duchess. Her other waiting hasn’t stopped, even if it has become more tentative at times. Her loving heart and curious mind are still there. Sometimes the body is, too, especially on snowy winter days that still make her energetic beyond belief.
So much changing, but so much the same. It’s both the reason the changes hurt so much at times, and the great comfort in the midst of them.
And it’s the unchanging pieces we’ll always remember.
I don’t mean this to be an early eulogy. The time to mourn is later – hopefully much, much later. A love that is still present should be celebrated, embraced, and enjoyed. Leave the future to its time. You’re together now, and now is the time to appreciate it.
Sure, a time will come when things move slower and with more care. But don’t ever let the celebration stop, even if it has to move at a more deliberate tempo.
After all, love is well worth the wait.