The first drop fell to the pavement in a splattered poof. The sidewalk, baked by the summer sun was suddenly accosted by a large pink tongue. It only took one lick and Nala was hooked. It was a special treat - one well earned - an icy, chilled peanut butter Popsicle. This celebration was a milestone. Nala passed her two year post chemotherapy remission anniversary. Even though it was a bright hot summer's day, we celebrated each day we were able to spend together.
Nala sported a full long, black fur coat. The rise in temperature had led to the adaption of her regular diet to enjoy this luxurious indulgence. The rich, nutty flavor probably reminded her a bit of the bark from a tree - just a little less crunchy.
Like Nala's love for peanut butter my love for her began with her first lick. Even though technically the introduction of the adventurous new flavor had come at the end of a Popsicle stick!
It was one of the hottest days I could remember. Some time between late May and early September but the year that was concrete - the year of surrender. It had been deep in the "dog days of summer". I'm not sure if this referred to Nala's species or her poor paws but I figure she fits both descriptions.
Nala may at first glance appear to be an ordinary Australian Shepherd. Nala was as unique to her breed as Rudolf with his red nose was heralded by his reindeer friends. Beyond her absence of a tail; that so called flaw to her pedigree made her shine like a diamond in my eyes. In fact, when viewed from behind I often imagined a small trotting black grizzly bear. She defends me as ferociously as one too. Her highly enabled "sense" of duty to protect me from harm had made her a quick friend and ally after adopting her into the family.
What stilled my heart the first time I saw her was her big beautiful brown eyes. To me, Walt Disney could not have drawn a pair as soft and soulful as hers. When she looked at me with the amber hued Bambi like innocence and tentatively licked my face - I was hooked. To this day, her eyes still amaze me. She seems to be able to read my many moods during this new quarantine adventure. Living life on pause seems to be the new norm. It is difficult to imagine life not going on as usual - the fluid hustle and bustle of commotion and indecision. She was only a pup when I first met her and still is in my eyes although each day we grow older.
I often wonder how lucky I must be to have found such a resourceful, best friend. She has helped me keep my marbles in these days that feel like the End. Upon returning from a tour
abroad two years ago (seems like ages measured in pandemic time) I found out Nala had been diagnosed with cancer. My heart felt like it stopped beating. My tears instantly began to flow as I imagined such a loss in my life. Nala looked up at me with a concerned look in her eyes. Here in this time of her misery she still sought to relieve me of mine as she steadily began to lick the salty tears from my eyes. This was not a new taste to her - she was as I said my true and honest friend.
She had been there for me during the stressful years of regrowth. As I struggled in anguish, willing muscles not to atrophy, she pushed me onward and got me out of bed. She helped me regain the desire to rise with the sun and enjoy the day. To appreciate my feelings but to also relish staying out of the gray. To enjoy not only the fragrant flowers or melodic birds but to harvest the natural vitamins afforded the Earth.
When the storms came, we safely sheltered inside. When the storms ceased, she was still right there by my side. My wanderlust dreams have been set aside as we live life as residents of Bubble 26.
The news is dreadful to watch but necessary as it has been the only way to safely learn the news of the surrounding states. Much like the Berlin wall once separated German families the current decision to halt national travel had caused great distrust and fear throughout the land. The threat to life from a rampant deadly virus had outweighed the choices of the voices told to shelter in their residences within. In this bubble we continue to sit. I even recently learned how to knit!
It has only been Nala and I since the quarantine began months ago. Months that we have spent without sight of another man. I know we are not alone though. I gave up trying to be "neighborly" the last time a shotgun blast almost took my head off. That had been two weeks ago. That was back when we had electricity though. The hurricane that stalled off the coast and caused the recent power loss had actually made it easier to see who might be alive (at least the local residents). I sometimes go out late in the dark of night to see which neighbors are huddling by their own candle light. I think some of the "hot heads" are not necessarily feverish but missing the air conditioner instead.
I couldn't help to relish this one little spark in my day. Finding that jar of almost frozen peanut butter at the bottom of the storage freezer had been like finding the provincial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I was glad too that it was something that she could enjoy as much as I enjoy her. In my mind, it is the same as giving the finest of sweet corn to that golden egg laying goose. With every lick from the stick that made the confection disappear the pact between us steadied . To always be true to each other.
The recent heat wave had caused temperatures of dangerous degrees. Coupled with our unfortunate location the good times like this were few and becoming more infrequent. I collected every precious moment like this and kept it in a special locket I wore close to my heart. A place I could hold it in confidence to revisit when angst is high. Even though every drop of the frozen treat had disappeared I cherished the last few seconds. My love for her (like her new love for peanut butter) grows steadily but unlike the day, never ends.