Clay didn’t have a lot to say about the new dog that joined our family this weekend. At least, not right away.
On Friday, shortly after I came up the walk with Miles on a leash, nose skimming the ground in true basset hound fashion, Clay typed, “short and cute” for the sitter who works with him several afternoons each week.
On Sunday afternoon, when my mother asked him what he thought of the new dog, he typed for me, “Think he is cute.”
Except for a few tentative attempts to pet him on top of the head when prompted, Clay kept his distance from Miles most of the weekend. The little guy has vision issues, partly centered around judging distances. If you toss a football to him from a few steps away, he will put his arms up to protect himself. When we go walking in the woods, he struggles going down steep inclines. His reaction to meeting a dog, whether it is coming up the path in our backyard or when visiting family or just out and about, is to prepare to be jumped on.
Sad-faced Miles is not a jumper. Found tied to a tree, half starved, suffering from heart worm, this seven-year-old dog we adopted is figuring out life in the kind of home he has never had. He doesn’t know what it means when the doorbell rings. He doesn’t know to bark when he needs to go out. If you toss him a tennis ball for a round of fetch, he watches it bounce past him. He is struggling to comprehend why his new family saddled him with such a silly name. He is gentle and calm and quiet, quite a contrast from excitable Maverick, the yellow lab we lost two weeks ago. He followed me around all weekend, always underfoot, making me feel like the Pied Piper. (He’s laying at my feet, pressed against my leg as I type this.)
Clay smiled a lot at the site of him, but also kept a wary eye out when the two of them were in the backyard—waiting to be rushed or knocked down or accidentally tripped. As it became apparent none of that was going to come from this timid new friend, Clay began to relax.
They are feeling each other out. Miles learned quickly that Clay is a good source of food and kept an eye on him for dropped morsels. Clay learned that Miles is starved for affection and giggled when the dog put his head on his lap when Clay sat on the sofa. Clay loved the feel of Miles’ corduroy bed and kept wrapping himself in the blanket we put down for the dog to lay on downstairs.
So, it was a bit of a surprise when Clay unloaded Sunday night with a bevy of feelings we had not suspected.
When my parents came to meet their new “granddog” Sunday afternoon, Clay stayed in his room most of the time, quieter than usual. My wife went to check on him, bringing the keyboard he uses to communicate, and asking if everything was OK.
“So sorry about the anamal alternate,” he typed.
She asked if he was upset that we got Miles, and he typed “so good,” then left the room.
That evening, after my parents had gone home, my wife tried to continue the conversation, holding out the keyboard to Clay in his room.
“So sorry,” he typed
“About the angry comment.”
“No need to be sorry.” He headed downstairs. My wife followed, keyboard in hand.
“Not sure why you were angry. Was it because Miles is getting so much attention or that we got a dog so soon after Maverick passed on?”
“So soon after we lost mavirick.”
“I understand, but we are not going to forget Maverick. He was such a big part of the family that the house is so empty [with him gone].”
“I see your reason,” Clay typed.
“We love and miss Maverick,” my wife explained as the two of them wandered around from room to room downstairs, the robotic voice of the keyboard resonating. “It is so nice to remember him and help Miles. He needed a home and a family who loves him.”
“Miles was abandoned and didn’t have water or food for a while.”
“So sorry to hear.”
“But we can give him a good home.”
“Maverick will always be a part of our family.”
“I’m so glad you expressed your feelings about the situation. I love hearing your feelings and insights, Clay.”
“Anything else you want to say about Maverick or Miles?”
“They are good.”
So many times with Clay, we strain to see a ripple on the surface, but he is teaching us every day how deep the current is that runs underneath.