Every Tuesday and Friday morning, excepting holidays, my dog has valiantly defended the home we share from the threat posed by the city garbage men. Twice a week, the garbage truck announces its arrival with the beeping known to all and our early morning slumber is shattered as Stasia throws herself from the comfort of bed and hauls herself full tilt down the hallway. She tears through the kitchen, rounds the corner into the den, hitting the trash can, every time. She regains her momentum in the den and hurls her body at the backdoor with all the urgent energy of U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six, barking, snarling and tearing at the door as if Beezelbub himself were on the other side.
Twice a week, every week, for seven years, she has done this. I never knew there were so many dangers in my quiet, suburban, small town neighborhood until Stasia came into my life and began alerting me them all. Plastic bags, stray cats, men on bicycles, men wearing hats and men with beards, all are a constant threat to the sovereignty of our homestead. The six months my neighbor grew a beard and took up bicycling were rough on all of us.
I like my dog. I like my dog more than I like most people. I don’t know when that happened. I don’t recall the tipping point when a night on the sofa with my dog became a more attractive option than a night doing just about anything else. I think it is safe to say it was early in our relationship.
I think it is safe to say Stasia saved my sanity in the years since I was diagnosed with cancer. I’ve spent virtually all of the last two and a half years by myself. All that chemotherapy, all that surgery, all of that everything, someone would haul me to appointments, someone else would bring me dinner twice a week and the rest of my time, it was solitary. When I spent the night fetal on the bathroom floor, it was Stasia who laid just outside the door, keeping watch over me.
In the endless black nights of insomniac delirium, she never complained about her own interrupted sleep. She, the lover of routine and pattern, took the changes as they came and never failed in her companionship. She trotted out with me, every morning, when morning came at 3:30am, when morning came at 10:00am, and never let on that this was not how things were done.
I still can’t believe how horribly abused she was as a pup, the horrendous condition she was in when she was rescued. I can’t contemplate what her fate would have been had she been left to the dog-fighting bastard who was her first owner. She had mange and parvo. Her head was covered in open, infested wounds. She was malnourished. She shouldn’t have survived.
We have that in common. We are both survivors. We both have been ill-treated. We have both spent our lives defying expectations, defying odds, defying death, coming out the other side of things with good joke to tell and fresh lipstick. The dog doesn’t wear lipstick but go with me on this one.
When I was really sick, when things were bad and I didn’t know if treatment was going to be successful, one of the worries which occupied much of my time was who would take my dog. Who would take care of Stasia? Who would make sure she got peanut butter in her kong? Tuna fish with her dog food once a week? Would they leave the television on the classic western channel? It was only slightly less horrible for me to contemplate those questions than the others which filled my brain.
Before my cancer, I’d pulled so many rabbits out of so many hats, I’d scraped through so many rough patches, there was a part of me that assumed I had used up all my lives. I didn’t think my body had anything left. I didn’t think I could get through another something else. I had more rabbits and more hats than I thought I did.
It turns out, I don’t have to worry about who is going to put peanut butter in Stasia’s kong. It turns out, Stasia and I have plenty of nights of watching black and white westerns on the television. It turns out, I got a lot more early morning garbage men invasions to endure. Such a sweet, sweet thing it is.