September 6, 2013
When I take Brio to The Place, we often meet people in the Fireside room or the hall who want us to stop so they can say hello and pet her and scratch vigorously along her back or behind her ears. If they haven’t met her before, they want to know my dog’s name, age, and pedigree. They love hearing the story of her rescue while she looks up at them attentively. All true, all true, she might be thinking. Lucky me.
Lucky me is what I’m always thinking as I listen to the stories then told to me. Some of these people tell about dogs and cats they had as children, but most are likely to mention an animal friend they lived with recently, within the past few years. These stories almost always start with, “I had a dog…” Or, “I had a cat…” They had to leave these pets behind when they moved into their apartments at The Place, where pets are forbidden.
I remember all the dogs and cats I’ve come across at the Humane Society whenever I’ve looked for a new animal friend, many with stories attached of elderly owners who had to say good-bye when the time came to move into an assisted living facility or a nursing home. I think of how I, too, am getting older and how devastating it would be to unwillingly separate myself from Brio or any future animal companion.
Today dogs and cats who are trained to spend quality nuzzling time with elders are brought to some places by their human sidekicks. Here, for example, is Malibu, a therapy dog in a very brief video of one such visit (too brief; I wanted more, but then that’s what I’m trying to describe here so the brevity is perfect, really).
I’ve never seen a cat visiting (though I’ve suggested it), and Brio is the only regular dog visitor. Alice misses her when I can’t bring her because my day involves too many errands to leave a dog waiting in a hot car. When she does come, she gets to sprawl on the couch, play with the ball (chasing inside, a rare treat), and she has Alice’s adoring face to gaze upon as much as she likes.
Alice started life with dogs. Here’s the first family dog, Pom, aka Pom-Pom.
Fortunately, she married a man who always expected to have animals in his life, too.
Alice didn’t have to face the sorrow of leaving an animal behind. Trixie, the last dog in Alice and Roger’s life together, had been gone for a while when she moved here.
And now she has Brio, as well as occasional drop-ins from Milo, who came to see her for her birthday.But I think of other people at The Place and all The Places, men and women who crave that connection to the soft and warm, the always-present-no-matter-what, that steady breathing in and breathing out alongside their own, another life joined with theirs, the two of them not at the “end” of anything but moving forward together. A look around the Web reveals these connections everywhere in art and photography; their importance cannot be denied.
I have no idea what a solution to this sad state of affairs would look like. Do you?
You can read more about Cecelia Villegas, the fisherwoman, and see more photographs of her in this photo essay by Juan Carlos Ulate.