Dog sitting has always been a double-edged sword for me. On one hand, it's the only chance I get to give and receive the unique unconditional love that only a canine can give. But it's short lived, and comes to an abrupt halt when the gig is over. This was especially true with my last stay with Sam. It was the longest I've ever cared for an animal not my own.
We had a grand month. One of the weeks, we got to share the company a beautiful wirey fella by the name of Ivan. Sam seems to forget his lost appendage when another dog comes into play. He runs, leaps, and barks to no abandon. He is young and whole again. When Ivan left, we made up for it with a road trip to Athens for field work. We rose before the world at 5 AM, shuffling into the car. Sam hopped up onto a ramshackle pile of dog bed and furniture covers. Windows down, we glided through the still empty roads. Sam craned his head out of the passenger window to relish in every breath of wind he could. His eyes were closed in an expression of pure bliss, rarely seen on a human face. Music floated over the country two-lanes. Life doesn't get much better than a dog smiling in the seat next to you as you drive into the sunrise, the day ripe with possibilities.
We spent our last week together hopping through our daily walks, drinking beers on the front porch as the sun melted away, and running around the house with a stuffed pterodactyl. On my last day in Sam's house, he followed me down the stairs to the garage as I was leaving for work. He had never done that before, always just whined at the top of the staircase. He knew this was an end. As he hopped down the steps, each metallic clang tugged at my heart. I gave him a final embrace and butt scratch and forced myself out of the door and into the car.
Despite the heartache of that final bark through the garage door and knowing that these dogs will never be completely mine, I'll do it all again. Next month with my aunt and uncle's dog. September for a month long stay with Ivan. And so I'll go, until I have a tail wagging, tongue waving, life loving buddy waiting at the foot of my own bed every morning.