Tag Archives: dogs

I am loving you

Nothing is more important than loving. Nothing.

Yesterday, Shadow greeted me at the fence of his corral when I pulled up the car. I’d been out marketing. Instead of unloading the car immediately, I walked over to say hi. It’s so nice when someone is happy to see you!

We hung out for a while, and I reached up to scratch around his ears and forehead, removed the sleepers from his eyes, smoothed the fur under his chin. He put his long soft nose very gently next to my cheek and breathed me in. It’s been a long time since I allowed anyone that close to me. It felt like peace. It felt like love.

Last night, after unpacking and bathing and cooking and eating and cleaning and meditating, I started crying. I don’t want to love because I don’t want to lose. I shouldn’t love Shadow because he isn’t “mine.” I’m bound to lose him.

But when I turned that sentence around, I started laughing: Shadow shouldn’t love me because I’m not “his.” Ridiculous! We love who we love, whether they are “ours” or not, whether they live for three years, six years, or 90. Whether we have one day or one minute together.

I remember sitting next to Emmett under the pine tree in our front yard in Olympia one balmy evening. My neighbor was visiting and I was petting Emmett’s thick Malamute fur, scratching behind his floppy ears, massaging his ruff. I started crying. I thought my heart would burst, unable to contain the pure quantity of love I felt. “I love him so much,” I told her, and she nodded.

Sometimes it seems as though I’ve lost everyone I’ve ever loved. I don’t want to subject myself to that pain again.

Ha! Good luck with that, my darling! We are all terminal, every single one of us. So why not love along the way? Why turn away from the soft nose against the cheek? The kind word? The gentle rain of love falling on you right this minute?

Besides, I don’t really have a choice. I love who I love when I love. The so-called rational mind has nothing to do with it. It’s all heart.

“Cowboy Heart” by Elizabeth Shé


Today marks the ninth anniversary of Emmett’s death. Time is indeed a bizarre, weird, fluid concept.

We met the day after a winter solstice party. I was in no mood to socialize let alone make new friends.


Knock knock knock.
Knock knock knock.

I drag myself away from The Prairie Home Companion and go to the door, trying to plaster a semblance of a smile on my snoot.

It’s Llyn, my then-girlfriend. Did she lose her key? “I’ve brought company,” she says, with a real smile.

I look down. And there he is: big, black, and beautiful. He wags his plumy tail. “It’s you!” cries my heart. “Hello!” says my mouth. And that was it: love at first sight.

The next six years completely changed the direction of my life. I made time for play, for fun. For adventure. We went almost everywhere together, even the movies. Therapy, even!

One time, at the beach, he found a particularly noxious-smelling salmon carcass. He rolled in it, of course, which didn’t worry me too much at the time. He was always rolling in interesting smells. I knew it’d wear off. But when we were in the car heading home, my eyes began to stream with tears. The stench! I stopped to roll every window down; it didn’t help. And when I looked at him in the rear-view mirror, there he was, proud as could be, tongue hanging out. “I am a badass,” said his expression. “I rule.”

He was also kind. Once we were walking back from the library when a young man and a very young dog approached us. “Do you mind if they play?” asked the guy. “I’m trying to help him socialize.”

“Sure,” I said. By this time Emmett was a full grown Malamute mix. He was easily ten times the size of the little dog. Nonetheless, he began to play with him, very carefully. He threw himself to the ground, pretending the puppy had knocked him over, and let the puppy climb all over him.

This is the same wolfy dog that killed a chicken, and took down a young deer.

After Emmett died, I felt him near me, especially when I walked one of our familiar routes. We often walked at night, so I was used to not seeing him for long periods; his black coat blended into the shadows. He’d run ahead, or lollygag behind. But we were always connected. And one whistle — his special whistle — usually brought him to my side.

In the hardest times after the evacuation, when I didn’t know where I was going or how or if I was going to live, I’d feel him again: walking with me in the dark. My quiet, strong, kind companion. Emmett Ocean Shé. I am loving you.

Emmett Spirit Mask, by Elizabeth Shé
Emmett Spirit Mask, by Elizabeth Shé

The Marriage of Emmett and Sasha

Picture this:
Two big black dogs with bushy tails. Both gregarious, and subject to roaming sans companion. Often mistaken one for the other by undiscerning humans.

One is the strong silent type: tall, dark, and handsome, he sometimes smells like the fish he just rolled in. The other is chatty and barky and smells like a rose.

One Malamute mix = Emmett.
One Newfoundland mix = Sasha.

“Emmett’s here,” says Martha on the phone, “he just came over from Willow’s.”

I look out the window: he’s in the yard. “I don’t think so,” I reply, but Martha’s insistent until I manage to get in, “I’m looking at him.”

When I first moved to Lybarger Street and was getting the lay of the land with Emmett, two neighbors, strangers, on separate occasions, lectured me vehemently on the leash laws. “Oh, now he’s on a leash,” sneered – yes, sneered! – an immaculately coiffed older woman walking past us down the hill.

I was taken aback; I’d never seen her before. “Where do you live,” I asked tiredly. It had been a hard move.

“Why?” she demanded to know.

As non-threateningly as possible, I said, “So we can avoid your street.” And we did, for several years, manage to avoid her block, even though it was just around the corner from our house and on the way to the grocery store.

It wasn’t until years after we met Sasha, who lived two streets over and half a block up, that I finally put it all together, the mistaken identities. I realized that (1) Sasha had a bad reputation in some circles, and (2) if you’ve seen one big black dog, you’ve seen ‘em all, apparently. Perhaps humans look alike to canines, too.

Dinah, however, Sasha’s human, was enthusiastic about Emmett’s presence in the ‘hood. Playdates ensued as soon as I got over her extremely warm welcome. It had been awhile since someone was happy to see me. Emmett, though, considered them family fairly quickly. If he wasn’t in our yard, he was usually in Sasha’s. Dinah and I had each other on speed dial.

Over the years, Emmett and Sasha had many sleepovers, depending on which human had to go out of town. Dinah began introducing Emmett as Sasha’s boyfriend. Then they were engaged. And then, one day, Dinah decided they were married. A secret, dog-only affair, evidently. I made a crockpot of bison stew for the newlyweds.

The humans’ work schedules were slightly different. I went to my job in Tumwater earlier, so I walked Emmett over to Sasha’s in the morning. Dinah brought them back to my yard on the way to her job in Lacey, so when I came home in the afternoon, I was hailed by the best housemates I’ve ever had. Talk about welcoming! “Hi honies, I’m home!”

One year, I went to France with my mother, but only after I cleared it with Dinah. “Are you up for two weeks of Emmett?” I asked.

“Oh yeah,” she replied confidently, “it’ll be fun!”

While I was gone, she was kind enough to respond to my worried, hurried emails from Montgeron. “Emmett’s fine! We just got back from Burfoot Park! Although Sasha misses your chicken broth.”

(Emmett and I ate the same things, mainly: fish, fowl, rabbit, bison, potatoes, carrots, apples. The crockpot was full most days, and was a big hit with Sasha; I usually spooned a meaty broth over their dry food. Eventually, Sasha nicknamed me the Chicken Lady.)

When the airport shuttle dropped me at the top of the drive after 15 days away, I couldn’t get down to the gate fast enough. Such a reception! Bouncing, jumping, grinning – and that was just me!

They’re gone now, both Emmett and Sasha, or, rather, they’ve left their bodies behind. A true gentleman, Emmett went first. A year later, almost to the day, Sasha relieved herself of her cancerous frame, too.

Picture this:
Two big black dogs with bushy tails, one quiet, one barky, playing in the snow.
Both contagious with joy.