Sometimes not getting what you want is a great boon.
It’s a cloudy winter afternoon in the waning days of 2016. I’m sitting comfortably on my sofa, reflecting on all the blessings in my life and thinking about how unexpected most of them are.
I could tell you about all the twists and turns my life has taken – I never thought I’d leave New Orleans, didn’t expect to have a career or find myself divorced and then remarried in my forties. Very little went according to plan, but somehow it all turned out… beautiful. It proves I don’t always know what’s good for me.
This gorgeous red and white dog is one example. His name is Tanner, aka Tan-Tan. Three years ago, Ret and I rescued him from the pound just days before his time ran out. According to the staff at Animal Control, he was a year-old border collie mix, housebroken and recently neutered. (I know, poor guy!) At the time he weighed 42 pounds and was a bundle of joyful energy. He’d been found as a stray several weeks before and no one had come to claim him. The staff named him Victor, a name too stuffy for this happy-go-lucky fellow.
Victor wasn’t what I wanted. I was looking for a small, older female dog to be a companion for Lacy, my little bichon frise. We’d lost our three elderly pets, and for the first time in her 6 years, Lacy was an only dog. (She and Louie the parrot have never really hit it off.)
Anyway, once we learned that poor Victor was in danger, we couldn’t bear it. We adopted him and changed his name to Tanner.
Lacy wasn’t crazy about our choice. Tanner was energetic and goofy and had no concept of personal space, especially hers. He chased tennis balls all over the house, skidding across the wood floors and around corners, and his big fan tail knocked things over. Taking his cue from Lacy, who is an outstanding companion animal, Tanner wanted to sit in our laps even though he didn’t fit.
Tanner was (and still is) fascinated by socks: empty socks, socks with feet in them and especially socks while a foot is in the process of slipping into it. He was particularly enthralled with Ret’s black work socks and couldn’t leave Ret’s feet alone while he was wearing them. Most of our dinnertimes were spent laughing at Tanner’s sock-loving antics, rolling around under the kitchen table at Ret’s feet with an expression of loony determination on his face.
This dog did everything with the gusto befitting someone who narrowly escaped death and appreciates every single moment. When we gave him a chew rope he’d lie on his back, paws in the air, dangling the rope to his mouth. He banged into furniture chasing his own tail, something he did with regular and delightful abandon.
And he grew. And grew. In six months’ time, Tanner morphed from a wiry 42-pound youngster to a 75-pound protector with a thick, wavy coat and a fierce intelligence behind the comic demeanor. No way was he a year old when we adopted him. More likely, he was a 6-month old puppy.
So much for my small, older female companion for Lacy.
Ret and I often find ourselves marveling over Tanner’s place in our lives. How’d we get so lucky? It’s heartbreaking to think of all the special dogs that aren’t fortunate enough to find a forever home, but I am so grateful we found this one before it was too late for him. He’s such a bright, loyal creature, even if he is a little spooked by the new washer and dryer.
For all his slapstick ways, Tanner is a remarkably perceptive, compassionate dog. He seems to know when I’m feeling blue or under the weather; he’ll appear by my side like a sympathetic friend, with no advice to give but lots of warmth and affection.
Today Tan-Tan is a beloved, full-fledged member of our family. He is always ready for fun, but he knows when it’s time to stretch out and watch TV. We count on him to remind us when it’s bedtime – around 10 p.m. he’ll stroll into the living room and beckon us to pull out his mattress. He’s also really good about announcing every visitor. Sometimes I feel sorry for the UPS man. Oh, and Lacy has come around. She’s right there beside Tanner when he sounds the intruder alert.
One of the biggest gifts dogs give us is a renewed appreciation for the present moment. Dogs are great that way. The most important walk is the one we’re having now. The best cookie is this one. The best day? Today!
If I’d known Tanner would grow to be such a big dog, I might have passed him by. And I would have never even realized my loss. Like so many other people, events and circumstances in my life, he wasn’t what I planned at all. But he was exactly what I needed.