Elisa Albert | Longreads | August 2018 | 24 minutes (5,940 words)
Her name was Sally. Sally-bo-bally. The Salster. Sometimes we called her Butt-Wiggle, for the way she shook it when she saw us. Or butt-wig, for short. You know how it is with nicknames, the language of love. We found her on a rescue organization’s website. Sally! She was bright-eyed and smiling. Hi! Someone had tied a bandana around her neck. I adored her on sight. She was up for adoption the following Saturday in a parking lot behind a warehouse in Schenectady.
I’d never had a dog. My mother said it was dirty to have animals in the house.
We resolved to keep open minds and meet all the dogs, let the right one find us, not force anything, but it was always going to be Sal. She stood on her hind legs and wagged her whole ass at us. She was practically dancing. Sally-Sal! Jet black, with a short, shiny coat. Pit/lab mix? Pit/lab/hound? Pit/whippet/lab? Who knew. Who cared. The chemistry was perfect. Love at first lick. Not like poor little Buddy, over in the corner with a bad case of worms, or pretty retriever Julius, who wouldn’t look anyone in the eye. It was always going to be Sal. Four months old, spayed and vaccinated. No one else showed the slightest interest in her. She was ours. We filled out the paperwork and took her home.
Her eyes! The way she looked at you, and didn’t look away. So present and soulful, a real lover. She was like a person, if we’re talking about the most honest loving open deep good authentic funny sort of person, and how many of those have you ever met? She’d curl herself up next to you, close as she could get. She wanted to crawl under the sheets next to you. She wasn’t satisfied unless she had her body in the sweetest possible proximity to yours. She was like one of those rare massage therapists whose touch feels psychic: exactly where you want it, exactly how you want it. Magic.
I was never into dog memoirs or whatever, never understood that mad devotion to pets. Seemed weird to be that into an animal. It seemed fairly sad to be that into an animal. Like, why don’t you find yourself some more people to love? I didn’t get it. Now I got it. People are way overrated.
How creepy it is when people talk of “completing” their families, as though a family is a construction project or a vocational course, a finite thing, a theoretical ideal. How moronic and hubristic I find that attitude. It’s like the ugliest kind of nationalism, on a microcosmic scale. And yet. And yet. Sally gave us something new to love, and in so doing gave our family a new dimension, this whole new love to share between us. I felt a weird, delicious sense of… completeness. I was past having babies, but Sal was my sweet darling beloved lil’ boo. We were in love with her and in love with each other and in love with the way she loved us back and generally high off our own abundance of love and good fortune. There was this warmth in my chest. We redrew our goofy family crest to include her. We sang ridiculous songs to and with and about her. We spoke to her in a silly dialect. Dare I say it? We were happy.