Last week, I went to the APF in Scotia because they had invited Animal Communicator Susan Hamilin to come speak to the community. I wasn't sure what that would entail, but every scenario I thought of sounded interesting to me. I really love the animals I share my life with, and even though I feel like I intuit a lot of what they're thinking, Animal Communication fascinates me.
The animals I live with do communicate with me. When Tuendi wants to go with me when I'm leaving, she refuses to come in the house, and hovers at the fence, her face hopeful and her tail wagging. It's pretty clear what she wants. But sometimes I think it would be great if Tuendi could say to me, "You know, I haven't been on a car ride in a while. Could we go for a drive today and look at all the Christmas lights?" It would be nice if she could initiate things for herself without me having to guess what it is she's thinking and wanting. But perhaps that is the difference between humans and animals and why we like having them around in the first place. It's a relief to have a relationship with another creature that wants very little from you besides your company.
Which brings me to a story Susan told. There was a cat in a shelter--a big nasty Tomcat that frequently fought with and injured the other cats. The shelter considered him unadoptable due to his volatile personality. She was brought in to talk to him and see how she could help him communicate with the shelter staff. His first complaint was that he hated his Roman-gladiator-type name. He wanted a new name. He wanted to be called Jasper. And then he was very specific about who he wanted to live with. He helped Susan compose a new advertisement for himself on the shelter website, where he said he wanted to live with a teenager. He said, "I will sit with you and hold your stories."
I heard that, and had one of those soul-shaking realizations. What a beautiful sentiment. And the writer in me immediately realized that, although I'd never thought of it that way, that is why I love having animals in my life. They sit with me and hold my stories.
Tuendi and Sammy and Ruby have all seen me working on my current novel. Sometimes I think they can read my thoughts, and know when the writing is flowing, and are sympathetic when they're not. It's reassuring to write with them around. I am lost in my own little world, yes, but I'm never alone. And since dogs vote with their feet, if they're around me, it's because they want to be. That's a big confidence boost. I never feel like I should be doing something else when I'm writing and they're sprawled out comfortably around my feet. We're all in agreement that there's really nothing better we could be doing.
My dogs also know me. I daresay they know me better than the boys or Tom knows me. We all live together, but unlike the human members of our family, my dogs are always (minus trips to the backyard) with me. Tuendi was present the day I met Tom online, and was almost always under my feet during our marathon IM chats. By the time I started writing my graduate thesis, I had Sammy and Tuendi, and both of them would hang out with me among my books and notes while I composed on my PC. They were at our wedding. They were there when we built our first house in Greenville, moved in, moved to Ohio, moved back, moved to New York. Tuendi and Sammy were there when I won my first play writing contest. And they were witness to the day when I accidentally locked myself in our storage shed. While I was pregnant with Sam, I was writing my first novel and had helacious morning sickness, and the dogs hung out with me, wearing the same path I did between my desk and the bathroom. The same was true when first Sam, and then John, was a baby. In the middle of the night, they were with me for those late night feedings, the sleepless nights. When I had pneumonia/whooping cough and could barely stay conscious long enough to take care of infant John and 2-year-old Sam, they stayed with me, guarding the house, and keeping the boys company while I slept. Tuendi and Ruby were there to see Sam on and off the bus on his first day of school. They are with me when I'm otherwise alone. They are the silent witness to my day, every day.
The writer in me appreciates the fact that even though they know the truth about me, they don't tell a soul. They hold my stories, in more ways than one, and for that, I am forever grateful.